Madrid: From the Royal Palace to Chueca and Lavapiés
Madrid is as if it were at the same time one big city and the sum of several smaller ones, each one different, each one with its own character, its own personality. You may be surprised by the majesty of the royal palace, the respect for the diversity found in lively Chueca or, not too far away, multicultural Lavapies, with smells, tastes and colours arrived from the four corners of the world in the form of restaurants, shops and street gatherings.
Clearly, the best way to appreciate such great and beautiful differences is walking the streets of these neighbourhoods. However, there is also another way to do so. And that is at the Bellas Artes cultural centre, since it opened its roof terrace. Being just a few steps away from Puerta del Sol, it allows you to see the whole of Madrid. From up there you can see not only what has already been mentioned above, but also the sunset, going towards Barajas, Alcala de Henares and Barcelona and over the Puerta de America Hotel where by the way, a terrace can also be found, and each floor has been designed by a different designer. The sun may also go down over Las Vistillas Gardens, where Madrid girls in traditional dresses still exist and dance a chotis in all their beauty. From there you can also see the mountains outside Madrid with either the haze of a postcard or the utmost clarity. Seductive, isn't it?
It is funny how in big cities there are places which, wherever it is you go, you always go past them again and again. In Madrid, one of these places, and especially if you are visiting, is the Puerta del Sol (or just Sol, as the locals call it, being well-known for saving words in their language). Restored a few years ago – after years of work – this square is the place where the capital's people have celebrated their historical events; it is the cityscape where the traditional Christmas grapes are eaten; it is a space crossed by tourists who take picture after picture of the famous bear and strawberry tree – el oso y el madroño – made of granite and bronze. That is Sol, both a passing and arrival spot, and no wonder that is the case, as nearby there are hotels, shops, bars and restaurants... Not far away, the city's main museums can also be found: the Thyssen, Prado and Reina Sofia. Busy and lively Huertas Street, which leads to the equally busy Plaza Santa Ana, with the spirit of the days when the Spanish Golden Century authors lived just around the corner. Typical tapas and beers in Plaza Mayor.
Too noisy? Looking for some quietness? Well, Madrid is also the ideal place. Why? Because parks are something you can definitely find in Madrid: El Retiro, Parque Fluvial del Manzanares with its paths and vegetation that go on for several kilometres along the banks of the Manzanares river.