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Madrid - The capital of Spain since 1562, is located at the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula.

It is located on the river Manzanares, which winds its way through the center of the country.

                   

Since we didn't arrive in Madrid until late afternoon, we decided we would just walk

the Gran Via until dinner time. What makes this street so special is the architectural design

of many of the large buildings. While walking through this crowded street, make sure

you look up once in a while and admire the often lavishly decorated grand 'edificios'.

                   

                   

Below, left - The statue of a winged Goddess Victoria on top of the Edificio Metrópolis

or Metropolis building. The landmark was built between 1907 and 1911.

                   

Above, right - The City Hall. Even though it looks like a high-gothic cathedral, it was originally

built in the early 20th century as the main office of the Spanish postal service,

hence its name Palacio de Comunicaciones (Communications Palace).

                   

We were in Madrid for four days and enjoyed walking around and checking out the architecture

 of all of the buildings. Of course we enjoyed the restaurants and shopping, too.

                   

Being the largest city in Spain, we wanted to capture the flavor of the neighborhods.

                   

                   

These pictures show just a few of the different buildings around the city.

                   

                     

La Puerta del Sol, or the Plaza del Sol

This is Madrid's most famous and most central square, located just a short walk

from the Plaza Mayor. Originally it was the site of one of the city's gates,

which faced the east and was adorned with an image of the sun, hence the square's name.

The square is actually almost semi-circular in shape and owes its current form

to the major renovation work carried out between 1854 and 1860.

                     

At night the plaza becomes awash in lights, giving the square almost the look of a fantasyland.

                  

Let the music begin. There are groups playing in the plaza all night.

                   

The Plaza Mayor was one of Madrid's first market squares in the 15th century and,

as construction continued over centuries, came to host bullfights, carnivals, festivals

and all kinds of official ceremonies. It's now home to the city's biggest tourist office,

a city government building and a number of cafes with outdoor seating year-round.

                    

You'll stumble upon all sorts of fairs, tents and exhibits on any given day,

but especially during Christmas when nativity scenes and stands selling wigs fill the square.

This very large square is surrounded completely by one very large square building

                   

Its grey slate spires and brick-red facades are two keys to understanding the term "Castilian baroque."

         

Below - Chocolate con Churros. The Spanish do not joke around when it comes to chocolate.

Spanish hot chocolate is made with dark chocolate and is thick, rich and delicious.

Chocolate and churros is a pair that you must eat together.

                   

San Ginés has been around since 1894 and is the most centrally located chocolatería.

                   

         

The Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family

in the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies.

                   

The palace was closed for official ceremonies, so we invited ourselves to the ceremonies.

                   

The palace has 1,450,000 sq ft of floorspace and contains 3418 rooms.

 It is the second largest palace in Europe by floor area after the Louvre Palace.

The interior of the palace is notable for its wealth of art, in regards to the use

of all kinds of fine materials in its construction and the decoration of its rooms

with artwork of all kinds, including paintings by artists such as Caravaggio,

Velázquez and Francisco de Goya and frescoes by Corrado Giaquinto,

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Anton Raphael Mengs.

Other collections of great historical and artistic importance that are preserved in the building

are the Royal Armoury, Porcelain, Watches, Furniture and Silverware.

                   

                   

We have no idea what the royal ceremonies were about, but we loved the horses and soldiers

                   

         

The palace finally opened, but we could not take pictures. The guards were seriously strict.

We did snap a couple photos before entering the rooms.

                   

The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid.

It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century

to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection,

and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art.

                   

This is one of the premier art galleries in the world. The more than 7000 paintings

held in the Museo del Prado’s collection are like a window on the historical vagaries

of the Spanish soul, at once grand and imperious in the royal paintings of Velázquez,

darkly tumultuous in the Black Paintings of Goya and outward-looking

with sophisticated works of art from all across Europe.

                   

The Retiro Park was created as a royal park; it belonged to the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro palace.

In 1632, the palace was built by King Philips IV as a retreat for the Royal family.