Gorgeous and majestic Madrid is a city of palatial splendor, ornate monuments, historical landmarks, art, and elegance. It is the capital and cultural hub of Spain and a doorway into its illustrious past.
While we were there, we took side trips to the old city of Toledo, the Valley of the Fallen, and El Escorial.
Touring the city
Madrid is located in the center of Spain on the River Manzanares. We arrived after touring Spain by rail, where we met my two teenage children who flew in to meet us for our remaining week in Spain.
My partner’s brother had designed the sets and costumes for a production of La Boheme that took place at the Teatro Real Opera House, which we attended while we were there.
We booked a bus tour that took us to El Escorial -a monastery where most of the Spanish monarchs are entombed, the Valley of the Fallen – a monument and cathedral built by Generalísimo Franco, and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the astoundingly well preserved and stunning city of Toledo. – It was the former capital of Spain until 1561.
The Royal Site of San Lorenzo El Escorial, known as El Escorial, is the historic residence of the King of Spain. It is now a monastery, basilica, royal palace, library, museum, university, and hospital.
Franco, who was the fascist dictator of Spain from 1939 – 1975 is buried in the Valley of the Fallen church. 40,000 others whose lives were lost fighting the Spanish Civil war are buried beneath the valley floor. His burial there is controversial and political rallies honoring Franco have now been banned.
Toledo is known as the “city of three cultures” where Christians, Muslims, and Jews coexisted for centuries. It’s the home of El Greco, whose famous paintings can be seen at the Church of Santo Tomé.
The city is located in the La Mancha region and Don Quixote and Sancho Panza statues were displayed everywhere along its winding streets and in the shops.
Enjoy the photo galleries below.
The city of Madrid
Click on the images below to view them full-size in a gallery.
The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
El Escorial is located about 28 miles north of Madrid and is an easy drive although we booked a bus tour for our side trips with a local guide and he was very knowledgeable.
The Valley of the Fallen
The Valley of the Fallen is about a 16-minute ride from El Escorial. The best way to get there is by bus or taxi.
The City of Toledo
You can take a high-speed train from Madrid to Toledo and get there in about 30 minutes. It is about 1 hour from Madrid by car. Taking a bus is much cheaper than a train and takes approximately 1 hour and a half.
Have you been to Madrid or do you plan to visit in the future? Please leave a comment below.