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Madrid - El Prado

Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

The capital city Madrid, in the region of the same name, is a cosmopolitan metropolis with many theatres, cinemas and opera houses and over 50 museums and art galleries. These include the Prado, one of the most celebrated and comprehensive art galleries in the world, and the Royal Palace, set in a luxurious 18th-century garden, housing paintings, tapestries, carpets, armor and an outstanding collection of clocks. The popular centre of Madrid is the Puerta del Sol, from which ten streets radiate. To its south is the site of `Kilometre Zero', a stone slab from which all distances are measured in Spain. A short walk southwest of the Puerta del Sol leads to the Plaza Mayor, a spacious square surrounded by arcades sheltering small shops. From here one can explore an area which still has some of the flavor of Old Madrid.

The Prado Museum has one of the most remarkable art collections in the world, including many supreme works of art acquired by Spanish monarchs. Works by El Greco, Murillo, Goya, Velazquez, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Veronese, Tintoretto, Breughel and Bosch can be found here. Plans are being made to assemble a collection by Spain's most famous 20th-century artist, Pablo Picasso. Guernica, one of his greatest masterpieces, a monument to the people's suffering during the Civil War, has now been returned to Spain and hangs in the Centro Cultural Reina Sofia. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum housed in the Villahermosa Palace opposite the Prado Museum is, with its 800 works of art, one of the largest private collections in the world.


Excursions:
there are many places of interest within easy reach of the city. The great Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial is situated about 40km (25 miles) north of Madrid, and includes a church, a royal palace, a monastery, a mausoleum and a famous library. The Escorial was built in 1563-84 by Philip II and is now a burial place of Spanish kings and queens. 9km (6 miles) from the Escorial is the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), a huge crypt cut into the mountainside surmounted by a stone cross reaching 152m (500ft) into the sky. Franco conceived this dramatic monument as a tribute to those who died in the Civil War and is buried here. Alcalá de Henares is the birthplace of Cervantes and Catherine of Aragón. Aranjuez is famous for its summer palace and the Casita del Labrador, situated near the banks of the cooling River Tagus, on whose fertile soil are grown the asparagus and strawberries for which the town is also renowned.

September sees the Ferias Mayores (Great Fairs) and the Easter processions of Semana Santa, both typically extravagant and colorful affairs. Several special tours are available, including the `Castles in Spain Tour', run by Viajes Marsans for three days, departing from Madrid.


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