Madrid lacks a central symbol that most major European capitals have. No Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, Colosseum, Brandenburg Gate, or Acropolis (okay there is a palace). What it lacks in major tourist traps, it makes up for in it's general coolness. It's like a version of Paris that likes to party hard.
I was actually disappointed that it was colder in Madrid than Paris. To be honest, I pictured Madrid with a much milder winter. But you still got a sense that winter is very short lived here.
Madrid has great museums and there are some very famous Spanish artists to showcase. The museum Del Prado is like the Louvre of Spain. If you are a fan of Goya, this is the place to see his works. I have to admit, I knew little about Goya until this visit, but I especially liked his "Black Paintings". He painted these dark paintings on the walls of his house when he was old and crazy. DJB had nightmares after seeing these. You can guess which one of these is Black Painting. (Sorry a lot of the museum pics are iPhone pics as we had to sneak the pics...shhhh!)
Another good museum is the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. There are a lot of Picasso and Dali paintings here. The most famous piece is Picasso's "Guernica" which depicts the bombing of the town Guernica. Going to Madrid and not seeing Guernica is like going to Paris and not seeing the Mona Lisa. Except unlike the Mona Lisa, you probably won't be disappointed :)
The second best part of Madrid is just wandering around. The streets are packed and the city is full of little peculiar things to see.
Like the flying Pope.
Or creepy statues staring at you from above.
Or the bear eating from a strawberry tree that you have to touch for good luck.
We even stumbled upon Ernst Hemingway's favourite restaurant in Madrid and sat at his special spot. He loved Madrid, the NY Times wrote an article about his time there, which can be found here.
Like I said, there are people everywhere.
But the best thing about Madrid (I'm sure you can guess what I'm about to say) is the food! It never hurts to eat where the locals eat. This place only had three things on the menu. Deep fried cod, croquettes, and empanadas.
We spent ten days in Spain and we only ate Paella once. This is because good / authentic Paella is hard to find, so make sure to ask someone where to go for Paella. Chances are, it will be pricey but worth it. ( iPhone pic)
The Spanish love their olives. This country turned me onto them as I didn't really like them until I ate these...
And churros and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is literally chocolate that is hot.
DJB and I like to head to McCafe's in each country we visit to see the regional differences. Breakfast from a McCafe in Spain:
Every time you order a drink you get a little snack...literally every time. If you eat your snack and order another drink you get another snack. This keeps going until you stop eating...or stop drinking.
This is what they call Kilometre Zero. They say if you step on it and take a picture you'll come back to Madrid. I hope it is true.