I went to all 3 art museums and bought tickets at each. I understand you
can buy a pass for all 3: Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the
Reina Sofia. Loved the Prado. We walked in the door and a man approached
us and said he would give us a private guided tour for 5000 ptas apiece. We
agreed and it was great. He brought the old Spanish masters to to life for
us, and answered our questions. Dave, my lucky cousin who lives in Madrid
said we paid too much. So if having a private guide appeals to you, you
might want to bargain. The Reina Sofia is modern art with lots of Picasso,
Miro and Dali. Loved it. Picasso's Guernica was heartbreaking, a Spanish
monument. Complete silence in the room. Couldn't take my eyes off it.
There are little brochures (free) located at the entrance to the display
rooms that explains the art. Be sure and grab these. The Thyssen museum
has art from about every era but if I wanted to omit 1 museum, this is it.
Places to walk? Everywhere. The Retiro Park is great. You can rent a rowboat and row around the small lake, sit at an outdoor cafe and drink Sangrias while a Spanish Elvis serenades you. (They're in the metro too) For some reason we heard Crying in the Chapel everywhere. Back to the park. Watch puppeteers, jugglers, etc. Do this park on a Sunday.
The Plaza Major is big and touristy. Some neat shops, artists, cafes.
We loved the guided tour through the Royal Palace. 1000 ptas. Saw 22 of the 2800 rooms. They close the palace down to the public on days when the king has official functions there. This is located a short walk from Plaza de Espana, another neat park. A monument to Cervantes is located there.
Another good day trip from Madrid is to Toledo. Beautiful city. Very hilly. You can get there by train. Don't know how much. Our hosts took us there. One of my favorite cities. Bought jewelry there and majoraca (sp?) and pearls. Spain has great prices on pearls, leather and ceramics. Bought them in Toledo. And Lladro, if you like it. Bought them there because it was my last day in Spain, so I knew how much money I had left, not because it was the best priced area. Although the souvineers seemed to be the same price wherever we were in Spain.
Food. Well. I have to admit I wasn't thrilled at first. But I don't know what happened. By the 3rd week there, I started to like it. Flan. You have to eat the flan. A wonderful custard in caramel. Our hosts took us to a supermarket (Madrid has 2) and I bought a flan mix made by Royal pudding to bring home. Not bad. Also great almonds. Our hosts took us out for tapas in the Prado area. It was kind of expensive but the food was great. I could write him for the names of the restaurents if you want. We ate some sort of beef and pasta at the 1st place (with wine of course). The second place, pieces of toast with caviar, smoked salmon, squid, unknown, and of course wine. The 3rd place, asparagus, and a salad and wine of course. (of course, of course!) The 4th place, desserts and brandy. As we walked from bar to bar a salsa band played Ricki Martin music and the crowd was estatic. A wonderful evening in Madrid.
Let me know if you want the name of the tapa bars. It was the best food we found in Spain (including Andalusia and parador food) Trish &I paid the tab for us and our hosts and the whole evening came to $60 for Trish and $60 for me, American money. So I guess that isn't so bad. Just high compared to the rest of Spain.