Las Ventas Arena
Walking in the centre, you can’t help noticing a majestic red-brick building constructed in the Neo-Mudéjar style. It’s the Las Ventas bullring erected in the early 20th century when corridas were particularly popular.
Bullfights are held from March to October, but Las Ventas doesn’t stand empty at other time as well. Concerts, sports competitions, and various cultural events are organized here. There’s also a small bullfighting museum within the arena. It exhibits the portraits and biographies of famous matadors as well as bullfighting equipment and outfits.
Madrid Río Park
We often visited the Madrid Río Park located along the Manzanares River. It took just a couple of metro stations to get there.
Madrid Río is a huge recreation area of almost 700 hectares. The park has all sorts of things: pine groves, colourful flowerbeds, several dozen playgrounds as well as bicycle lanes, fountains, tennis courts, climbing walls, and even a beach. The river can be crossed over one of the pedestrian bridges.
Robert and Michael Jr really enjoyed our walks. They were roller-skating here for the first time. Of course, they didn’t learn to roller-skate by themselves, but they were exhilarated by the process. We usually spent a few hours in the park walking along the riverfront, listening to street musicians, and watching improvisational puppet shows.
Convent of Las Descalzas Reales
The Convent of Las Descalzas Reales (“Monastery of the Royal Barefooted”) located in the city centre can boast not only the treasures kept within its walls, but also its unusual history. The building once served as a residence of Spanish kings. However, in 1559, Princess Johanna of Austria gave it into the Order of Saint Clare’s possession.
The convent had been a sanctuary for girls from noble families for centuries. Becoming nuns, they were freed from the need to marry the people their parents imposed on them. The brides’ hefty dowry went to the convent which quickly made it one of the richest and most influential monasteries in Spain. As for the “princesses”, they lived in poverty praying according to their vows.
The place is still used as a convent, therefore it can’t be accessed. However, a part of the building is occupied by a museum where the paintings by famous artists (Titian, Rubens, and many others) as well as a collection of marble sculptures, tapestries, old coins, silver- and crystalware are on display. The tours are held in Spanish only, but you can take a booklet in English containing the info on the exhibits.
Temple of Debod
There’s a temple in the Parque del Oeste that doesn’t fit with Madrid’s architecture. The Temple of Debod is a piece of Egyptian culture in the heart of the Spanish capital. It’s the real shrine of Isis erected on the bank of the Nile in the 2nd century BC.
In 1968, the Egyptian government decided to present the temple to Spain in gratitude for their help – Spanish engineers worked on the Aswan Dam helping to salvage the Abu Simbel temples and other architectural monuments from flooding. The shrine was dismantled, transported to Madrid, and reassembled carefully.
The temple looks particularly mysterious in the evening. There are always lots of people gathering here to relish the bright colours of sunset.
Madrid Zoo Aquarium
We surely couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Madrid Zoo considered one of the largest zoos in the world