Top historic sites in Madrid

Plaza Mayor

The Plaza Mayor was built during Philip III"s reign (1598–1621) and is a central plaza in the city of Madrid. It is rectangular in shape, measuring 129 m × 94 m and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings having 237 balconies facing the Plaza. It has a total of nine entrance ways. The origins of the Plaza go back to 1577 when Philip II asked Juan de Herrera, a renowned Classical architect ...
Founded: 1617 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid) is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. Several rooms in the palace are regularly open to the public except during state functions. The palace is located on the site of a 9th-century Alcázar (Muslim-era fortress), near the town of Magerit, constructed as an outpost by Muhammad I of C ...
Founded: 1738-1755 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It is widely considered to have one of the world"s finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and the single best collection of Spanish art. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture in 1819, it also contains important collection ...
Founded: 1819 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Almudena Cathedral

When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo and the new capital had no cathedral. Plans to build a cathedral in Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena were discussed as early as the 16th century but even though Spain built more than 40 cities in the new world during that century and plenty of cathedrals, the cost of expanding and kee ...
Founded: 1879 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Museo Reina Sofía

The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS, also called the Museo Reina Sofía) is Spain"s national museum of 20th-century art. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1992, and is named for Queen Sofía. The museum is mainly dedicated to Spanish art. Highlights of the museum include excellent collections of Spain"s two greatest 20th-century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Cer ...
Founded: 1992 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is an art museum in Madrid, located near the Prado Museum on one of city"s main boulevards. It is known as part of the 'Golden Triangle of Art', which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofia national galleries. The Thyssen-Bornemisza fills the historical gaps in its counterparts" collections: in the Prado"s case this includes Italian primitives and works f ...
Founded: 1992 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Convent of Las Descalzas Reales

The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the 'Monastery of the Royal Barefooted', resides in the former palace of Emperor Charles V and Empress Isabel of Portugal. Their daughter, Joanna of Austria, founded this convent of nuns of the Poor Clare order in 1559. Throughout the remainder of the 16th century and into the 17th century, the convent attracted young widowed or spinster noblewomen. Each w ...
Founded: 1559 | Location: Madrid, Spain

National Archaeological Museum of Spain

The National Archaeological Museum of Spain was founded in 1867 by a Royal Decree of Isabella II as a depository for numismatic, archaeological, ethnographical and decorative art collections of the Spanish monarchs. The museum was originally located in the Embajadores district of Madrid. In 1895, it moved to a building designed specifically to house it, a neoclassical design by architect Francisco Jareño, built ...
Founded: 1867 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Basilica of San Francisco el Grande

The Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande is a Roman Catholic church in central Madrid. The main façade faces the Plaza of San Francisco, at the intersection of Bailén, the Gran Vía de san Francisco, and the Carrera de san Francisco. It forms part of the convent of Jesús y María of the Franciscan order. The convent was founded in the 13th century at the site of a chapel. The basilica was designed in a N ...
Founded: 1761-1768 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. The shrine was originally erected 15 kilometres south of Aswan in Upper Egypt, very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center in Philae dedicated to the goddess Isis. In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by buildin ...
Founded: 1972 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia

Oratorio del Caballero de Gracia is one of the best hidden architectural treasures in Madrid. This church looks small from the outside, but inside it unfolds into a neoclassical temple by Juan de Villanueva, which looks like a Roman basilica. Among its most noteworthy internal features are the single-piece granite columns, the vault and the sculptures of the Virgen del Socorro, signed by Francisco Elías in 1825, and of ...
Founded: 1786-1795 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida

The Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida is a Neoclassical chapel, best known for its ceiling and dome frescoes by Francisco Goya. It is also his former burial place. The chapel was built in the general location of two prior chapels built in the 1730s, which were on the land of a farm called La Florida. The present structure was built by Felipe Fontana from 1792 to 1798 on the orders of King Carlos IV, who ...
Founded: 1792-1798 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Sabatini Gardens

The Sabatini Gardens (Jardines de Sabatini) are part of the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, and were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978. They honor the name of Francesco Sabatini (1722–1797), an Italian architect of the 18th century who designed, among other works at the palace, the royal stables of the palace, previously located at this site. In 1933, clearing of the stable buildings was b ...
Founded: 1933 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Puerta de Alcalá

The Puerta de Alcalá is a Neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia in Madrid. It is regarded as the first modern post-Roman triumphal archbuilt in Europe, older than the similar monuments Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Puerta de Alcalá was a gate of the former city walls built by Philip IV. It stands near the city center and several meters away from the main entra ...
Founded: 1778 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Museum Cerralbo

The Museum Cerralbo houses the art and historical objects collections of Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, Marquis of Cerralbo, who died in 1922. The museum, which is housed in the former residence of its founder, opened in 1944. The building was built in the 19th century, according to Italian taste, and it was luxuriously decorated with baroque furniture, wall paintings and expensive chandeliers. It retains to a large e ...
Founded: 1944 | Location: Madrid, Spain

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Eketorp Fort

Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.