Monday, October 7, 2013

Madrid, the neglected capital

Every Sunday morning I enjoy a longer breakfast than usual. I have a fisrt cup of tea accompanying some toasts or biscuits and a second cup of tea while digesting the news. I usually spend up to half an hour reading some Spanish newspaper, which is something painful to do right now as most news go endlessly about corruption scandals and more crisis tragedies. And yesterday I came across this article (in Spanish) putting down to paper the already whispered news that Madrid is no longer an attractive destination for international tourists visiting Spain neither the enjoyable city it once was for its inhabitants. Ah, Madrid, you the capital of Spain, what went wrong with you? Are you still grieving over the three olympic battles you've lost? Are you feeling the pain of Iberia not landing enough planes on your expensive and brand-new T4 terminal at Barajas airport? Or simply deeply scarred by this never-ending economical recession?

The previously mentioned article, among a long political discussion, points out that Madrid isn't a trademark itself and that it lacks a symbol representative of the city as whole. And this is probably true. Unlike Barcelona, which most foreign tourists (and not only tourists) automatically associate with Gaudi  and sometimes mistake for the capital of Spain as well, Madrid doesn't own such a visible icon to stand out for the city, be it a building, an architectonic style or a famous past resident - like Gaudi is to Barcelona, ticking off all those boxes. What is Madrid then?

If I had to answer that question myself I would say that Madrid is culture and history. Madrid has witnessed many events which have written the history of Spain, it is home to dozens of buildings dating back to the 17th, 18th and 19th century and some of its art museums are ranked among the top ten museums to visit in the world. Besides, Madrid is known for its lively night-life with concerts, plays and musicals scheduled all year long and bars opened till late in the night. Oh, and Madrid is also a great city for shopping whether you're looking for affordable retailers or high-end labes or you prefer to roam flea markets.

Five years ago I went to Madrid for a couple of days to meet some friends there and I had a great time. I still have fond memories of that trip even though I don't remember every detail of it (why wasn't I blogging back then, why?) But I remember we enjoyed a sunny evening at the Retiro Park, we wandered around a flea market on Sunday morning and indulged in some delicious tapas later - don't ask me where. We strolled along Madrid's elegant avenues, awed at some of its most impressive buildings, like the Catedral de la Almudena or the Debod temple and soaked up some art at the Museo del Prado and Museo Reina Sofía (you can read more about this in this post). We shopped galore and partied on Sunday until early morning. We even had time to take a bus and make a daytrip to Toledo, another Spanish city in the neighbouring region of Castilla la Mancha. Yep, that was my trip to Madrid almost five years ago and these are some crappy photos I took in Madrid back then (excuse the bad quality, please, I didn't know any better when I first got a camera and started to document my travels).




I wouldn't mind going back to Madrid some day, I still have friends to visit there who I'd love to see again any time any soon. But Barcelona is also high on my list and I've never been there yet. I've heard many people saying that Barcelona is actually prettier than Madrid and that food and night-life are equally good. So once again, a few worthy reasons to plan a citytrip to a cool Spanish city ... hopefully someday!

Have you ever been to Madrid or Barcelona?
Do you think that Barcelona is winning Madrid over in the touristy league?
Do you have some tales to share about other underrated cities in your own countries?

Have a lovely Monday!

6 comments:

  1. hey irene! i've never been, but I kept hearing about their disappointment with not winning the olympic bid. economically they having a struggle too. i know a lot of money comes to them if they would win the olympics, but the olympic teams that grant this probably are seeing the same thing you are. it's a precarious situation. someone really needs to sit down and think of things (ideas) that will make this capitol more economically viable. it needs an injection of viability! new life needs to be restored in it. i think that is where an urban planner would step in. the other cities are prospering compared to Madrid. LOL you should've seen my photos when i first started...shhhhakyyyy! hahaha
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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  2. En serio que ese es el concepto que transmite Madrid? estoy alucinada! He viajado por algunas capitales europeas y en mi opinión Madrid no tiene nada que envidiar a muchas de ellas. En limpieza, infrastructuras, acondicionamento de los lugares, servicios, etc...creo que le da mil vueltas a muchas. Madre mía! si tuviera que decir la impresión que me dio Roma el año pasado fue el de una ciudad decadente y descuidada( y que no pongan de excusa que es una ciudad con un patrimonio antiquísimo porque Mi querida Mérida, en mi tierra, está siempre impoluta , las calles sin baches, etc...) Y qué decir del servicio de limpieza de París, su acerado( que por cierto, es una ciudad magnífica pero repito...no es oro todo lo que reluce)...En fin ,se ve que no nos ven con buenos ojos por el resto del mundo, qué le vamos a hacer...yo desde luego me quedo con Madrid por encima de otras capitales europeas que ya he visitado.Mejor no sigo .Bss, Irene:)

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  3. I feel sad that Madrid is being neglected by tourists... especially since I leave for Barcelona on Thursday. Barcelona is supposed to be one of the nicest cities in Europe, but if you have friends in Madrid then obviously that makes it all the more special. It's definitely on my wishlist, now!

    xx

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  4. I've never been to both, but honestly, if I go to Spain, Barcelona is higher on my list... Maybe due to the fact that I'm a fan of FC Barcelona :P Never knew that Madrid was rather underrated, since I associated football clubs and the city they came from (how silly I was). But yeah, I thought like that because Real Madrid was BIG I thought it could be one of the main attractions for tourists, aside from culture and history and that Madrid had to offer...

    Zia @ bitsofgermany.com

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  5. I have not been to any of the cities but I would really love to see both of them! They both look fascinating!

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  6. Wow, this article kind of opened up my mind. I think Madrid lacks the character that other Spanish cities have. It's essentially just another big city with token European architecture, but looks like there's more culture to it! Thanks for sharing!

    WWW.ROXTHEFOX.COM

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