Hordes of travellers head to Barcelona – and with reason. It’s gorgeous. But Madrid is fast catching up as the city in Spain that you must see. Our always-on-the-move correspondent Bruce Marais recently found himself in the city for a few days and strolled its avenues, parks and back streets.

Bruce Marais Travel Madrid Spain
Along the Gran Via.

Any list of things to do in Madrid would include, high up, walking the streets and seeing the architecture along the way, from the ornate central Gran Via shopping boulevard to the narrow quiet back streets, often festooned with street art (for the city has some great street art festivals to constantly add to its rich collection).

bruce marais travel madrid spain las meninas installation i love you
One of 80 statues based on characters in the Diego Velázquez masterpiece “Las Meninas” (‘the ladies in waiting’) in the Prado, now placed in iconic spots around the Spanish capital, from the bustling Puerta del Sol to the Plaza Mayor.
Bruce Marais Travel Madrid Spain doorway street art
Street art decorating a door in the city centre.

After breakfast, catch some more traditional art at the world-famous Prado, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum, or detour into the gardens of the Royal Palace. The route will probably take you through some of Madrid’s major squares, like Plaza Mayor as well as Plazas Santa Ana and Espana. Chances are you will want to just sit down at a fountain and take it all in.

At the Mercado de San Miguel, the array of food choices will keep you changing your mind what to eat, or just grab some tapas at one of the countless bars and then head off into the streets again.

Bruce Marais Travel Madrid Spain cereal hunters cafe
Breakfast at the Cereal Hunters Cafe on the Calle de Mejía Lequerica.
Bruce Marais Travel Madrid Spain tio pepe puerta del sol charles king statue
In Puerta del Sol, the statue of Carlos III fronts a more recent addition, the famous sign for Tio Pepe sherry.
Bruce Marais Travel Madrid Spain jamon ham products
Ham, anyone?

IF I was a pigeon, I’d live in Madrid. They have great weather, plenty of trees and beautiful fountains.

bruce marais travel spain madrid plaza pedro zerolo
The statue of politician Vazquez de Mella in the square recently renamed Plaza Pedro Zerolo, after a gay activist who died in 2015.
madrid spain bruce marais travel tapas don jamon
Tapas on the Calle Gran Via.

An afternoon could lead you to the central Parque de El Retiro, to the east of Centro – with its romantic old architecture, pavilions and ponds, and the monument to Alfonos XII overlooking the boat pond – or to the west and Madrid Rio, a park opened in 2011 and created out of an old industrial area along the Manzanares River.

And then the night, where dinner is always late, begins.

I found Madrid to be very quirky and humorous

madrid i love you spain travel bruce marais
“And we love you too.”