A photographer's guide to Madrid
Travel date: end of March 2002. Write date: Sept. 9th 2002
This guide has been written done after spending 2 days in Madrid before going to Sevilla. It is not meant to be extensive as that would have required a much more longer stay.
You can go to Madrid with most of airlines, including Iberia, the spanish airline. You'll land at Madrid Barajas airport, which is outside the city. You can go downtown, either by hiring a cab (will cost around 15 Euro) or by taking subway (0.9 Euro). Subway, called Metro, is clean and appears to be safe. At least I felt more comfortable in Madrid subway than in Paris'. But I may be biased.
From Madrid, you can go to Sevilla or Cordoba using the AVE (High Speed Train) from Atocha RENFE train station. A single ticket to Seville is 62 Euro (tourist class) and with the return, you are entitled to a 20% discount (no need to take the return ticket at the same time. Within 60 days is fine). Trip is something like 2h25 with a stop at Cordoba after 2h. If train is 5 min late, you are entitled to your money back. You have to put your luggage in the X-ray machine at the entrance of the platform, but you can go through without putting in your photographic gear (I had camera in my shoulders and the films in the box in my hand). Just be polite and kind. For inside Madrid journeys I recommend Metro, walking, or taxi.
For hotels, unless you speak Spanish, I recommend booking via Internet. There are website specialized in hotel reservation in Spain. Or you can ask your usual travel agent.
First of all, you'd better speak spanish. Or may be lost. People that speaks foreign languages in Spain are quite sparse, at least to our experience. But we survived given that we did not speak spanish at all.
Since January 1st 2002 currency is Euro as in lot of other European countries. You can easily find an ATM to draw some cash, and this is what I recommend unless you live in another country use Euro. For Internet, it is easy to find public internet access, even in the airport. Hotels are less expensive than in Paris and much less than in Boston or London.
Spanish people are having diner late in the evening. That means that you should not expect to have a restaurant open before 8:30 PM in the best case. So you'll probably have time to walk before dusk (at least in April). If you have a light tripod (but usable), bring it with you. Madrid is nice at night with lot of enlightened buildings. I forgot mine, so this picture is the only one I could decently make... You can also go for shopping. Puerta del Sol is really crowded at that time and most shops are open until 9 or 10 PM (lot of them closes beetween 1:00 and 4:00 PM).
Picture above on the right: Plaza de Cibeles and the main post office by night. See my paragraph about Paseo del Prado below.
Madrid, being the capital of Spain host the royal family and the government. El Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) is probably the most visited and is definitely a place to go. Start from Plaza de Oriente, then take on your left to go to Nuestra Señora de la Almudena. Then you'll see arabian walls (ruins). You can walk down there up to the Paseo Virgen, to go around the Campo del Moro, and then enter. You can then return to the Palacio Real by going through the Sabatini Garden.
Photos 1,2: Plaza de Oriente; photo 3: the Royal Palace
Photos 4: Ermita de la Virgen del Puerto; photo 5: the royal Palace; photo 6: north train station
Photo 7: Sabatini Gardens; photo 8: the Royal Palace
Paseo del Prado is a large avenue that goes from Atocha station up to plaza de Cibeles. I recommend starting from the train station that by itself is really worth, including inside. This station has been build in the 19th century from blue-prints made by Gustave Eiffel, the same engineer that build the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris and the inside structure of the Liberty Statue in NYC. The station has been renovated in 1992, but it keeps all the glass and metallic part. Come in and give a look to the incredible winter garden inside.
Photo 1: Outside Atocha station. Photos 2,3,4: inside the station: the winter garden.
Museo del Prado (Prado Museum) is the spanish equivalent of British Museum in London, or Musée du Louvre in Paris. The museum has over 6,000 painting, and 400 sculptures. If you plan to visit it, be warned that at the entrance of the museum there is a long line. And it will cost you a lot of time to visit it. If the weather is fine, you can just go to the royal botanic that is very close. See below.
By continuing your walk along Paseo del Prado you'll go along several buildings like La Bolsa to finally reach the Plaza de Cibeles.
Photo 1: Real Academia Española; photo 2: La Bolsa; photo 3: Plaza de Cibeles and the main post office
Take your macro gear, and start burning rolls (I haven't mine at that time). The Royal Botanical Garden if not the most clean garden I have seen, but it has a wide range of different species. If you like photographying flowers or gardens, then you can have pleasure spending some time there. Entrance cost 1.50 Euro.
Here is a little exhibition of those modest 30 slides I shot (not counting those that my wife did) :
Text and pictures copyright 2002 Hubert Figuière. Most of these photos were taken with a Canon EOS 33 (aka Elan 7) using the 24-85 USM zoom lens..
Picture at the top has been taken in Calle de Arenal en route to the Royal Palace.