Touring Madrid with Rick Steves

When it comes to guide books for the big European cities and sites, Rick Steves’s is by far the most entertaining. For the non-historian he offers the right blend of historical perspective, interesting tidbits and corny jokes. Included in his guide book on Spain are tours through the Prado Museum, Palacio Real, and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, as well as a walking tour of around the city center.

We began our morning at the Prado. Mid-January is a great time of year to see this world class museum. Although there are tour groups present any time of the year, the crowds were much smaller. With a little bit of patience you can get a good view of all the museums top masterpieces. Lines were minimal both to buy tickets and to pass through security at the entrance. The Rick Steves tour takes you on a journey through the centuries of painting from early renaissance to pre-modern, highlighting the museums top masterpieces in under 2 hours, including:

It’s an easy and delightful way to experience some of what this great museum has to offer without becoming completely numbed by information overload. Note that at the time of writing the more scandalous Titians (Tiziano) are hiding in a back corner near the Goya entrance. There is no photography allowed inside the museum.

After a well-deserved cup of coffee, we headed to the Plaza de Sol to start the walking tour of the old town.

I highly recommend La Torre del Oro Bar Andalu (north side of the square at #26) if you are near the Plaza Mayor, but it is not for the feint of heart. The walls are covered in photos of horrific scenes of bull fights gone wrong.

For a fun lunch, the Madrid tapas version of a food court.

Taking advantage of the low season lack of crowds, we leave the walking tour and jump over to the Rick Steves tour of the Royal Palace, considered one of the top palaces in Europe. Like the tour through the Prado, his narration brings to life the historical and architectural significance of these 24 opulent rooms, some of which, such as the throne room and dining room, are still in use today. No photographs are allowed.

Returning to the walking tour, we finish up our stroll through the old city.

Thank you Rick for a memorable day!

January 18, 2013

For links to all the posts in this series see the Spain page.

8 thoughts

  1. What a wonderful post! I thought I was one of the few people under 75 who found Rick Steves amusing. Glad to know his guidebooks are useful as we are heading to Paris in a few weeks. I’ll pick one up. Love your photo of the beef place with the heads on the wall. How hilarious!

    1. Thanks Christina for your comment. Yeah, it’s dating me, but I’ve been a fan for over 20 years. I don’t know if you are aware, but he also has free pod casts for his some of his walking tours and museum tours. Here is the link for the Paris pod casts. Have a great trip!

  2. You’re bringing me back to memories of my honeymoon. We were all over Spain, but mostly in Madrid. And we did the whole thing following Rick Steves…and we’re in our early 30s. He is full of helpful tips, funny as hell and really down to earth in his actual tours of churches and museums. I love the Prado and all of the Velasquez paintings. Steves is very intelligent and very entertaining. Enjoy! Thanks for another great post.

    1. Abrooke, thanks for your comment. I completely agree. Rick Steves has done so much to make Europe more accessible for the independent traveler. He really is an historian at heart and has a great way of making it come alive for his readers. I just wish he did more outside of Europe.

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