Madrid is the anchor of Spain, the fulcrum for the country’s cultural expression and a wonderful starting point for a Spanish tour. It’s been deemed the most Spanish of Spain’s cities, with a storied past that certainly lives up to its capital status. From its royal beginnings to modern art and culinary expression, the city has always been on the move, and the vitality in the sunny plazas and evening haunts is nothing short of delightful. When you land in its cobbled streets, seek out these eight sites that highlight Madrid’s history, temperament, and dynamic philosophy.

Museo Nacional Del Prado

This is one of the world’s finest art collections, and the feather in Madrid’s cultural cap. A tangle of Spanish masterpieces and extraordinary contributions from across the continent, the Museo Nacional Del Prado provides a comprehensive study of Spanish art history and how it fits into the wider cultural storyline of Europe. It’s a vast, grand building, and most visitors will find it difficult to take in everything in one go. Take a couple of days to explore, if you can; if time is limited, begin with the most famous works of Velázquez, Goya, and the other Spanish masters.

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