Madrid is the capital city of Spain and the largest city in the country as well. Nearly 7 million people live in the metropolitan area in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula.
If you’re interested in a diverse architectural landscape then this is a city you’ll thoroughly enjoy.
Just like Barcelona and Seville, Spain’s capital combines historic landmarks with modern buildings. This notion alone should get anybody interested in architectural highlights excited.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous buildings in Madrid, structures that define this fascinating city in southwestern Europe.
1. Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the royal family of Spain and one of the most stunning palaces in the world. The palace was constructed in the 18th century following the fire that devastated the old Alcázar of Madrid on Christmas Eve of the ear 1734.
The building features an incredible 3,418 rooms that are divided among a floor space of 135,000 square meters (1,450,000 square feet). This makes it the largest functioning palace in Europe. The building combines Neoclassical elements with Baroque architecture and is one of the marvels in the city.
Official website: Royal Palace of Madrid
2. Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is the main square in the city and the historical heart of Madrid. This pubic space has a history that dates back to the days of Old Madrid when it was used for the main market of the town. It was developed in its current form during the reign of King Philip III between 1580 and 1619.
Most of the original buildings were constructed in the 17th century but they were destroyed by a fire in 1790. The reconstructed buildings only feature 3 stories while the original structures had 5. The center of the square is designed with a bronze equestrian statue of King Philip III (1578-1621), the man who developed the square.
3. Torre de Cristal
The Torre de Cristal is a building in Madrid that you simply can’t miss. That’s because it’s the tallest of the 4 amazing skyscrapers that make up the Cuatro Torres Business Area (CTBA) in the northern part of the city. As the name suggests, it’s dominated by 4 towers, although a 5th one has been constructed nearby in 2020.
The Crystal Tower was completed between 2004 and 2009 and is the highest of the 4 with an architectural height of 249 meters (817 feet). This height also makes it the highest building in Spain. It features a remarkable modern design that was created by renowned Argentine-American architect César Pelli (1926-2019).
Official website: Torre de Cristal (in Spanish)
4. Prado Museum
The Prado Museum is the common name of the Museo Nacional del Prado. It’s the most popular museum in the country and houses an incredible collection of fine art produced by artists that worked between the 12th and 20th centuries.
The museum was founded in the year 1819 to house the immense collection of art from the Spanish Royal family and to make it accessible to the general public. Today, the museum has grown to a collection of over 7,600 paintings, over 1,000 sculptures, and thousands of drawings and prints, and is one of the top 20 most-visited museums in the world.
Official website: Prado Museum
5. Cibeles Palace
Cybele Palace is one of the most intriguing buildings in Madrid, situated right in the heart of the city just north of the Prado Museum. The building was completed in 1919 and was originally referred to as the Palacio de Comunicaciones. This was a reference to the fact that it served as the city’s main post office.
The façade of the building features a Neo-Plateresque design and it’s heavily ornamented with Baroque decorations. Today, the building is still used for a wide variety of purposes, including for the offices of the City Council of Madrid and the City Hall. It’s also the home of a cultural center called “CentroCentro.”
Official website: Cibeles Palace
6. Palacio de Cristal
The Palacio de Cristal del Retiro is one of Spain’s most amazing greenhouses. It’s located in the immense Buen Retiro Park, the park that was once owned by the royal family and the former location of the now-demolished Buen Retiro Palace.
The greenhouse was designed in glass and iron and is set on a brick base. It was completed in the late 19th century and was one of the main venues of the 1887 Philippines Exposition. Today, the structure is used as one of the exhibition halls of the Reina Sofía Museum which focuses on modern art.
Official website: The Glass Palace
7. Teatro Real
Teatro Real is commonly referred to as “El Real” and is one of the main opera houses in Madrid. The original theater in this location was constructed between 1818 and 1850. It closed for about 4 decades between 1926 and 1966 before being completely renovated in the late 20th century.
The major renovation project was completed in 1997 and resulted in the magnificent opera house we can see today. The auditorium features 1,746 seats and Teatro Real is considered to be one of the major opera venues in Europe. You don’t need to visit an opera performance to discover the building because guided tours are available.
Official website: Teatro Real
8. Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great
The Royal Basilica of Saint Francis the Great is one of several imposing cathedrals in the heart of Madrid but is one of the most special ones for several reasons. The Neoclassical building is dominated by its incredible dome that has a diameter of 33 meters (108 feet) and a height of 58 meters (190 feet).
Only the domes of the Pantheon in Rome, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Florence Cathedral are bigger in Europe. The interior of the church is heavily decorated and features frescoes by some of the greatest Spanish artists in history, including Francisco de Zurbarán (159-1664) and Francisco Goya (1746-1828).
Official website: Basilica of San Francisco El Grande
9. Metropolis Building
The Metropolis Building is the prime example of Beaux-Arts architecture in Madrid and is located just walking distance northeast of Plaza Mayor. The building was commissioned to serve as the headquarters of an insurance company called “La Unión y el Fénix” in the early 20th century and was completed in 1911.
The company launched an international architectural competition in 1905 and two French architects named Jules and Raymond Février won it. This resulted in the typical French style of the building which was quite remarkable at the time in Spain. Today, the building is owned by a company called Metrópolis Seguros from which it got its name.
10. Temple of Debod
A Beaux-Arts building in the center of Madrid is quite remarkable, but nothing compares to the Ancient Egyptian Temple that you can admire just north of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The Temple of Debod was originally located about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) south of Aswan in the utmost southern part of Egypt.
This is not too far from the Temple complex of Philae and had to be moved to avoid being submerged went the Aswan High Dam was constructed in the 1960s. Just like the Temple of Dendur in New York City (situated inside the MET Museum), it was offered as a gift by the Egyptian government for Spain’s help in preserving the Temples of Abu Simbel, and installed in Madrid in the early 1970s.
Official website: Temple of Debod