Virtual Vacation: Experience the Excitement, Flavors and Culture of Madrid

By Allyson ChenLast Updated Oct 22, 2020 3:02:28 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: George Fernandez Salas/Unsplash

Welcome to our virtual vacation to Madrid, Spain! As you will soon see, this vibrant, energetic city can be an exciting travel destination. The city was founded in the 9th century and has served as the capital of Spain since the 1600s, when the country was a formidable world power.

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Today, Madrid manages to integrate history and tradition with a modern, forward-thinking approach to life. Different parts of the cityscape are filled with beautiful art, stunning architecture, world-class food and wine, and an enormously diverse art and nightlife scene. Let’s take a look at everything Madrid has to offer!

Virtual Tours for an Overview of the City

To start your virtual tour, let’s take a look at a general overview of the city, courtesy of the country's official tourism site, Spain.info. Also available in English, the site includes core information on Madrid, including a video overview of the city, a detailed description of the city’s history and links to cultural attractions. If you want to dig deeper, the site provides links to other virtual experiences for some of the city's top attractions, including the Almudena Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Madrid. You can also learn about bullfighting through this online guide to the controversial sport.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

As you're virtually getting to know the city, you can’t help but notice that Spain has produced its fair share of world-class artists, including Pablo Picasso, El Greco and Francisco Goya. As a result, the city boasts a number of both traditional and modern art museums, including the country’s main Spanish art museum, the Prado, which has a tour you can experience virtually. If you like 20th-century art, you may also want to take a virtual tour of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.

Madrid Cuisine: Tapas, Paella, Wine and More

Spanish food is one of the most interesting cuisines available, and much of it can be created fairly easily in your own kitchen. Spain is bordered by water on three sides, so both seafood and meat dishes are plentiful and delicious. Most of the food is prepared with flavorful sauces and seasonings.

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Photo Courtesy: Elemaki/Wikimedia Commons

In your own kitchen, you may want to start by creating some of the small tapas plates that tourists have enjoyed experiencing for decades. Most of them have made their way to restaurants far outside of Spain. In many cases, these plates are enjoyed late at night over extended periods of time while guests linger at the table and connect with each other. If you feel like you’re up to a larger challenge, consider creating Paella, the flavorful Spanish rice dish that can include almost any combination of well-seasoned vegetables, sausages, meats and seafood.

If you're looking for something refreshing to pour into your glass with dinner, sangria is certainly a preferred Spanish choice. You may want to consider experiencing some Spanish wines as well. Although they have remained underrated for decades, Spanish wines have started to gain attention along with their counterparts from other European countries and the United States.

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Almodovar’s Colors Bring Madrid to Life

With its history, art and architecture, Madrid has served as the inspiration for multiple filmmakers over the years. When the city is portrayed, it becomes almost like another character in the picture.

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Photo Courtesy: El Deseo, S.A./IMDb

One of the modern era's most famous directors, Pedro Almodovar produces works that exemplify this beauty. He has often used the city as a backdrop in films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, What Have I Done to Deserve This and Volver. These films and his other productions show off both a fun and fresh side to the city as well as a grittiness when the movie calls for it. They are more than worth watching from home if you'd like more exposure to Madrid.

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In addition to Almodovar's work, a number of other substantial films are set in the city. These include many mid-century 1950's and 1960's masterpieces. If you'd like to watch a few of these flicks, the British Film Institute has compiled a list of 10 great films that should definitely be on your viewing list.

The Traditional Music of Madrid Is Having a Moment

No experience of any city would be complete without enjoying a taste of the popular music in that culture. Fans of traditional music can listen to their fill in the city, with options ranging from classical and jazz to flamenco music and dance performances that are as good as you would find anywhere in Europe. In fact, Spanish stars Rosalía and El Guincho just won an MTV EMA award in 2019 for their modern twist on a modern flamenco collaboration.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave J. Hogan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Spanish guitar performances are a treat both in clubs as well as walking along some city streets. Madrid is also a hotbed of modern pop, house and rock music hits, so pack your virtual dancing shoes.

Strong Literary Roots

As a major European city with centuries of history and culture, Madrid is more than capable of holding its own in the literary world. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote and one of the greatest authors in world literature, once lived in the city.

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Later, Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Madrid, bullfighting and all of Spain when he visited during the Spanish Civil War. He set many novels and short stories in the city, including The Sun Also Rises, Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls. and many bars and restaurants brag that he liked to eat, drink and write on their premises.

Support Madrid’s Important Cultural Legacy from Home

Although one of the best ways to support a region that you're traveling to is to spend your money there, thanks to restrictions from COVID-19, that's not currently possible. Instead, if you'd like to show your support for Madrid, there are ways you can connect with the city and donate to area nonprofits. Visit Serve the City Madrid to read about the organization and how it helps. The money you donate goes directly to helping the part of the community or the area that you care about.

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Photo Courtesy: Serve the City Madrid/Facebook

Looking for More Virtual Travel Opportunities?

Thank you for joining us today for a virtual tour of Madrid, Spain. Once you've explored this beautiful city, there are plenty of other places you can enjoy — right from the comfort of your living room! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

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Photo Courtesy: @visitportugal/Twitter

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