In Madrid, Paseo del Arte, the art district, refers to both the culturally rich neighborhood bordering the Paseo del Prado and the broad boulevard itself, which links the city’s three prestigious art museums: the Reina Sofia, the Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The “Art Walk” dates to the Age of Enlightenment, when Charles III (1716–1788) enhanced north-south carriage access through the prado (meadow) of the pastoral 17th-century monastery (now Retiro Park). The king embellished the route with monumental fountains, a tree-shaded pedestrian promenade and major educational institutions: the Royal Observatory, the Royal Botanical Garden and what he planned to be a natural history museum. When the massive building ultimately opened in 1810 as the art-filled Prado, the city’s cultural hub was firmly established.
At the southernmost point of the “Golden Triangle,” crowds flock to Reina Sofia to admire Guernica, Picasso’s antiwar reaction to the aerial bombing of the Basque town in 1937, and works by Dalí, Gris and Miró. Nearby, the CaixaForum, with its impressive exterior wall of greenery, houses an exhibition space within a former power station.
STATUE OF VELÁZQUEZ IN FRONT OF MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO © JOZEF SEDMAK | DREAMSTIME.COM
Heading north to the Neptune Fountain, the Museo Nacional del Prado, with its Neoclassical façade studded with columns and statues, lies on the right. Inside, walls display classics from the Flemish, Italian and Spanish schools, including world-famous paintings by El Greco, Goya and Velázquez. Across the Paseo, Villahermosa Palace became home to the Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1992. Artwork from the 13th century to the present includes paintings by Gauguin, Kandinsky, Matisse and some prominent American artists.
Two grande dames hotels — and others — lie within footsteps of these museums. The legendary Hotel Ritz, Madrid maintained its prestigious appeal since its debut in 1910, and its elegant Goya Terrace faces the Prado. At The Westin Palace Hotel, which introduced the first private bathrooms and telephones in 1912, a spectacular stained-glass dome tops La Rotonda restaurant. Facing the nearby park, the AC Palacio del Retiro, a contemporary boutique hotel within a restored townhouse, boasts the original curved, wrought iron staircase and high ceilings.
Paseo del Arte ends just beyond the 19th-century Naval Museum at the opulent Cibeles Palace, which faces Cibeles Fountain. The white Gothic former post office houses Madrid’s City Hall and a tourist information center, an exhibition space and dining options including the gastronomic Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant. From its rooftop observation deck, views extend over Madrid’s magical skyline.
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