Did you know that Spain ranks 4th worldwide in the number of UNESCO World Heritages sites it owns? As of August 2021, Spain has 49 UNESCO world heritage sites, ranking 4th place worldwide after Italy (58), China (56) and Germany (51).
In July 2021 the famous Retiro Park and the Prado Boulevard have been granted UNESCO world heritage as ¨Landscape of Arts and Sciences¨, and that is a huge deal. Why? Because up to now, no UNESCO World Heritage site was located in the capital of Spain, Madrid. Spain has many internationally famous UNESCO World Heritage sites. You have probably heard about the Alhambra in Granada or the historic city of Toledo. The only site close to Madrid is Aranjuez, but this finally changed!
The Prado Boulevard is one of the biggest attractions in Madrid as it features the most important museums of the city. And the Retiro Park owns many documents and historic statues.
So let’s take a closer look to the new UNESCO World Heritage sites in Madrid:
Other Blogposts about Madrid that could be interesting for you:
- Spend a perfect Day in Madrid
- 9 Things you can do in Madrid that are (almost) free
- How to get cheap train tickets from Madrid to Barcelona for only 9 Euros!
Map of the Attractions in the Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado
This map shows all attractions in the Retiro Park and Paseo del Prad ¨Landscape of Arts and Sciences¨ that I talk about in this blogpost.
1. Paseo del Prado
Paseo del Prado is famous is a boulevard that goes north from Atocha, the most important train station of Madrid. What is so special about it? Madrid’s famous art museums are all located on this street: The Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, the Caixa Forum museum, the Naval Museum and the Botanical Garden. Other important sights would be the Neptune Fountain, the Monument for Velazquez and Goya.
So imagine, this is the Boulevard you need to go to if you want to enjoy local art from Spain. All in one place in Madrid. It is so famous that there is even a ticket for the ¨paseo del arte”, which includes the entry for the Prado museum, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen for 32,70 Euro. You can find it here.
Another reason to celebrate is that the city of Madrid turns the ¨Paseo del Prado¨ into a pedestrian street during the weekend in order to fight pollution in the city.
Museo del Prado
The Museo del Prado is one of the biggest and most important art museums in the world! It owns more than 5000 paintings, 2000 prints and thousands of other art collections. The museum has many paintings from Spanish artist, but you will find international artwork there as well.
Don’t underestimate how big this museum is! You could honestly spend a whole day there. But if you want to limit your visit, I think 60-120 minutes could be enough.
Museo de la Reina Sofia
This museum is famous for owning paintings from many Spanish artists. You can see the world famous ¨Guernica¨ painting from Picasso here.
This museum mostly shows paintings from Heinrich Thyssen and his son Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon. But you will also find other international artists like Albrecht Dürer or Vincent Van Gogh.
2. The Retiro Park
The Retiro is a park of 118 hectares in the center of Madrid and one of the reason why many people, myself included, fall in love with the city. It has been open to the public since 1868 and therefore is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments of the city. This ¨green lung¨ of Madrid has more than 15.000 species of plants and even offers sports facilities, several museums and a big pond where you can rent out small boats. So romantic!
It is a popular destination for locals, especially on the weekends. The park is perfect for when you need a little bit of shade after walking around in Madrid’s summer sun. And it als
What can you see in the Retiro Park:
Palacio de Cristal (Conservatory made out of glass)
El Lago del Retiro (big lake in the park)
Monumento a Alfonso XII (Big Monument for Alfonso 12th right next to the lake)
La Rosaleda (A beautiful Rose Garden)
Palacio de Velazquez (A modern art museum with seasonal exhibitions)
Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez (A classical style garden with ponds and even peacocks)
But there is something nobody is talking about
Don’t get me wrong. Madrileños are incredibly proud of their two new UNESCO World Heritage site. But the Retiro park in Madrid has a history that no one really likes to talk about. If you are interested in further readings about the history about the Retiro I recommend you this blogpost on Madrid no frills.
During the end of the 19th century Madrileños not only came to the Retiro to relax and spend time with their family. During that time, the Retiro also hosted another attractions from another Spanish empire further away: A human zoo of 43 Igorot men and women from the Philippine island of Luzon.
Currently the Palacio de Cristal offers an exhibition about the Spain’s colony in the Philippines. But it fails to mention the human zoo it had. There is a small sign outside of the building stating the architect and the initial dimensions the building had.
It makes me very happy that we have two new UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Madrid. Nonetheless, I feel like it is important to mention this part of the history as well in that conversation. I highly encourage you to read the article I linked above.