1. Real Jardin Botanico

Founded by King Ferdinand IV’s royal decree in 1781, the Real Jardín Botánico is an awe-inspiring two-and-a-half centuries-old marvel occupying 20-acres of verdant terrain in the heart of Spain’s capital city. The botanical garden was designed by the same architectural team behind the Museo del Prado and initially populated with over 2,000 specimens gathered from the Iberian peninsula by botanist and surgeon José Quer. Remarkably, the collection has endured centuries of civil and international wars and grown to contain over 90,000 flowers and plants, plus an estimated 1,500 trees. Additionally, its herbarium boasts an impressive million specimens. Originally structured according to the Linneaus method of the period, the garden was reorganized into seven outdoor gardens and five indoor greenhouses, each arranged logically by theme, content, and origin. Notable features include the “Terraza de Cuadros” – with a Japanese garden and a series of box-edged plots featuring medicinal, aromatic, and orchard-like plants arranged around a fountain – and a romantic, period-accurate garden reminiscent of an English garden, with a wide variety of trees and shrubs.

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2. Convent of the Holy Spirit Crypts

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In February 2009, human bones were discovered while workers were rehabilitating the basement of the Spanish Parliament’s Congress of Deputies building. These bones were believed to possibly belong to the religious order that previously occupied the Convent of the Holy Spirit, which had stood at this location since 1599. The convent’s church was flanked by two towers and was decorated with paintings by Luis Velázquez. In 1823, a terrible fire occurred, forcing the convent to be abandoned, and the building was later renovated to become the meeting place for the Spanish Parliament (Cortes Generales). In 1842, the old church was demolished, and construction on a new building began in 1843. For almost 160 years, the old church’s crypt remained forgotten until it was excavated in 2009. It was initially used as a backroom, but later reopened in 2018 to serve as an art exhibition space and potentially a museum of the Spanish Parliament.
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3. Royal Chapel of St. Anthony of La Florida

The Hermitage dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, designed by 18th-century Italian architect Filippo Fontana, was commissioned by King Carlos IV to serve as a royal chapel during his stay in the nearby Florida palace. The Neoclassical building with a Greek floor plan was completed in 1798 and features a number of interior frescoes painted by Goya and his disciple Asensio Juliá. Mirrors were strategically placed to allow viewers to admire the miracle of Saint Anthony of Padua in Lisbon. The frescoes on the dome showcase the saint and other main figures, as well as characters from Madrid such as majas and chisperos. To protect the frescoes, a hermitage was built in 1928 next to the original, where worship could be practiced without damaging the original building, which was reserved as a museum. In 1919, Goya’s body was transferred to the hermitage.
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4. Carpetana Metro Station Museum

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This unique underground museum is located in the Carpetana metro station in Carabanchel, a neighborhood of Madrid. When improvements were made to the metro station in 2008, workers discovered thousands of fossils in a pit. The Museum of Natural Sciences collected the ancient specimens, allowing visitors to imagine how this part of the city appeared 14 million years ago. In the Middle Miocene, the area was covered with meadows and savannahs, interspersed with ponds and swamps. Trees like oaks, laurels, beeches and firs grew from the land. Bear dogs, pumas, rhinoceroses, deer, primitive horses and giant tortoises roamed the terrain. Replicas of these extinct animals’ fossils are displayed near a panel showing how the area looked during their lifetimes. The museum’s star feature is a reproduction of a mastodon standing next to the elevators. A mural formatted like a comic strip in the long corridor tells the story of the metro station, the recovery work and the species that lived here millions of years ago.
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5. Costitx Bulls

Photo Credit: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta/cc by-sa 4.0

The fighting bull is an iconic symbol that is deeply entrenched in the culture of Spain, from the lush northern lands of Asturias and Galicia to the dry plains of Andalusia. It is featured in bullfights, on wine labels, in Pablo Picasso’s paintings, and in animal rights activism. This animal holds a special place in the hearts of the Spanish people, as is evidenced by the ancient bulls of Costitx, which are currently on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. Dating back to the Talayotic culture between 500 and 200 BC, the three life-sized bronze bull heads are believed to be either representations of a deity or artifacts related to the ancient practice of bull worship. This cultural importance is still relevant today, as the town of Costitx has repeatedly asked the Spanish government to return the bulls to the island, although their requests have not been met.
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