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Explore Madrid: A Virtual and Accessible Tour


Tourists walking in front of historical sites in Madrid. Illustration.

Highlights


From historically resonant architecture to dazzling sights, we are so excited to take you on a journey to Madrid, Spain this week. As the capital of Spain, Madrid boasts excellent pieces of art, elegant boulevards, flourishing museums, and truly great examples of Mediterranean cuisine. Join us as we explore everything Madrid has to offer!


We are trying to make sure the content we suggest is accessible in different ways. Although it can be difficult to find websites that are fully accessible, we review many to offer you the ones that are the most accessible. As always, if you find barriers or have suggestions please reach out to us at info@bluetrunk.org and let us know so that we can improve! 


Visit the Museums and Sites


Founded in the late ninth century, Madrid has been home to plenty of cultural artifacts and places of historical significance. Royalty, renowned artists, and political officials have impacted the city through thoughtful design. 


One such lavish attraction is the Plaza Mayor, which used to be the center of Old Madrid and currently serves as a major public space in the city. Originally built during the reign of Philip III, the square hosts beautiful pillars, arches, and a bronze equestrian statue. For more information about the site, please visit the blog from Fringe Madrid and view a vlog from Samuel Garza. The video comes with auto generated captions. 


Another widely visited site is the Royal Palace of Madrid, serving as the official residence of the Spanish royal family and as the largest royal palace in Europe. Although the current royal family does not actually live there, the palace did once house previous royalty and was used by the Moors as a fortress. The space is proof of Spain’s heritage and past monarchic traditions. To get a better understanding of the palace, be sure to view the vlog from Jeremy and Ally and check out the blog from Treasures of Traveling. You can also read another blog from Fringe Madrid on the Royal Palace. The video comes with auto generated captions. 


The Temple of Debod is another such important historical site. Originally constructed in Egypt in the early 2nd century, the temple is believed to have been the sacred site where Isis gave birth to the sky god Horus. It was later given to Spain as a gift from Egypt, where many of the original designs remain. To learn more about the Temple of Debod, be sure to visit the website and virtual tour, read a blog from the Rocky Safari that contains many pictures, and view a vlog from Jaycation. The video comes with auto generated captions. 


One of the most important museums in Spain is the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, housing some of the richest, most vibrant collections of Spanish and wider European art. Overall, the museum hosts over 8000 paintings and over 700 sculptures, giving an in-depth look at Spanish culture and creativity over the years. For more information about the museum, be sure to visit their website and virtual tours, list through their comprehensive collection of audio guides, and read a blog from Devour Tours on the space. 


If you’re itching for a more nature-driven experience, look no further than El Retiro Park, which is one of the largest parks in the city. The park belonged to the Spanish monarchy until 1868 when it became a public park following the revolution, and now is home to lakes, statues, galleries, and a host of activities. To learn more about El Retiro Park, be sure to visit the blog from Krista the Explorer and watch the vlog from Travel Addict Guy. The video comes with auto generated captions. 


To get a better taste of Madrid, buyers are sure to make their stops at Mercado de San Miguel, a market offering local foods and a fascinating culinary experience. The market was originally built in 1916 and still holds onto the nostalgic charm from its early days, especially with its architecture. If you want to learn more about the market, be sure to listen to the podcast from Culinary Cuisine Journey, which does not have a transcript. You can also watch a vlog from Spain Revealed and read a blog from Wanderers Compass. The video comes with auto generated captions. 


Tune in to Shows and Movies About Madrid and Spain


Both Madrid and Spain generally are home to some fantastic actors and creatives who have been inspired by their surroundings, then using this to create films and television shows. For this reason, we have selected a few movies and shows that show off the stories of Spain. 


Starting off, The Prado Museum: A Collection of Wonders is a documentary detailing the captivating rooms, emotions, and works of art at the famed Museo Nacional de Prado. The film takes viewers on a cinematic journey through the museum, allowing those beyond Madrid’s borders to still enjoy and learn from the artistic institution. The film is available to view on Tubi for free and has subtitles.


Moving into works of realistic fiction, the drama-comedy Pain and Glory details the life of an aging film director reflecting on his work and his life as he battles a creative crisis. Natives of Spain, Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz make up the lead couple, with their skillful performances enhancing themes of emptiness, self-discovery, and regret. The film is available to rent on Apple TV and has subtitles.


For fans of horror and social experiments, The Platform may be exactly what you need. Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, this sci-fi-horror flick follows the story of a prison in which inmates are fed on a descending platform, with the uppermost levels taking a majority of the food. When one man finds that those at the bottom are left to starve, he decides to change the system. The film can be found on Netflix and has closed captions and Spanish audio description.


A family centered drama, Volver comments on togetherness, grieving, and looking to the future. After the death of their mother Irene, sisters Raimunda and Sole begin seeing her spirit materializing around them as she tries to comfort her daughters and fix the situations she didn’t have time to change when she was alive. You can watch Volver on Amazon Prime and it has closed captions.


Moving onto TV, Money Heist is definitely a standout in Spanish television. Created by Álex Pina, the first season follows the criminal mastermind known as “The Professor” who plans to pull off the biggest heist in history — printing billions of euros at the Royal Mint of Spain. Chaos, obviously, ensues. The show is available to watch on Netflix and has closed captions and audio description.


Another well-received Spanish show is Elite, which follows the enrollment of three working-class teens in an exclusive private school in Spain. Their presence at the school and clash with the other students leads to murder, with more mysteries to come. The show is available to watch on Netflix and has closed captions and audio description.


A more subdued and romantic show, The Cook of Castamar sees a young, talented cook making waves in 1720s Madrid. As she begins her career, she catches the eye of a widowed duke as he makes his way back into aristocratic society. The show is available on Netflix and has closed captions and Spanish audio description.


Moving forward in time, Cable Girls envisions Madrid in the 1920s, now that Spain has just gotten its first telephone company. Four young women who go to work there feel they are making progress towards equality with men, and become attached with each other in various ways. The show can be accessed on Netflix and has closed captions and Spanish audio description. 


Get Lost in Books About Madrid


As a city that is over 2000 years old, Madrid has welcomed many incredible people, adventures, and stories. It is the energy and bustle of the city that has spurred many captivating books across a variety of genres. 


One such book is Bad Habit: A Novel by Alana Portero, which follows the heartfelt odyssey of a young trans woman in the ‘80s and ‘90s. She encounters struggle in every shape and form, from trying to find herself to romantic issues to the battle of poverty. Here, Portero explores the ties between gender and class, as well as the power of sisterhood and community. Bad Habit: A Novel is available for purchase on Amazon, and has Kindle and audiobook versions. 


If you are a fan of classic literature, then The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra may be just what you are looking for. Written in the wake of the explosive release of Don Quixote, Cervantes published this set of twelve novellas that follow the model established in Italy. Each novella presents a unique story, ranging from romances to adventures in far-off lands. The book can be accessed on Amazon, and has a Kindle and audiobook version. 


In A Heart So White, Javier Marías creates a family drama where secrets are better left buried than unearthed. Main character Juan knows little about his father Ranz, but when Juan remarries and confronts the past, he is forced to reckon with the things in his family he never wants to find out. A Heart So White can be purchased on Amazon and it has a Kindle version. 


It is 1940. Madrid lies in ruin following the Spanish Civil War. While the rest of the world sees destruction and death in the Second World War, the world of Spain quiets and obscures into uncertainty. In this space of abstraction, we find a reluctant spy, a shady Madrid businessman, and an ex-Red Cross nurse who still have missions of their own to complete by any means necessary. This is Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom, and you can find it on Amazon with an additional Kindle and audiobook version.


Going back in time to nineteenth-century Madrid, The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte follows Don Jaime, an arcane fencing technique known only by Don, and a beautiful young woman who wishes to learn it. This simple yet forward request inevitably leads Don Jaime to become wrapped up in the shady politics and violence of the city. This book is available on Amazon and has a Kindle and audiobook version.


If you would like to support a Spain-based bookstore, be sure to check out The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas available at The Bookshop. Sira Quiroga, once apprenticed to a Madrid dressmaker and finding great success, wound up in great trouble after she fled to Morocco and saw Spain become engulfed in civil war. Now penniless, she turns to sewing dresses for German elites, which proves to be a great skill in Franco’s Nazi-friendly Spain later on. You can find this book at The Bookshop, which does international deliveries.


Bring Madrid to Your Kitchen


As a hub of cultural interest and exciting traditions, Madrid is home to food as vibrant as flamenco. From savory bites to delicate desserts, this city’s cuisine is a must try. 


Starting off with a great appetizer for the summer heat, Madrid and Spain widely are known for the cold, refreshing soup known as gazpacho. Packed with vegetables, this soup is not only easy to make but also flavorful and traditionally vegan and gluten free. For a great vegan and gluten free recipe, be sure to turn to Love and Lemons and drink up!


On the more hearty side, Madrid is also known for its paella, a traditional rice dish complemented by meats, seafood, and vegetables and served in a signature pan. While paella is usually made with seafood products like mussels and shrimp, you can still make a gluten free and vegan alternative. Vegan Huggs has just the vegan and gluten free recipe you need, leaving you with the perfect, comforting dinner.


For dessert, you cannot go wrong with the classic Churros con Chocolate, or Spanish churros with chocolate. The churros are made from fried dough tossed in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and served with a side of spiced hot chocolate — obviously, this is so, so delicious. For a vegan and gluten free version that will leave you wanting more, be sure to check the recipe from The Big Man’s World and get to cooking!


Where to Next?


Thanks for wandering Madrid with us virtually. Join us next time as we explore Accra, Ghana.

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