From its spectacular art museums to its Royal Palace and historic neighbourhoods, there's always something new to experience in Madrid. If you're looking for something a little different, here are the 9 best places to visit in Madrid to see the parts of the city off the beaten path.
The Templo de Debod is a unique ancient Egyptian temple that was transferred to Madrid. The original temple was constructed near the Nile and dedicated to Isis, but in 1960, the construction of the Aswan High Dam forced the removal of the temple and its relocation in Madrid to preserve it. The temple is located in the Parque del Oeste. Though some of the gateways have been rearranged, the temple is one of the few ancient Egyptian pieces that can be seen outside of Egypt and is the only temple of its kind in all of Spain.
If you travel on a train in Madrid, you'll likely pass the abandoned Chamberi Ghost Station without even realising it. The Madrid Metro line 1 passes an old station that briefly illuminates the tunnels between stops, which is the hint of the ghost station of one of the city's earliest metro stations. The original station opened in 1919 and ran for 2.5 miles, but the metro network soon needed expansion to accommodate travel in the city. During the Spanish Civil War, the station provided shelter from bombings, and diesel engines were used by the government to power parts of the city. Now fully restored, you can see old ticket offices, maps, turnstiles and other historical information in the station, as well as original ads made up of small, coloured tiles.
Founded in 1725, Sobrino de Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world and an early benchmark of Madrid cuisine. The restaurant now specialises in suckling pig and meats from the primary meat regions of Spain, but it has served many notable figures over the years. Once a haven for artistic and creative types, Sobrino de Botin has served Graham Green, Ernest Hemingway and Benito Perez Galdos. It's also been a meeting place for spaces, such as Sira Quiroga. The restaurant is not only a significant part of Madrid history, but it also has some of the best meals in the city and features dishes inspired by the meat, seafood and produce of the region.
Madrid's most fascinating museum is not one that many know of. The Reverte Coma Forensic Museum is a hidden gem of oddities and interest - unless you're of delicate sensibilities. Located in the Faculty of Medicine at Complutense University, the museum features over 1,500 specimens of human bones, weapons and torture devices, including severed heads, dissected foetuses, children's skeletons and a garrotte. You'll also find mummies, prison inmates' weapons, antique pharmaceuticals and fetishes. Though morbid in nature, the museum is designed as an educational facility to provide people with an understanding of forensic studies.
The Museo Geominero is another of Madrid's lesser-known museums. It displays minerals and fossils from Spain and its former colonies, derived from the collection that was created by Isabel II in the 19th century. Located within the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, the museum features minerals from Spain, a rock collection, fossils of vertebrates and Spanish flora, foreign fossils and a large collection of fossil invertebrates.
Calle de Cava Baja is one of the liveliest streets in Madrid. Located in the heart of the energetic La Latina district, the beautiful street has a cheery atmosphere and a mix of traditional and popular tapas restaurants and bars. There are also several markets, coffee lounges and pedestrian walking areas, so you can take in the sights of the exemplary Madrid architecture in the nearby buildings. Some of the best restaurants on the street include Taberna Matritum, La Camarilla and Txakolina.
Located away from the main drag in Madrid, the Pantheon of Illustrious Men is a lesser-known monument designed to hold the great men of Spanish culture. Though the idea was abandoned, the pantheon still has the remains of influential Spanish men like Quevedo and Garcilaso de la Vegas. Many other famous Spaniards are buried there, so it's a great spot for history lovers.
In the heart of the vibrant Retiro Park, you can find the remains of the second-oldest zoo of Europe, the House of Beasts. In 1774, King Carlos III of Spain wanted an animal park in Madrid to house lions, tigers, monkeys, ostriches, bears, a crocodile and an elephant. The remains of the zoo are the source of tales and legends, such as prisoners of the Spanish Civil War being fed to the animals as punishment. When the new aquarium and zoo were constructed in 1972, the House of Beasts was closed, but you can still see the remnants of the enclosures and learn about its fascinating history.
Tiflológico Museum is a must-see museum and one of the most unique experiences you can have. Designed to provide a way for visually impaired people to experience artwork, the museum focuses on ways to communicate famous works of art to visitors through touch. The museum's collection includes such influential pieces as the Colosseum and the Venus of Willendorf, as well as other historic sculptures, paintings and monuments. The replica pieces are also created by blind or visually impaired artists to fully capture the details through touch and texture.
Though Madrid is filled with unique attractions and places to see, these obscure or hidden places are a great way to experience a different side of the city. If you're planning your trip, take a look at Madrid holidays on Expedia to get a great deal on your trip and prepare for the time of your life!