5 Best Photo Opportunities in Madrid

Photo Opportunities Madrid

Lee Van Grack

Madrid is a very scenic city, so it's not hard to find great photo ops here. In the old days, when I used a manual 35mm camera with film, the challenge was not to use up all my photos within the first hour! Digital cameras make it easier to snap away whenever you see a likely subject – the corner of an ancient stone building, for instance, or a beautiful statue or fountain, or one of the street performers that ply Madrid's tourist routes. Here are five of the best photo opportunities Madrid has to offer:

1. The Romantic Photo: Vistillas Gardens

The sloping, tree-filled Jardines de las Vistillas in the historic center of Madrid is not the most well known park in the city. But that's exactly why I like to go there – it's beautiful, private enough that you can catch a quick kiss without people staring and quiet enough that you can stroll about holding hands without having to fight through a throng of tourists. Plus, it's free and there are no opening hours, so you don't have the hassle of long lines and admission fees.

Get a picture of yourself and your lover with the Almudena Cathedral in the background. The other best photo ops in this Madrid park are the fountain and the views west over the Manzanares river and Casa de Campo.

The walk to and from Jardines de las Vistillas is just as romantic, as it's in the middle of historic Madrid with its narrow curving streets and beautiful old churches and houses. Be sure to arrive in time for the sunset for added romance.

Jardines de las Vistillas
Off Calle del Rosario
No website
Open 24 hours
Free admission

2. The Quirky Photo: San Miguel Market

For fun foodie shots of some of Madrid's quirkiest ingredients, head to the best covered market in the city: Mercado de San Miguel, just west of Plaza Mayor. The building itself, an emblematic early 19th-century structure of wrought iron and glass, offers another of the best photo ops in Madrid. From its ornate sign above the entrance to its rows of colorful stalls overflowing with fresh produce, it's a perfect place to capture not just the aesthetics, but also the atmosphere of the place.

For quirky photos, zoom in on some of the food on display: like the rows of "jamón serrano" (whole pigs' legs) hanging from the rafters, or the bright red peppers and strings of garlic, or even the live lobsters at the seafood stall.

Mercado de San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel
No phone
Sun-Wed 10AM-midnight, Thu-Sat 10AM-2AM
Free admission

3. The Fun Family Photo: Retiro Park

El Parque de Buen Retiro, otherwise known as "El Retiro," has been Madrid's green lungs for centuries. Its 350 acres of trees and wide paths offer some great landscape photography shots of Madrid. Clamber up on the lions that look out over the artificial lake, or take a rowing boat out for fun shots of Dad getting caught up in the oars. Fine sculptures dot the paths, and your family can have fun pretending to hug or kiss them for the camera.

Even better, when there's a festival or free concert hosted in Retiro Park you can join in the entertainment and get some great Madrid travel photography at the same time. It's not far from the Museo del Prado, so a good stop on any sightseeing tour. If you don't want other people in the picture, come early in the morning, when only a few joggers can be seen shuffling through the park.

El Parque de Buen Retiro
Off Calle de Alcalá
No phone
Open 24 hours
Free admission

4. The Scenic Photo: Royal Palace at night

The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace, is lit up stunningly each evening, providing Madrid visitors who enjoy amateur travel photography with ample opportunities for scenic nighttime pictures. (It's also beautiful in the day, of course.) Although it's the official residence of Spain's popular king, Rey Juan Carlos I, it's only used for state ceremonies, so even with a long lens you won't catch him brushing his teeth before bedtime.

Many other buildings and monuments are lit up beautifully at night, including hotels and statues in the main squares, so keep your camera handy for unexpected photo opportunities – Madrid nightlife can be quite exciting.

Palacio Real
Calle Bailén
No website
Summer: Mon-Sat 9AM-6PM, Sun 9AM-3PM; Winter: Mon-Sat 9:30AM-5PM, Sun 9AM-2PM. Closed for state ceremonies and other events.
Admission: $11; with guided tour $14; Discounts for children, students, seniors

5. The Classic Photo: Plaza Mayor

This vast, pedestrian-friendly square is in the heart of Madrid and is the location of major celebrations, including the Festival of San Isidro in May. Allegedly, almost 100,000 people can fit into the 308-foot by 423-foot cobbled square, which is lined with magnificent old buildings in weathered stone and terracotta red, many dotted with iron balconies and adorned with flags. Galleried arches on each side are great for framing portraits. Or just sit at a terrace café and discretely photograph passers-by and street entertainers – the whole of Madrid congregates in this magnificent photogenic square.
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