East Madrid

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t The large interior of one of the Prado’s many galleries

Experience East Madrid

To the east of the city centre, there once lay an idyllic district of market gardens known as the Prado, the “Meadow”. In the 16th century a monastery was built and later the Habsburgs extended it to form a palace, of which only fragments now remain; the palace gardens are now the popular Parque del Retiro.

This development attracted intellectuals to this corner of the city and the Huertas district, which had once been farmland, soon became the haunt of Spain’s most famous writers of the time. During the 17th century, the Barrio de las Letras (Writers’ Quarter) played host to everyone from Miguel de Cervantes to Lope de Vega.

The Bourbon monarchs chose this eastern area to expand and embellish the city in the 18th century. They built grand squares with fountains, a triumphal gateway, and, in 1785, work began on a Neo-Classical building that was set to house a museum of natural history. This ambition never came to fruition and the Museo del Prado opened here instead in 1819, housing works from the former Spanish Royal Collection. In the 20th century, the Prado was joined by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a collection of modern Spanish and international art, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, displaying works from across the centuries, to form the “Golden Triangle of Art”.

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