There’s no doubt about it: a residential trip to the city of Madrid for students studying Spanish is a wonderful way to introduce them to the culture and people that lie behind the language. But with a city as bursting with cultural sights as Madrid, it can be hard to decide just where to take your students. Here is my guide to the top monuments in the Spanish capital that every residential trip should include.
Built in 1764, this vast palace with its beautiful surrounding gardens is one of the many buildings that contribute to the splendour of the city. Despite belonging to the Spanish royal family, the Palacio Real is rarely used by them, and so it is almost entirely open to the public. Your students might be interested to hear that, despite its vast size, the palace they see today is only a fraction of what was originally intended by Felipe V when the former palace on this site was destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, Felipe died before the palace was finished, and the plans were subsequently scaled back.
One of the highlights of a stroll around the palace is the sculptures commissioned by Diego Velázquez, which were rescued from the original palace. Students are also regularly impressed by the sheer eighteenth-century grandeur of some of the state and private quarters.
Museo del Prado
Probably Madrid’s most famous landmark, this vast art gallery is definitely worth a visit – even if just to see the splendour of the neo-classical building. Art students will want to wander for hours through the multiple floors of some of the world’s greatest works of art, but for those who might just want to concentrate on one element, I would recommend the Velázquez Rooms. As the leading artist of Spain’s Golden Age, Velázquez’s art is given pride of place in the great hall of the museum. Make sure that you point your students towards Las Meninas, acclaimed as his greatest work (and sometimes even as the “greatest painting in the world”).
El Retiro Park
Of course, one of the most popular pastimes in Madrid is meeting up with friends and ‘people-watching’, and nowhere is this more enjoyable than in the beautiful surroundings of El Retiro. Originally the grounds of the fifteenth-century Monasterio de los Jerónimos, today the park is a popular place for locals to enjoy a picnic, go running, take boats out on the lake or just stroll around with friends. There are several attractions to discover in the park, including the Palacio de Cristal, the Ángel Caído and the monument to Alfonso XII, but your students will probably most enjoy just watching the hustle and bustle of Madrid go by.
Zoo-Aquarium de la Casa de Campo
If you get the feeling that your students have had enough culture for one residential trip, then the city’s zoo could provide a great change of pace. There are more than 6,000 animals here, including elephants, gorillas and pandas, and when you’ve seen enough land animals, there’s an aquarium with a shark tank and a dolphinarium.
Whether you want to see all these sights or would rather just pick a select few for your residential trip, it’s worth enlisting the help of a specialist educational tour operator to help you arrange your visit. From tickets and opening times to accommodation and insurance, a specialist tour operator can look after the details so that you can ensure that your group gets the most out of their trip.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in residential trip itinerariesfor school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.