Almudena Cathedral (Santa María la Real de La Almudena)
The Almudena Cathedral (Santa María la Real de La Almudena) is one of the most remarkable in Spain. It retains the floor plan and several architectural features of a conventional cathedral but has a distinctly modern flair. Sit outside and admire its towering façade then head inside to explore the neo-Gothic interior. As you wander through the nave, you’ll see pop art-style stained-glass windows, colorful ceiling art, and works by artists old and new.
Walk along the spacious aisles inside the church where Spain’s Prince Felipe married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano in 2004. Imagine the pomp of this royal ceremony as you look around the massive church measuring 341 feet (104 meters) long and 249 feet (76 meters) wide. The central dome is (20 meters) in diameter. Go to the dome’s viewing platform for a spectacular view of the city.
Although the plans to build the cathedral began in the 16th century, the church was not completed until 1993, the same year it was consecrated by Pope John Paul II. Look out for the commemorative statue of the pope at the front of the church.
The delayed building process means the church has two architectural styles: neoclassic outside and neo-Gothic inside. The crypt, the oldest part of the cathedral, is neo-Gothic, while the exterior was designed to be more in keeping with its neighbor, the neoclassic Royal Palace.
Explore the crypt to see a 16th-century image of the Virgin of Almudena or head to the western end of the transept to look at a 15th-century altarpiece. Visit the on-site museum to learn about the history of the cathedral and the Diocese of Madrid. There are clerical garments and other artifacts.
Almudena Cathedral is along Calle Bailén, right next to the Royal Palace. The closest metro station is Ópera. The cathedral is open every day, while the museum has different operating hours. Check ahead before your visit. You can enter the building for free, but there’s an admission fee for the museum and viewing platform.