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Carlos III, son of Felipe V, was the second generation of Bourbons to succeed to the Spanish throne. Keen to endow his capital city with a layout worthy of its status, he called upon the best architects of the era to design the Prado's famous north-south perspective, today the heart of Madrid. The handsome tree-lined avenue and its monuments are a must, beginning with the plaza de Cibeles home to one of the city's emblems, the 18C fountain of Cybele drawn by lions. It is surrounded by the Bank of Spain (1891), the Palacio de Buenavista (18C), currently the Ministry for Defence, the late 19C Palacio de Linares and the main post office (1919). Walk down the tree-lined avenue of the Paseo del Prado and admire Apollo's Fountain designed by Ventura Rodríguez. Further on, you will reach the Plaza de Canóvas del Castillo and Neptune's fountain. You will now be opposite the Palacio de Villahermosa (late 18C to early 19C) home to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. The Museo du Prado and the botanic gardens, both the work of Juan de Villanueva, are a few steps away. At the end of the avenue lies the Plaza del Emperador Carlos V, the site of the former Hospital de San Carlos created by Carlos III, and today the Museo nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Bear west and cross over Calle Alfonso XII to the 321 acres of beautiful greenery that is Parque del Buen Retiro. The Puerta de Alcalá stands on the northwest corner, built between 1769 and 1778 by Sabatini to commemorate the triumphant entrance of Carlos III into Madrid.

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