Set in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain’s capital city of Madrid is a fascinating combination of Bohemian culture, striking modernity, delicious cuisine, magnificent artistic and architectural heritages and a large and varied chunk of the world’s most vibrant nightlife. The Madrilenos as a cultural group are laid-back and traditional in their daily routines, tailoring their activities to the region’s varied climate. The siesta is observed with almost religious fervor, and the cooler nights of summer are celebrated until early morning in clubs, tapas bars and dance venues.
The heart of the city is the Puerta del Sol square, a favourite meeting place for citizens and home to several of Madrid’s colorful fiestas. Plaza Mayor is the tourist hub, lined with cafés, tapas bars and restaurants and home to local markets and the occasional concert or tournament. The massive Royal Palace is one of Europe’s largest former royal residences, now used for state ceremonies and crammed with treasured artworks. Self-guided or guided tours give access to a world of lavish décor, precious antique silverware, porcelain and tapestries. The Royal Armoury holds medieval armour and weapons, and the palace sits opposite the superb Cathedral of la Almudena.
The old city with its landmarks and attractions is home to a selection of accommodation including the Petit Palace Puerta del Sol, set close to the Museum Triangle and other landmarks.
Its position set in the old city and as home to Madrid’s three most important art museums, make the Triangle a must–see for visitors. Here you’ll find the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection of classical artworks and the modern art museum of Reina Sofia, dedicated to Picasso’s works.
Madrid’s massive Royal Palace on Calle Bailen is one of the largest in Europe, and considered one of the city’s most beautiful and emblematic buildings.
Once the home of Spain’s Royal family, it’s kept nowadays for ceremonial occasions and is crammed with treasures.
Puerta del Sol
The heart of Madrid is the Puerta del Sol, a huge square and transit hub popular with locals as a meeting place and festival center. Equally popular with visitors, its street entertainers, statues and local cafés and bars are crowded with Madrilenos day and night.
Palacio de Cibeles
The fairytale towers and elaborate architectural features of Madrid’s Palacio de Cibeles bely its everyday function as a city hall with their sheer extravagance. Set in Cibeles Square, it’s an excellent photo opportunity.
Eating and drinking and shopping nearby
Spanish cuisine isn’t all paella and tapas, as Madrid’s eateries offer a wide selection of typically traditional local dishes as well as international cuisine. Favourites are cuts of lamb fried in lamb fat, spicy tripe hotpots with Balkan flavors, a delicious stew of meat, vegetables and chick peas and the famous garlic soup, enriched with olive oil, grated smoked ham, a poached egg and fried bread. Top-quality seafood is a popular choice on many upscale hotels’ restaurant menus, with the InterContinental Madrid a good place to try. Madrid’s shoportunities range from the mall district of Sol-Salamanca through Madrid’s famous markets, the El Rastro flea market and Fuencarral Market. For sheer luxury and famous brands such as Burberry, Hugo Boss, Versace and Tommy Hilfiger, Las Rozas Village Outlet Shopping is the place to go.
Visitors to Madrid enjoy one of the best public transportation networks of any world city, second only to that of London. The metro covers many of the attractions, with frequent buses taking up the slack where the underground service doesn’t run. Taxi travel is convenient but drivers rarely speak English.