Madrid is the capital of Spain, located in the heart of the peninsula and right in the center of the Castillian plain 646 meters above sea level, it has a population of over three million.
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city, a business center, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family, Madrid also plays a major role in both the banking and industrial sectors. Most of its industry is located in the Southern fringe of the city, where important textile, food and metal working factories are clustered. Madrid is characterized by intense cultural and artistic activity. Spain’s capital is a lively city in the day time as well as night.
As in much of Spain, spring (March-May) and October are the best times to be in Madrid. The weather is generally agreeable, the city has a fresh feel to it and it isn’t too overrun with tourists. If you love to party, visit during May for Madrid’s biggest fiesta.
The city is by European standards relatively new -it became capital only in 1561- but today Madrid spreads out all over the place. Fortunately, much of interest lies within the area that can be seen on foot.
Check out Calle and Plaza Mayor (medieval Madrid) which is lined by beautiful buildings and the city’s oldest church San Nicolas de los Servitas (plan several hours for this section). Then go shopping at Calle Serrano and the Gran Via. Visit the Victory Arch the Palacio Real (the royal palace with its own art treasures and crown jewels) the Rastro Flea Market and the Plaza de las Cibeles and Puerta del Sol (the last two are major intersections with fountains monuments and shops).
There are many museums to visit. When you are tired of the museums, visit one of the nicest parks seen anywhere; Retiro Park near the Prado. See the Victorian greenhouse and the Crystal Palace with its small lake and swans lazily swimming about. You can rent a rowboat to get in the relaxed mood that suffuses the park. For a panoramic view of Madrid take the elevator to the bar on the 26th floor of the Edificio de Espana which faces the Plaza de Espana.
Madrid is a city that never seems to close down-bars and restaurants are open very late and the city’s Santa Ana district never closes down. Dinner doesn’t usually begin until after 10 pm and after that revelers head off to their favorite disco show, jazz club or late-night cafe to play until dawn. For a concentrated area of late-night activity head to Huertas Street after midnight and you’re sure to find something to match your tastes. You can also find good flamenco shows in several nightclubs.
The Royal Palace, it has 15 important museums, dozens of galleries and several private collections. The Prado, – The Thyssen Bornemisza – The Reina Sofia museum, just a few to mention. You might end up spending more than one day just seeing museums, days could be spent in the halls of the Prado alone.
Next to the Prado Museum you will see the Botanical Gardens the Glorieta de Murillo These gardens, which contain about 30.000 different species of trees and plants from all over the world, were founded by Charles III for the Faculty of Totany. The different sections are divided by magnificent avenues and each trees and plant is labeled with its Latin name and species.
Parque del Retiro:
The largest and most beautiful of all Madrid’s parks is the Retiro. It has 130 hectares of woodland which form a green, tree-clad (more than 15.000 trees) island in the middle of an asphalt sea.
Casa de Campo:
Located on the right bank of the Manzanares River to the west of Madrid, the Casa de Campo is a large park with an area of about 4.000 acres. Rowboats can be rented for a ride around the artificial lake. Swimming and tennis can also ve enjoyed. In the southern part you will find the Parque Zoológico or Zoo and Parque de Atracciones, a large amusement park,
How to get there
Madrid’s Barajas airport is often the best option for getting in and out of the city; the trains can be just as expensive as flights, and buses are a bit of an endurance test. Driving is quite a good option, as Spain’s main highways feed into Madrid.
BY AIR ;
Madrid is Spain’s biggest international transport hub, so it’s easy to reach by air from just about anywhere. The ever-expanding and always-busy Barajas Airport is 13km (8mi) northeast of the city.
Madrid must have the best airport-city connections of any European capital. The metro connection opened in 2002 is fast and comfortable; take line 8 from the airport to Nuevos Ministerios (12 minutes) and connect to your final destination (another 15 minutes). An airport bus runs to Plaza de Colón in the city centre, but traffic can be a problem, making the metro a better bet. Taxi is another option, or you can take the AeroCITY minibus door-to-door (from the city centre) service; it’s cheaper with more people.
Driving from Portugal or France is easy, as Spain’s major highways feed into Madrid. Standard European road rules apply.
Atocha, in the south of Madrid, is the city’s larger train station, Chamartín in the north is the other. The majority of trains to the rest of Spain depart from Atocha; Chamartín has international services. There are a range of train services, domestic and international, and fares to match, although these are often no cheaper than flying.
Ferries to the ports
Madrid is accessible by bus, although this is possibly the most arduous overland option. Madrid has eight bus stations dotted around, with companies servicing different parts of the country, Europe and Morocco.
Carnival, a carnival with parades and costume parties culminating on Ash Wednesday with the traditional burial of the Sardine, marks the beginning of Lent.
During the Fiestas del 2 de Mayo, a festival of the Community of Madrid, celebrations include a wide variety of concerts, open-air dancing and sporting events. Bullfights are also held.
May 15th marks the start of the celebrations surrounding the month-long Fiestas de San Isidro honoring the patron saint of Madrid and are the most lively popular festivities in Madrid. Tradition demands that one attends the Romería (pilgrimage) to the saint’s meadow to drink from the miraculous water at the fountain of the hermitage. Traditional Castizo dress is worn, and the typical barquillos (rolled wafers), buñuelos (fritters) and rosquillas (doughnuts) are for sale. This time of year also ushers in the famous Feria Taurina or bullfighting fair which also carries the name of the patron saint of Madrid and lasts from the middle of May to the middle of June at the Plaza Monumental Las Ventas bullring. Concerts, open-air dances and outdoor celebrations are also held during this period.
The 13th of June, the day of San Antonio, young girls have a date at the hermitage of San Antonio de la Florida. According to dressmakers’ tradition, a single girl must place 13 pins in the baptismal font, and if one of the pins sticks to her finger, she will marry during the year.
August is the month of celebration in some of the typical districts of Madrid. From the 6th to the 15th, the Fiestas de San Lorenzo, San Cayetano and the Virgen de la Paloma are commemorated with processions, open-air dancing, and sidewalk concerts in the park of the Vistillas and vicinity.
Eating Dining Shopping
In Madrid, as well as in the rest of Spain, the tapa (of a variety of dishes served as appetisers) is an old gastronomic tradition. You can find numerous establishments specialised in serving these tapas. Hundreds of bars scattered throughout the streets of Madrid serve a tapa accompanied by a small glass of wine or beer.
A good number of dishes and recipes can be named which can be considered typical of Madrid
Cocido Madrileño; a stew combining chickpeas with vegetables (cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips and potatoes) and chicken, beef and pork and which is turned into a huge succulent meal.
Callos; or tripe is another of the typical dishes identified with local cuisine and may be found in some of the well-known restaurants in Madrid.
Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), Caracoles (snails), Tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), Besugo al horno (baked bream), so typical in the capital in spite of its distance from the ocean., bacalao (cod) is the main ingredient.
torrijas (a type of French toast), barquillos (rolled wafers), bartolillos con crema (a type of small pie with custard) buñuelos (a type of fritter filled with custard whipped cream)
In Madrid, as well as in the rest of Spain, the tapa (savoury titbits of a variety of dishes served as appetisers) is an old gastronomic tradition. You can find numerous establishments specialised in serving these tapas. “Ir de tapeo” (going out for tapas) is a tradition; hundreds of bars scattered throughout the streets of Madrid serve a tapa accompanied by a small glass of wine or beer.
Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are an assortment of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, fabrics, ropes, hats and religious articles.
Large department stores are located in the vicinity of the Puerta del Sol, and on the streets of Princesa, Goya and Castellana.
Open-air markets. The Rastro is the most famous of the flea markets which opens on Saturdays and Sundays between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores.
Feria del Libro Antiguo y de Ocasión. This book fair for old and used books is held on the Paseo de Recoletos at the beginning of May.
The grand metropolis of Madrid can trace its origins to the times of Arab Emir Mohamed I (852-886), who ordered the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares river. Later it became the subject of a dispute between the Christians and Arabs until it was conquered by Alonso VI in the 11th century. At the end of the 17th century, a defensive wall was built for the protection of the new outlying areas, tracing the roads of Segovia, Toledo and Valencia. During the 18th century, under the reign of Carlos III, were designed the great arteries of the city, such as the Paseo del Prado and Paseo las Acacias.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Joseph Bonaparte undertook the reform of the Puerta del Sol and vicinity. The commercial street known as the Gran Vía was built as an east-west avenue at the start of the century. In the 1950’s the north-south boulevard called Paseo de la Castellana was extended and modern buildings were erected, housing the major financial institutions. Remainings of the distant past are mainly the Baroque and neoclassical structures of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).
Useful telephone numbers
Emergency Number 112
Airport Information; Barajas Airport T1 Terminal Tel;91 305 86 56
Train station: 91 563 02
Tourist Office: Tel: 900 300 600
Holiday rents online:
National Transport Line