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"From Madrid to heaven!". It is one of the most popular sayings about the city. The sky of Madrid has an intense blue colour that makes it characteristic. It is the Spanish capital since 1561 and it is home to important institutions of the State as it is the central government’s headquarters. Moreover, it is the official residence of the Spanish monarchs and some national bodies, such as the Spanish Royal Academy, and of international bodies like the World Tourism Organization.
The Spanish capital is a cosmopolitan city that combines the most modern infrastructures with its status of economic, financial, administrative and services centre. Madrid has an outstanding transportation network, which makes easier the access by road, airplane, train or metro, and it has one of the best local public transport services in the World. The Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, which it is the main mean of access to Spain and the main departure and arrival airport to South America, is one of the most important airports in the World regarding the number of passengers.
Madrid possesses one of the most important historic centres in Europe, also known as “Madrid de los Austrias” (Habsburg Madrid). It is located around the “Plaza Mayor” (Main square), inaugurated in 1620, and the “Plaza de la Villa” (Village square), which is the old City Hall headquarters.
Near “Plaza Mayor” you can take a walk feeling like a king until the so-called “aristocratic centre” of Madrid, where you can discover the beauty of the Royal Palace (“Palacio Real”), the “Plaza de Oriente”, the Opera house or the Almudena Cathedral. This is the Madrid of the Bourbons (“Borbones”).
I would recommend you to visit the “Mercado de San Miguel” (San Michael’s Market) at aperitif time, where it is currently in vogue to have “Tapas”, buy top quality food, or even buy the current bestseller novel.
Madrid is known due to its stable cultural offering, capable of satisfying the most demanding tourist expectations and able to adapt to the necessities of beginners in the world of culture and arts. More than 100 museums, almost 200 theatres and countless galleries and showrooms, besides cultural centres, cinemas and various events of national importance shape this high-level cultural program.
Large, medium-size and small scenic spaces of the capital offer throughout the year the best theatrical, musical and dance scene, with shows that takes the spectator to magical worlds, imagined by great directors and choreographers. A good example of this would be the “Teatros del Canal”, the “Teatro Real” (Royal Theatre) and the “Zarzuela”.
Madrid is home of important festivals, like the Spring Festival that annually brings together the best representatives of the Spanish arts scene; Madrid International Dance Festival, one of the most desired destination of artists and renowned dance companies; the Performing Arts Festival for Children, Teatralia for the youngest children; Animadrid, with the most relevant national and international animated films; Mulafest or “Suma flamenco”, just to name some. Madrid has a diverse offering from classic theatre to the most transgressor one, classic and contemporary ballet, and all imaginable music genres. Which one is your favourite?
Among this cultural offering, three world’s top art galleries should be highlighted: Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Reina Sofía Museum, forming what is called The Art Walk.
Enjoy a pleasant walk through its gardens and you will be able to contemplate the historic buildings and monuments that shine out with their own light, with Cibeles and Neptuno fountains, the Bank of Spain, the Palace of Communications (the current headquarters of Madrid city council) and the “Puerta de Alcalá”.
The gastronomy of Madrid is something that you cannot miss either. It is very typical to have “Cocido Madrileño” and “Tapas” in any of the traditional bars, where a stop is required in order to restock on energy and keep on touring the city. Madrid is able to satisfy any demand. It has more than 10,000 restaurants, 40,000 bars and 3,000 cafes. A wide range of establishments represent the best of the Madrid’s cuisine, as well as national and international cuisine due to the strategic positioning of Madrid. According to the most prestigious gastronomic guides, Madrid has the highest recognized quality. This fact makes Madrid the most important city in Europe when it comes to gastronomy and cuisine.
There are many Michelin-starred restaurants, the highest award in this sector, thanks to chefs like David Muñoz (Diverxo), Sergi Arola, Mario Sandoval, Diego Guerrero, Óscar Velasco, Ricardo Sanz, Ramón Freixa, Paco Roncero and Juan Antonio Medina. All of them are international benchmarks of the Spanish creative cuisine, which have made Madrid and our region their refuge.
But if you prefer tradition, you must visit our centenary restaurants, such as the Taberna Malacatín, Casa Ciriaco, La Bola, Botín, Casa Labra, el Café Gijón or Lhardy. There, history and culture of Madrid come together with the pleasure of a great dish, the best way to finish a night in Madrid.
As a curious fact, Madrid hosts the oldest restaurant in the World: Casa Botín.
Madrid is the second shopping destination in Europe and one of the most important in the world. You will find pretty much everything you can imagine due to its big and diverse shopping areas. The famous “Milla de Oro” (Golden Mile) in the Salamanca neighbourhood, is a tourist mandatory visit for luxury shopping. The greatest Spanish fashion firms like Loewe, Amaya Arzuaga, Kina Fernández, Adolfo Dominguez, Ágatha Ruiz de la Prada, Roberto Verino, Manolo Blahnik or Angel Schlesser go hand in hand with international luxury icons such as Chanel, Armani and Valentino. The jewelleries, shoe shops and the most prestigious fashion and complements, as well as art galleries and antique shops make this shopping offering complete. Going shopping around the boutiques and shops in Salamanca neighbourhood is a pleasure for the most elite pockets.
If you are looking for original, avant-garde, bohemian and the latest fashion trends, you should definitely visit Chueca and Fuencarral. You will find there many small shops for young and transgressor people. The area is framed within the Triball Madrid project, an important commercial and touristic focal point similar to New York’s Soho. One of its main exponents is Fuencarral Market (“Mercado de Fuencarral”), where craftspeople, designers and small traders all around Spain offer different products that are so original that are very difficult to find in other parts of the region.
Cinemas, theatres, shopping malls, pubs, restaurants, theme parks, shopping areas, parks and gardens, museums, historic monuments, etc. are major choices, as you can see, for have some entertainment in Madrid, which is a reference place for those who want to accomplish their entertainment expectations.
The Centre area, and more specifically the Gran Via, is the ideal place to watch a musical and have dinner in the multiple traditional and high-quality bars, taverns or restaurants. But if you want to have everything at hand, both in and out the capital, there are big shopping malls where stores, cinemas and a wide range of restaurants make the tourist more comfortable.
If you want the other side of Madrid, its colourful nightlife will not disappoint you, thanks to the high number of pubs and clubs spread across all over the city. But if you want to relax, parks and gardens such as Retiro, Madrid Río, Capricho or the Botanic Garden, as well as its cafes and hotels, show the nicest side of the city. In order to have a beautiful sigh of the capital, the best thing you can do is to take a Tourist Bus that travels around the city.
The different municipalities of Madrid also count with a full schedule of musical, stage and film events, and a wide range of restaurants for those who want to get away from the heaving capital.
The whole family can enjoy the wide range of entertainment activities when visiting Madrid. From the most pedagogical activities, workshops and tours for children in some museums like Prado, Thyssen Bornemisza or Reina Sofía museum; to the most peculiar activities such as boat rowing, in Retiro Park, recall the Alatriste Captain adventures in the Madrid de los Austrias or take a tour of Chamberí “Ghost station”, abandoned by the Metro of Madrid authorities, which turned into Andén 0 (Zero platform) museum.
In addition, the Zoo-Aquarium or Faunia is an ideal place for the younger children to come in contact with nature; while in Madrid Warner Park or Madrid Amusement Park they can enjoy a wide range of attractions. The National Museum of Archaeology, the Madrid Planetarium, Madrid Caiza Forum, the Wax Museum or the Natural Sciences museum, to take some examples, are some of the proposals that complete this offer. If you rather enjoy a more relaxing leisure and free time, you must visit the squares located all around the city, from the biggest ones like Spain, Cibeles or Plaza Mayor, to the smallest ones hidden in all quarters of the city and where people from Madrid enjoy life.
Madrid is the main capital of Spain for LGTB – Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual– tourism. Fuencarral Street and Chueca neighbourhood, the Mecca of the homosexual community all over the World, similar to Castro area in San Francisco, has many gay entertainment options and it has become a modern worldwide referent in Madrid. It is the gay zone par excellence where the rainbow flags welcome the visitor. Bars, restaurants, clubs, cafes, book shops, hairdressing salons, etc. open their doors to all the tourists since they are not exclusive for LGTB public. The neighbourhood and their terraces are full of all kinds of people.
Madrid offers many more alternatives.
Spread around town, gardens, parks and natural settings (enlazar con la guía de parques y jardines de Madrid) of Madrid give you the chance to breath healthy air, walk around these green settings in the middle of the city, and to find a place where to stop and relax. Centenary trees, palaces rich in history, magnificent gardens or lakes where you can take a boat, are just some of many possibilities to enjoy Madrid in a different way. Silent witnesses over the years, some of these parks will make you recalling little pieces of history; others, more intimate and charming, will delight the romantics and, in many of them, you will be able to relax or play sports. Madrid is one of the cities with the highest number of green areas regarding the number of trees.
In Madrid you will find million corners where you can lose yourself. The monuments and museums, the calendar of concerts, expositions, ballet shows, a selective theatre listings, the latest cinematographic premiers and the resounding nightlife with many possibilities, varied and with great environment pubs and clubs, will turn your stay into a magical experience, because if there is something that characterizes Madrid is the deepest and contagious passion for life, which is reflected on the friendly character of people.
What else can be said in so few words? Come to Madrid and discover it yourself!
Image credits: Almudena - Royal Palace | Hugo Fernández © Region of Madrid