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 service 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.
With a vast artistic and cultural patrimony, heritage of several centuries of a rich and passionate history, Madrid has been witness to the birth of celebrated and universal figures such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, Jacinto Benavente, Jardiel Poncela, José Ortega y Gasset, Gregorio Marañón, Juan Gris, Juan de Villanueva, Ruperto Chapí, Federico Chueca and Joaquín Rodrigo, among others, and many other intellectuals, artists and other famous celebrities that lived in the city.
Madrid is an open city for who is willing to discover it, where culture, gastronomic, business, leisure and entertainment activities are blended, being one of the most strong and diverse tourist attraction in Europe and in the World. Probably there is not a city like Madrid with so many things to do and visit being so close to each other. Follow us on a trip around Madrid!
A piece of living history: “Madrid de los Austrias” (Habsburg Madrid)
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.
Recall the twelve grapes
Following the “Calle Mayor” you will find the “Puerta del Sol”, with its “Km 0”, 100 year old shops and the large clock where many Spanish people see the new year in. Take a picture with the bear and the strawberry tree statue (“El oso y el Madroño”), the symbol of the city.
It is about time to do some shopping: from here, and in streets like Preciados or Gran Vía, you will find a large number of stores, department stores and shopping malls where you can find the ultimate technology.
An outstanding cultural program
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?
And what about Madrid’s Broadway, in the centuries-old Gran Vía, which witnesses how many spectators gather at the sidewalks in order to enjoy the most recent musicals; or Madrid’s ability to hold great musical events like “Madrid Río” or mega concerts.
The best museums in the World
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 most monumental Madrid is represented by the “Plaza Mayor”, the “Plaza de Oriente”, the National Library, the Royal Palace or the Jerónimos Church. And do not forget the municipalities and surroundings around it.
Great cultural centres, such as the “Círculo de Bellas Artes” (Fine Arts Circle), “La casa encendida” (House on fire), Conde Duque Cultural Centre, Caixa Forum or the Casa de América have become the movers and shakers of Madrid’s culture. With fairs like the Book Fair of Madrid, the Contemporary Art Fair (ARCO) or PHotoEspaña, Madrid becomes a national and an international spotlight.
Culture is also felt on the streets of Madrid, a wide range of activities are promoted which surprises both people of Madrid and visitors. There are a lot of spontaneous activities everywhere, contributing to the life of Madrid. For example, the traditional puppet theatre in the Retiro Park, that every weekend delights the younger children. Annually events such as Theatre Night, Museum Night or Book Night, allow all those who wish to do so to enjoy the culture up to early hours.
A tribute to the palate
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.
Tapas and events
If you are an impassionate gourmet, there are many events and performances related to haute cuisine celebrated in Madrid that you can’t afford to miss. Events like Madrid Wines Show, Millésime, the Gourmet Club International Exhibition or the important “Madrid Fusión” Gastronomic Summit, make Madrid the Gastronomy Capital of the World.
There are a lot of areas around the capital where you can taste the best gastronomy of our bars and restaurants. In the Central Area you can have the traditional squid baguette or try tap vermouth and centenary restaurants. La Latina neighbourhood hosts typical and classic taverns, and especially on weekends it becomes one of the most dynamic areas of the capital, as well as Huertas, the Cava Baja and the Plaza de Santa Ana (Santa Ana square). The traditional Chamberí neighbourhood, the gourmet markets like San Miguel, San Antón or San Ildefonso Markets and Platea Madrid are dedicated to national and international gastronomy. In Platea Madrid you will find restaurants, cocktail bars, pastry shops, stores and shows, and it is one of the biggest gastronomic areas in Europe and the most interesting in the World, with 6000 square meters, six Michelin stars and eleven Repsol suns.
Before coming back home you can go shopping. 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.
In the central area of the capital you will discover the most traditional products. Craftsmanship, ceramics, metalwork, leather products, hand fans, guitars, Manila shawls, typical “chulapo” caps and the famous espadrilles among others, complement the shopping offers of small shops with centuries of history, as active as on the first opening day.
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.
If you travel with your family, you can visit any of our shopping malls. Madrid has many of them, and there you can find everything you need: you can have refreshment, have a snack, watch a movie or bowling. You will enjoy a funny and amazing shopping time.
If you want to find small treasures, El Rastro of Madrid is your place. It occupies a great extension of streets between Lavapiés and La Latina, with Cascorro Square as the reference centre. It is only open on Sundays and public holidays from dawn to lunch time. Dig through objects, books, CDs, antiques and collectibles. Later on, you can have an appetizer inside some of the traditional taverns or you can taste creative tapas in one of the fashion establishments. However, El Rastro is not the only flea market and there are many of them all around the city in public places and on determined days. The products for sale are varied: food, clothes, household goods, plants, jewellery, etc. They have always had great public acceptance, since the markets have in the same place a wide variety of items and they have lower prices than traditional shops.
Have a succesful meeting
Madrid has a strategic location combined with good communication and infrastructures, which makes the city one of the most important headquarters of businesses all around the World.
The IFEMA fairground - driving force of regional development - every year hosts more than 80 events that occupy a relevant position in the international fair calendars. The occupied net surface of all the exhibition halls reaches 1.4 million square meters, where 42,000 companies participate with 4.5 million visitors. Moreover, Madrid also has other modern event facilities like the Municipal Congress Hall (“Palacio Municipal de Congresos”) and the Casa de Campo Fairgrounds (“Recinto Ferial de la Casa de Campo”) among the most relevant ones.
From small bussiness meetings to diverse large-scale events, Madrid always performs in a satisfactory way. Madrid is one of the main destinations in the World when it comes to hosting fairs, congreses and other kinds of meetings due to its enormous ability to accommodate more than 140,000 people, mainly in luxury hotels, and because the wide range of prices and establishments, the most differentiated halls and spaces and the professionalism of those companies experienced on organising events.
Party or relax
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.
Madrid with your family
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.
If you travel with your family, we recommend you, besides the Guides “52 Proposals for 52 Weekends” (“52 Propuestas para 52 Fines de Semana”) and “Cultural Tourism Getaways” (“Escapadas de Turismo Cultural”), both recommended for family tourism, the “99 Proposals focused on family tourism in the Region of Madrid” (“99 Propuestas Orientadas al Turismo Familiar en la Comunidad de Madrid”). These are indoor suggestions, in contact with nature and environment educative, sports, cultural and educative - museums, history spots, science and technology, theatres and art - and leisure activities – train tours, in contact with animals, driving activities, shows and attractions. A high number of activities can be done and many places can be enjoyed with children anytime.
Madrid understands you
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.
As an evidence of the open and welcoming character of Madrid, the LGTB leisure is not exclusive from Chueca and surroundings; it also expands to other areas of the capital. You will find clubs, pubs, taverns and cafés with a gay atmosphere in the heart of the city: in Plaza del Carmen (Carmen Square), between Callao, Sol and Gran Vía, in the bohemian and multicultural Lavapiés neighbourhood. There are night clubs with an exclusive, psychedelic and avant-garde decorations, where besides listening to selected music, you can enjoy a theatre production, delight yourself with flamenco or see beautiful people. If you are looking for this kind of environment, even for Sunday “cañas” (beers), which can take up to 3 in the morning, come to La Latina, to establishments in Paloma street or Calatrava street.
Madrid hosts many events every year dedicated to entertainment, culture and sports focused on this collective, like World Pride in 2017, the 31st Annual World IGLTA Convention and the Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Film Festival (LesGaiCineMad). But MADO (Madrid Pride) is the highest benchmark of Madrid that ends with a very popular parade, where colourful carriages in the city centre gather more than one million people.
Madrid is much more
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.
Speaking of sports, in Madrid you can play your favourite one. Indoors or outdoors, there are many council and private sport facilities, as well as in hotels. There is always the opportunity to exercise wherever you are. You can rent an electric bike, go to a gym, run on the sport tracks or on the streets of Madrid. If you are keen on golf, Madrid is characterized by having the first European golf course integrated with the city, close to Monte de El Pardo: National Golf Centre, with 18 holes. It is also famous for holding since 2006 the Madrid Golf fair, unique in Spain. Counting all the golf courses around the region, Madrid is the third Spanish region in course number, with 34 in total, most of them of public use. In the past years, the number of golf course licenses has increased 300%. Football, basketball, whatever sport or team you follow; you should take advantage of Madrid and enjoy a match.
The headquarters of the Cervantes Institute and many official Spanish language schools for foreigners are located in Madrid. The city ranks third according to the number of Spanish learners hosted and it has an excellent offer of Spanish language specialized centres for foreigners. There are great language schools in the whole Region of Madrid, such as the one in Alcalá de Henares due to its history, University and for being the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes and headquarters of the educational centre of the Cervantes Institute teachers. If you are an idiomatic tourist, you should not only be concerned by the related offering, but also you should take advantage of the general offering of the city, as Madrid accomplishes all the expectations.
Madrid architecture is where history and modernity are merged. It offers an excellent building landscape constructed by our ancestors that coexists harmony with the latest new buildings. The Royal Palace, the National Library, the Congress of Deputies, the Debod Temple, the Plaza Mayor, the Prado Museum, the Telecommunications Palace, the Bank of Spain, the Metropolis building, the Círculo de Bellas Artes. You will be able to delight yourself with some little historical jewels: centenary fountains like Neptuno, Cibeles and the Ángel Caído in the Retiro Park; or the impressive Puerta de Alacalá, located on the Independence square (Plaza de la Independencia), among other emblematic buildings that gives you an approach of the history of Madrid.
Those tourists anxious of avant-garde architecture contemplate the large number of imposing buildings, towers and skyscrapers like: the Picasso Tower (Minoru Yamasaki), Puerta de Europa (Philip Johnson & John Burgee), the BBVA building and Caixa Forum (Herzog & de Meuron), the extension of the Prado museum (Rafael Moneo), the T4 terminal of the airport Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas (Richard Rogers & Estudio Lamela), the Four Skyscrapers Bussiness Area: Espacio tower (Pei Cobb Freed & Partners), Bankia tower (Norman Foster & Partners), Sacyr Vallehermoso (Carlos Rubio Carvajal), Cristal tower (César Pelli), and the new building, head office of the BBVA, named “La Vela” (Herzog & De Meuron), a commanding construction in the Tablas area - north side of the city – with an elliptic shape.
If you are visiting the city with religious purposes, Madrid also offers a wide range of possibilities. Spain is a traditionally catholic country, so churches, convents and monasteries are spread all over the city. The most remarkable ones are: Almudena Cathedral, San Isidro Cathedral; churches like San Francisco el Grande Church, the Jeronimos or the Colegiata de San Isidro churches; convents like the Descalzas reales, Sacramento or Encarnación. During the year Madrid hosts diverse religious traditions such as Holly Week (Easter) processions, the Vigilia of the Inmaculada or the nativity scenes (static or alive) that can be visited on Christmas.
Due to its Muslim origin, Madrid preserves some vestiges of a wall from the Muslim period, declared Artistic-Historical Monument in 1954; as well as the Narigües Tower ruins and the watchtower basis known as Bones Tower. The highest representation of the Muslim religion is the Great Mosque of Madrid, located close to M-30. Due to the rapid growth of the Muslim population in Madrid, there are diverse communities, mosques or associations and hotels and restaurants with halal food.
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!
Learn more: esmadrid.com
Image credits: Almudena - Royal Palace | Hugo Fernández ©Region of Madrid