Both the largest city in Spain and its capital, Madrid is set in the heart of this feisty nest of European culture. Having been altered at the request of Charles III in the 18th century to mirror the stylish traits of Paris and Rome, this city is a chic melting pot of cultures.
Hints of Madrid’s majesty through the ages can be glimpsed through its baroque and neoclassical architecture and its history is embodied in structures such as the Plaza Mayor and the Palacio Real. Each barrio, or neighbourhood, has a different feel, whether you want to check out one of the wealthier districts such as Salamanca or pop into the more touristy regions such as Puerta del Sol, exploring is your key to discovering Madrid.
Madrid has painted itself onto the European art map with the Thyssen, Reina Sofia, and the Prado and if art is your thing then the ARCO, held in February, is an international art fair with a penchant for the contemporary. Despite its arty diversions Madrid’s calling card is ultimately partying and the city has a bountiful festival scene which includes Festimad Sur, a rock festival held in early summer and Reyes Magos, also known as Three Kings, which is held in early January and is celebrated by each region with its own individual style.
If shopping is your vice then El Rasto, the cities renowned flee market was begotten around five centuries ago and is the perfect attraction for anyone with a passion for antique hunting and haggling. The early bird catches the worm and you should head here early Sunday morning to visit this treasure trove which boasts the title of biggest outdoor market in Europe. Whether or not you plan to buy anything, this market is well worth a visit but remember to keep an eye out for pick pockets.
The flavour of Madrid is distilled into the sparkling flavour of its wine. The Arzuaga winery is probably the best place to stop off if you have an interest in knocking a few back. Located in Ribera del Duero you can actually be wrapped up snug as a bug in a rug in vine leaves and scrubbed with grape seeds or even soak away your troubles in a bath of wine. Whether you want wine tours or tastings, Madrid is a tasty place to drink your troubles away. Sharing is caring in Spain and tapas, the traditional culinary petite dishes made for sharing give every gastronomic experience a social edge. If you want to catch a flick then check out the Cine Dore, it shows a lot of films in English, meaning that in this home away from home, you won’t have to sit through subtitles.
The pace of life is slower here and lunch and dinner tend to happen later than you might be used to, with lunch more commonly around 2pm and dinner more commonly around 10pm. Shops and museums tend to keep their doors open later than they would in the UK, and are more likely to be open until 8pm. Madrid is a beautiful place to go on holiday in the sun, but remember its hot hot hot and summer might not be the best time for you to visit if you burn easy. For the metro it might be worth getting your hands on a tourist travel pass, meaning that for the duration of the pass you have unlimited travel. It’s also vital that you shell out the cash for a Madrid card, a small upfront cost for access to over forty museums. If you want to sample a taste of Spanish culture then this is the place to sink your teeth in.
Last Edit by jessicacook on 12/09/2011 EDIT NOW >>