Madrid has a
unique atmosphere due to the combination of its high altitude and the mountain
breeze. At an altitude of 2,100 feet, this is Europe's
highest capital. Not only is Madrid
the capital of Spain
but it is also the world capital of bullfighting. Madrid is alive
with bars and cafes and has some of the finest shops in Europe.
Located virtually in the centre of the country, Madrid is in
close proximity to Segovia in the north and Toledo in the south, two other very important cities. Also close by is Avila an historic centre. Madrid has
always been at the forefront of Spain's
history; King Philip II promoted Madrid from a
provincial town to his national command post in the middle of the 16th
century. Since then Madrid hasn't stopped growing. Nowadays many of Spain's
leading companies have head offices here as well as many major factories.
Being such an economic centre, Spaniards have converged upon Madrid from
every corner of the country.
The Puerta del Sol is the centre of Madrid and is
the point from which all Spain's
radial highways begin; 'kilometre 0'. In the central area of the Puerta del Sol you will find a statue based on Madrid's coat
of arms. It shows a bear standing against a tree. You will find the very same
bear all over Madrid. (see pic right)
you arrive to explore the centre of Madrid you will
be subjected to a culture overload. You will however, find it difficult to get
lost; all over the city you will find well placed city maps and helpful tourist
offices. You will find every mode of transport possible including an
underground Metro and all are easy to use and efficient. You will find driving
to be an absolute nightmare and rush hours run into each other. There are very
few quiet periods where traffic jams are not the norm. You will have no trouble
finding a taxi; there are thousands of them. There is also a first class bus
way to see the city is by open-top tour bus. The Madrid Vision service is first
class and cheap; a day ticket will cost you around 9.62€, a 2 day ticket
12.02€. Supplements apply for weekends and holidays. Children under 7 travel
free. You can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like and there are
three routes to cover. The easiest place to start is the Prado Museum or Puerta del Sol.
help can be obtained on Tel 917651016 or fax 917791887. Madrid also has
an efficient and cheap Metro service.
Madrid has so
much to offer, you will need a week to see it all. Here are the places you must
The Palacio Real, or Royal Palace (pictured
right) is probably one of the most important places in Madrid and it
is open to the public, except when official business is taking place. It is
set in formal gardens on the site of a Moorish fortress that burned down in
1734. Tickets to view inside the palace as around 7€. There is a small
supplement if you want to be guided round. There are many rooms to be seen
including the throne room and the Royal Farmacia.
Across the courtyard you will find the Royal Armoury with an impressive
display of armour; this is included in the tour price. There is also a large
the palace are wonderful gardens with many statues of past royals. Close by is
the Cathedral of the Almudena, currently being restored.
The Plaza Mayor (pictured right), is a huge square
constructed in 1617. It has been pedestrianised and
can be entered by any one of nine arches. The famous square has played host
to bullfights, fiestas and even public executions. From time to time, events
such as concerts and fiestas are still staged here. The square contains 136
houses with 437 balconies from which people used to watch the events held
here. The square has always been a popular meeting place, especially on
Sundays when the many bars and restaurants complement the weekly stamp and
the centre of the square stands the statue of Philip III on horseback. The
statue dates from 1616 and was placed in the square in 1847 after the wedding
celebrations of Isabel II, during which the last bull run
was held in the square.
been said that the people of Madrid
(Madrilenos), never sleep. This is partly true. They
have the least amount of sleep of all Europeans. They live to extremes. This
may have something to do with the weather. It's either too hot or too cold. The
city is constantly vibrant and has a pulsating nightlife.
you do, enjoy Madrid.
There are enough museums alone to keep you fully occupied for a week. If you
want to see as much of Madrid
as possible, you will have to divide it into sections and take them one by one.
The best place to start is in the heart of the city and especially in the old Madrid.
Pictured right is the Puerta de Alcala. It can be seen in the centre of the Plaza de
la Independencia on Calle
de Alcala. This street is without doubt, the most
important in Madrid. It is also the longest. There are many important buildings located
in this street. See the Church of the Calatravas
and the Church of San Jose. You will also find the Fine Arts Museum and the Casino on this
other end of the street is the Puerta del Sol.
In the Plaza Colon (pictured left) you will find several
monuments to Columbus and his travels. The Gardens of Discovery in the centre of the square
are towered over by huge blocks of stone on which details of the travels of Columbus and his
men are inscribed. The tall monument of Columbus is in
Neo-Gothic style and dates from 1885. Beneath the square is the Cultural
Centre. This building houses a theatre, concert hall and exhibition rooms.
The centre is masked by a wall of water.
is the Wax Museum (Museo de Cera) which has over 450 sculptures and a 'horror train'
ride, the Palace of Justice and the Archaeological Museum with
its impressive dinosaur collection.
are many parks and gardens to explore including the Botanical Gardens
with their exotic plants. These can be found alongside the Prado Museum.
You must also see the massive Parque
del Buen Retiro. The
park has a central lake, numerous fountains and statues and pleasant
walkways. The park comes alive at weekends and is the place to be seen. It
consists of 12 hectares and originally formed part of the Palace of Buen Retiro, constructed in the 17th century by Philip IV. There are two palaces
in the park at which many exhibitions are held.
boat on the lake or just sit and enjoy the many street entertainers that
are more than enough museums including the famous Prado
Museum. This is without any doubt the pride of Madrid and is
one of the most important museums in the world.
It houses the world's greatest collection of Spanish paintings. If you
were to allow a full day visit you would struggle to see all of its treasures
but at the very least you should allow a couple of hours to see the best old
masters in the world. Goya, El Greco and Picasso are just a few of those
artists represented. Entry is cheap at just 3€ and free on Sundays.
museum is closed on Mondays.
is the fountain of Neptune
which stands in the middle of the roundabout. Another important fountain is
that of Cibeles, the Greek Goddess of fertility which
stands in front of the Bank of Spain in the Plaza de la Cibeles.
arts museum is also a 'must see'. This can be found on Calle
There are two railway stations in Madrid. The
main one being Estacion de Atocha (pictured right). This station is of
huge proportions and includes a tropical gardin in
the main hall. The station is well organised and easy to use. Here you can
catch all the national high speed trains. There are ample shops and cafes at
station stands on the site of the old city gates and was opened in 1851. It
was destroyed by fire in 1892 and reconstructed in iron and glass. It was
refurbished in 1992 to cope with the new AVE high speed lines.
Gran Via is one of the most animated
and commercial streets in the city. Along its length you can see very different
styles of architecture and some very well preserved buildings. The Telefonica building was the first ever sky-scraper of Madrid,
completed in 1929. There are also several important hotels to be found here.
The road has six lanes of traffic and is more often congested.
There is little left of Medieval Madrid but you will find the original
layout of narrow streets meandering south from Main Street (Calle Mayor). You will find an array of
shops selling the same things they have sold for hundreds of years. Craftsmen
still work their wood and leather, cheese shops sell famous cheeses and
antique shops trade in bygones. The Ayuntamiento
(council) building dates from the 17th century and is typical of many
buildings in Madrid with their slate spires and towers. There are more than 200 churches
in Madrid and it has its own cathedral. The Catedral
de San Isidro is located in Calle de Toledo and has a
massive dome. It needed major rebuilding after the Civil War. Close by you
will find the Capilla del Obispo dating from 1520, an outstanding church. San Andres Church is
located behind it.
area of Madrid houses the head offices of more than 100 banks.
del Callao is the centre for department stores and cinemas yet just a
couple of streets away you will find a 16th century convent.
In the Plaza
de Espana you will find the statue of Cervantes
set amid trees, gardens and fountains. Several important streets lead from
here, each with their own famous buildings and museums.
Madrid is the public Spanish corporation managing one of the most important
underground transport networks in the world, with more than 227 Km and 615
million passengers per year. To see more information about how to travel in
Metro de Madrid go to this page.
Cercanías system, (greater Madrid commuter trains) description and
Bus and long distance buses
City overview streetmap
City sections, a series of more detailed streetmaps
A brief note on cycling and information on using taxis, and on driving either your own car or rental cars in Madrid.
For information on
getting to and from Madrid, see the details and links in the
arriving and departing section
in Madrid - The fast and secure service offering savings of up to 60% on your
Bookings.org - Hotels in
Madrid - In cooperation with Bookings
on-line hotel reservations, idealspain.com offers you direct and easy access to
a range of hotels, complete with up-to-date availability information. On the BOOKINGS
pages you will find brochures of the hotels, room rates, hotel packages,
special offers and last minutes, including real-time booking facilities for all
Sunday in Madrid is just
as vibrant and exciting as any other day. It is a great time to explore one of
the popular markets. On the streets of old Madrid, the Rastro is one of the world's largest flea markets. It
begins near the Cathedral. The Plaza Mayor plays host to the stamp Fair where
hundreds of collectors converge every Sunday to deal in stamps, coins,
banknotes and anything else vaguely collectable. Close to the Botanical gardens
is the weekly Book Fair where new and used books can be found by the thousand.
you want to buy in Spain
you are sure to find it in Madrid.
You will find the ceramics and leather extremely good value as well as the fine
linen and needlework. Artisan shops happily trade alongside major department
stores and world famous brand names.
TO DO IN MADRID
have never seen a bullfight then Madrid
is the place to see one. It is known to be the very home of bullfighting. Once
you have been you may be so disgusted or shocked that you never want to go
again, or you may enjoy it so much you long to see another. Whichever, the
fights in Madrid
are among the best in Spain
with the top matadors competing. Madrid's
largest bullring seats over 32,000 people. March to October.
most famous tradition is the art of Flamenco and in Madrid you will
not be short of venues in which to sample the delights of this centuries old
dance. Many say that Madrid
is not the best place to see true flamenco but you will certainly enjoy the
residents of Madrid
come alive at night and you will find hundreds of cinemas, theatres and
nightclubs as well as the many smaller, lesser known tapas
bars. You will find every musical taste catered for as well as a thriving gay
community. Travel companies in Madrid
offer special night trips, taking in a couple of professional floorshows. This
may be the best and safest way of getting a taste of Madrid's
has two symphony orchestras that produce regular performances and there are
regular ballets and operas.
happen to be in Madrid
during a fiesta, you are at a distinct advantage. You will be rewarded with an
explosion of sound and colour. The largest celebration is that of Holy Week at
Easter where the fiesta is unforgettable. In May Madrid honours
San Isidore, the capital's patron saint. Half a month
of parties, contests, concerts, plays and daily bullfights. Check with the
tourist board for a full list of activities and smaller, regional fiestas.
You name a
sport and you will find it in Madrid.
There is a handful of golf courses, football grounds,
swimming pools and athletic tracks. Indoor sports are well catered for too with
stadiums, halls and bowling alleys. Dog racing is held at the dog track, car
racing is held at the Jarama cicuit,
26km north of Madrid and horse
racing is to be found at the Hippodrome, 7km from central Madrid.