Madrid information

Introduction to the Province of Madrid
Spain’s capital city, Madrid, possesses fine architecture, some of Europe’s best museums and has a superb, modern infrastructure. It makes a great destination for a weekend break, or even longer. With its own international airport, connections throughout Spain via the high speed train network (AVE) and a safe, clean and efficient metro system, Madrid is easy to reach and to travel around.

A good place to begin an exploration of Madrid is at the Puerta del Sol. This square not only marks the centre of the city, it also in fact marks the centre of Spain because all distances are measured from the Kilometro Zero marker set in the pavement on the south side of the square. Puerta del Sol is also the centre of a good shopping area.

West of Puerta del Sol and entered via small passageways, is Plaza Mayor, one of the capital’s most famous and important landmarks where historical meetings, coronations of monarchs, the Spanish Inquisition’s “autos-da-fe” (trials of faith), public executions and theatrical events have been staged for hundreds of years, under the gaze of the aristocracy who would watch from their balconies around the square. At Christmas, the square now plays host to a lovely festive market.

The Baroque Royal Palace (Palacio Real) apparently has more rooms than any other European palace. It also has a fine display of armoury. Guided tours can be had to admire the opulence within the palace walls.

From here it’s a short walk to one of Madrid’s finest churches, the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, which has the most sumptuous interior and the fifth largest dome in all Christianity.

Art lovers will be spoilt for choice in Madrid. The Museo del Prado houses collections by Goya, El Greco and Velazquez; the Thyssen Museum has fine displays of Impressionist works and the Reina Sofia is where you can see works by Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, including his famous “Guernica”.

For a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, make your way to one of Madrid’s lovely open spaces, the Parque del Retiro. It’s a great place for a picnic and to people-watch, especially on a Sunday morning. In the summer it often hosts concerts and films. Alternatively, Madrid’s Botanic Gardens (Jardines Botanicos), near the Prado are fascinating and near here the area of Cuesto de Moyano is a bookworm’s paradise with its permanent bookstalls.

Café life and nightlife rule in Madrid. Make sure to spend some of your time here exploring the little bars and fabulous restaurants. You should also partake in the custom of Chocolate con Churros (hot chocolate with sugary doughnut-like treats to dunk) at dawn, on your way home to bed.

There is plenty of live entertainment in the city and many big names of rock, pop music, classical music, jazz and opera perform here, year round. Madrid has two premier football teams with an intense rivalry between them. Real Madrid play at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, while Atletico Madrid currently play at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Around Madrid City and Beyond
Outside of Madrid city itself, it is certainly worth exploring the town of Alcala de Henares (the birthplace of the writer, Cervantes), the World Heritage Site of Aranjuez with its Royal Palace and Gardens and the picturesque town of Chinchon.

The province also has a surprising natural richness too. The Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range is abundantly forested and home to ibex, wild boar and deer as well as the Spanish Imperial Eagle and the Eurasian Black Vulture. Here you will also find the stunning 16th Century UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de el Escorial, on the slopes of Mount Abantos.

The Gastronomy of Madrid
Like every capital city, Madrid’s food is cosmopolitan and you’ll be able to find dishes from all around Spain (and beyond) here. But Madrid does have some dishes all of its own, especially the Cocido Madrileño, a stew of pork, chickpeas and vegetables. It’s traditionally eaten “backwards”, first the meat, then the chickpeas and vegetables and finally the broth that remains. Another typical dish is Sopa de Ajo, garlic soup. In the tapas bars you will come across other traditional dishes such as Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette) and Bocata de Calamares (a fried squid sandwich). Don’t miss the delicious asparagus and strawberries that come from the town of Aranjuez.

Madrid even has a wine denomination of its own, the Vinos de Madrid Denomination of Origin, best known for its young wines, reds, roses and whites.


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