Welcome to Madrid, a lively cosmopolitan and friendly city where everyone feels at home. A place for business and new trends, the capital of Spain oﬀers a safe, comfortable setting where taking time out and doing business are equally enjoyable.
Its rich artistic and natural heritage, cutting-edge transport network, quality accommodation, ﬁne cuisine and the passion locals show when enjoying their city’s day and night life, makes it one of the most attractive cities in the world.
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Madrid is well known for its museums and cultural agenda. The city counts with 88 museums and 87 art galleries, and has the largest art gallery in the world with 10000 works of art housed at the Prado Museum.
El Paseo del Arte, known in English as Art Walk, boasts art and beauty as you’ll see no where else in the world. Along a stretch of just over one kilometer, you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum, as well as a number of other institutions and buildings well worth visiting:
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Madrid, the second city with most green spaces in the world.
Casa de Campo, El Retiro Park and Madrid Río are Madrid’s best known green areas, but almost every neighbourhood in the city has its own park, square or community garden for visitors to step off the pavement or do outdoor sports.
Specially beautiful and less touristic are Capricho Park -one of the most gorgeus and unknown artistic historic walks in Madrid- and Campo del Moro Park, a fabulous English-style garden in Hapsbug Madrid with the Royal Palace in the background.
Furthermore, Madrid will surprise you with its intense, enveloping blue sky. With a dry climate and little rainfall, the city has hot summers and cold winters. No matter what time of the year you choose to come, you’re very likely to see with your own eyes the deep blue sky Velázquez loved to paint.
Although Madrid is, undoubtedly, an open city that welcomes all kinds of influences, culinary included, from neighbours and visitors, it has its own food too. Madrileño cooks, however, have drawn inspiration from those of Castile and La Mancha.
There are dishes that blend simple yet good-tasting stew pot cooking (cocido madrileño is a fine example) with Moorish flavours (almond soup) and dishes from the Christian tradition (Lenten recipes).
Cooks here excel in making soup, proof of which is the nutritious, and delicious, garlic soup. They use even the insides of fowls and tripe, which lovers of curious recipes will find delicious. Although Madrid is far away from the coast, it’s taken in fish caught in the Cantabrian Sea. A fine example is red bream Madrid-style, a dish that’s more than 600 years old.
Tapas: Going out for tapas is a fun way to hang out with friends. Just walk into a bar and order a pint of beer,patatas bravas (potato cubes in a spicy tomato sauce), cazuela de callos (tripe casserole) or chopitos(tiny fried cuttlefish); it’s a fantastic experience that’ll make you feel you’ve blended in.
In the past years, tapas bars have mushroomed across Madrid. However, the hottest tapas districts are Sol, Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid) and La Latina,Chueca-Malasaña, and Conde Duque.
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There are 6 UNESCO heritage sites near the city.
Outside the Region of Madrid you can find the cities of Ávila, Segovia and Toledo. Within the Region, it is worth seeing:
- El Escorial: Built at the end of the 16th century, the Escurial Monastery stands in an exceptionally beautiful site at the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, north of Madrid. It was the retreat of a mystic king, Philip II, and became in the last years of ‘his reign the centre of the greatest political power of the time. Philip II founded the monastery in 1563 as a votive monument and pantheon to the Spanish monarchs from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V onwards. Its design, which is complex yet also simple, was created by Juan Bautista de Toledo, Spanish pupil of Michelangelo during the works of the Vatican Basilica, and completed by Juan de Herrera after Toledo’s death. Discover here
- Alcalá de Henares: The place where Miguel de Cervantes was born and the Complutense University, a key city in the history of the Spanish language. Know more
- Aranjuez: Visit the Palace and the Gardens of the Royal Site and Town of Aranjuez, a town close to Madrid which has historically been linked to royalty. See more
Magerit, ‘land rich in water’. This is how the Arabs called this area on the central plain of the Iberian Peninsula, close to Sierra de Guadarrama, where King Phillip II of Spain later established the royal court. Later on, it grew into the big city that’s come down to us.
The first historical record of Madrid dates back to the year 865, when Emir Muhammad I commissioned the construction of a fortress in the village of Mayrit, on the banks of the river Manzanares. ‘Mayrit’ means ‘plenty of waterways’, which is why the city’s first recorded coat of arms read, ‘I was built on water / My walls are made of fire / This is my flag and my coat of arms’. Madrid belonged to the Islamic world until 1083, when Alfonso VI of Castile took over the city.
Few vestiges have remained from this era. On Calle Mayor, next to the Institute of Italian Culture, there used to stand the Grand Mosque and, most probably, as in every Muslim city, the souk. On the site of the former mosque rose the Church of Santa María, of which some remains can still be seen. Close by, on Cuesta de la Vega, there’re parts of the old town walls that enclosed the medina or citadel. It was inside these walls that the Christians found a statuette of Virgin Mary with a candle that had been burning for over four hundred years at the time they seized the area. Almudena, derived from the Arabic al-mudaynathat translates as ‘the little city’ or ‘citadel’, has been, since then, the name mostly used by Madrileños to refer to the Virgin.
In the Medieval district of Madrid you can go to the National Archaeological Museum, with a really interesting collection of decorative objects from the Visigoth Kingdom of Toledo to the Late Middle Ages. The rooms dedicated to Medieval and Renaissance art in the Lázaro Galdiano Museum and the Prado Museum are well worth a visit too.
Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Madrid was the capital of a huge empire; however, the buildings and landmarks didn’t truly reflect the city’s standing. The churches and palaces were built in a simple style that had little in common with ostentatious courts elsewhere in Europe. Austerity was the second name of the Hapsburg dynasty – or Austrias, as they werecalled inSpanish. Secluded in the Alcázar Real Palace, the kings rarely appeared in public. Meanwhile, Madrid drew writers, artists, fortune hunters and members of the lesser nobility who hoped to prosper in the court.
From that period, narrow, winding streets, mansions of unornamented severity and convents hidden behind high walls can still be seen in Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid). Between Cuesta de la Vega and Plaza Mayor, the heart of the city, you’ll find the traces of the old capital. Not a grandiose capital, indeed. The simplicity of its buildings, the lack of an overall urban plan and the huge number of churches surprised foreign envoys and chroniclers. On the western border, where the Royal Palace stands, was the Alcázar. This huge building, from which the world was ruled, burned to the ground in 1737.
On a stroll through this district you’ll see buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that have no connection with the Hapsburgs but are of interest too, like the San Miguel and San Francisco el Grande basilicas or the Teatro Real opera house.
When Philip V, the first member of the House of Bourbon to rule as king of Spain, arrived in Madrid in 1701, the city was enclosed and criss-crossed by narrow lanes, filled with churches and austere palaces. From then on, the Bourbon kings would carry out comprehensive urban development plans aimed at adapting Madrid to the taste of European royal courts. They built fountains, gardens, triumphal arches, and the newRoyal Palace, all of which helped change the appearance of the city dramatically.
Bourbon Madrid sprung up along the banks of the Fuente Castellana stream, where the present-dayPaseo del Prado runs. In the seventeenth century, the aristocracy had chosen this area to build homes beyond the city’s boundaries. The Buen Retiro Palace, erected under Phillip IV, was the first step taken to turn the eastern part of Madrid into the most stylish side of the capital. However, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the Prado became the green boulevard lined with mansions that you can see today.
Also from Bourbon times are the Royal Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, with the third largest round floor plan in Christianity and an important collection of paintings; the Basilica of San Miguel, designed by Italian architect Santiago Bonavía and the burial place of composer Luigi Boccherini; the Church of San Marcos, with its characteristic design by Ventura Rodríguez; and the Convent of Las Salesas Reales, commissioned by Queen Barbara de Braganza to François Carlier as the place where she would retire in 1748. Currently the seat of the Supreme Court, the convent accommodates the graves of both the Queen and her husband, Ferdinand VI. They’re the only Spanish monarchs, along with Queen María de las Mercedes of Orléans, whose funerary urns aren’t in the royal pantheon at El Escorial.
In the early 1980s, the Malasaña district witnessed the birth of the movida madrileña, the underground movement that changed Madrid’s image for ever.
The story began on 9 February 1980 in the afternoon, when the auditorium of the Escuela de Caminos in Madrid hosted the tribute concert to Canito, drummer of Tos and Los Secretos, who’d been killed in a road accident on New Year’s Eve. Tos, Mermelada, Nacha Pop, Paraíso, Alaska y los Pegamoides, Trastos, Mario Tenia y los Solitarios and Los Rebeldes came on stage. Popgrama broadcast the concert on Spanish TV network TVE, and soon afterwards, all bands had signed contracts with different record labels. This was the origin of the movida, though the term didn’t emerge till later.
Today, you may still follow in the footsteps of the movida. It was the democratic transition that came after Franco’s dictatorship, and people were eager to try it all. The city saw an explosion of new artistic productions. Fascinated by Andy Warhol, David Bowie and the punk culture, youngsters believed that if you wanted to be a musician or shoot a film, all you had to do was get down to work. In Madrid, the statues in the Botanical Gardens were brought to life, as they do in Radio Futura’s song (‘La estatua del Jardín Botánico’), and everyone wanted ‘to die a little bit every day on Gran Vía’, just like in Tino Casal’s lyrics for the song ‘Que digan misa’.
Madrid has several beautiful nearby towns with splendid artistical and cultural heritage, like Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Ávila, Aranjuez….. They are only about 1 hour away and constitute a very good reason to extend some more days your stay in the city.
In just a few minutes, you can leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. Discover the areas around Madrid.
Over 200 direct flights connect Madrid to more than 70 countries
Madrid airport «Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas» receives all international flights arriving in Madrid. It is located just 12 kilometres northeast from the capital, allowing passengers to save time and money travelling to and from the airport.
There are different ways to get to the airport by public transport:
Metro: Madrid metro is the 2nd largest metro network in Europe which is among the world`s top 10 metro networks. To get to the airport, line 8 (Nuevos Ministerios-Airport T4) connects the capital with Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport, taking less than 20 minutes to T4 and just 12 minutes to the other terminals. Please check prices here.
Airport Express Bus: 24-hour service from Atocha (between 6 am and 11.30 pm) and Cibeles, stopping at O’Donnell (intersection with Doctor Esquerdo), T1, T2 and T4.
Other lines: Lines 101, 200, Interurban Lines 822, 824, 827, 828. For more information click here
Shuttle Bus: Free service linking the four terminals. Running every 5 minutes from 6.30 am to 11.30 pm, every 20 minutes from 11.30 pm to 1.50 am and every 40 minutes from 1.50 am to 6.30 am.
Taxi: You must go to the official taxi ranks to pick up a taxi. No attention should be paid to unofficial taxi drivers offering their services from within the terminals. There is a flat rate of 30 € for services between the airport and the city centre (within the M 30 ring road).
Cercanías (local train): The suburban train network runs between Príncipe Pío station and Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport Terminal 4, on the new C-1 line. Trains depart every half hour and you can check ticket prices here. AVE ticket holders can travel from the train station to the airport free of charge.
Madrid and its surroundings
Few European capitals are like Madrid, with a natural low mountain environment less than an hour from the city centre. The mountain ranges in the north of the Madrid region are another world, with holm-oak meadows where fighting bulls graze, beautiful sheep-farming villages, unique natural environments, for example La Pedriza, and a fabulous historic heritage with jewels as amazing as the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and, in the neighbouring region of Castilla-León, the ancient city of Segovia and the Royal Site of San Ildefonso.