Madrid, the capital and largest city of Spain, is known for its exquisite art, music and epicurean delights. Madrid has become a cosmopolitan, modern urban center while preserving its traditions. The city's art galleries (including the renowned Prado) contain so many great artworks anyone would be hard put to see them all even in many Madrid visits, while the bars and discos rock till the small hours. The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid sits in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula and has long been an important stop on any art tour through Europe.

The city sits atop a plateau and is the highest capital in Europe. Madrid can be traced back to Arab Emir Mohamed I, who ordered the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares River. Madrid is a city that has some of the liveliest nightlife in the world. From tapas bars to nightclubs, the nightlife in Madrid is exciting. Madrid is a lively city; activities and sightseeing are plentiful and readily available just about any time of the day. 

Climate in Madrid

The climate in Madrid is dry, warm and pleasant. It's high altitude and proximity to mountains causes some wide variations in winter and summer temperatures. The heat can be intense in the summer during the day with cool evenings. Winters bring temperatures just below freezing. Rain is not prevalent in Madrid but October is considered rain season. 

Activities in Madrid

Madrid Carnaval was revived in 1976 after being banned for 40 years. Carnaval opens each year with a large parade along the Paseo de la Castellana where there are fancy dress competitions and an evening concert in the Plaza Mayor. The end of Carnaval takes place on Ash Wednesday and brings on the traditional 'Burial of the Sardine' parade, with the participants all dressed in black carrying a cardboard sardine in a coffin to be mournfully buried at the Fuente de los Pajaritos.

During its five day run each year ARCO is Europe’s largest contemporary art fair and turns Madrid into the center of the international art world. About 200 contemporary art galleries are represented in the exhibition, along with lectures, social events and related activities.

The annual Madrid Gourmet Fair has improved each year since it began in 1987. The fair showcases some of Madrid’s fine food and spirits. The fair opens with the “Ham Carving Competition” and includes wine tastings, a gourmet cook-off, “Spanish cheese” contest and plenty of treats to sample from one of the 700 national and international exhibitors. 

The Summer in the City Festival offers daily shows encompassing theatre, puppetry, film, dance and art, taking place at various indoor and outdoor venues across the city with some performances costing very little or nothing. Flamenco, jazz, live music and traditional bullfights take place in concert halls, galleries, streets, squares and parks.

Festimad hosts well known and up and coming rock bands for a two-day party that attracts thousands of people from all over Spain. The Butarque Leganes Stadium just outside Madrid, the arena is transformed into a mini-city with a mass of stalls, restaurants, bars and shops.

Sightseeing in Madrid

The Plaza Mayor known as the Plaza de Arrabal was the venue for numerous public spectacles, ranging from knights' tournaments and festivals to the burning of heretics at the stake. It remains a public gathering place, but the majority of people who congregate in the sidewalk cafes to sip sangria on summer nights are tourists, enjoying impromptu music performances and watching the passing parade.

El Retiro often described as the "Lungs of Madrid", is the main park of the city of Madrid. Filled with beautiful sculptures and monuments, galleries, a peaceful lake and host to a variety of events, it is one of Madrid's premier attractions.

The Palacio Real is located on Bailen Street, in the Western part of downtown Madrid, East of the Manzanares River, and is accessible from the Opera metro station. The Palace is known as the largest royal palace in Europe, with a combined area of over 135,000 m² and more than 2,800 rooms.  The palace is partially open to the public, except when it is being used for official business.

Puerta del Sol is the historical and geographical heart of Spain. Littered with famous landmarks, Puerta del Sol is home to the famous Spanish clock tower whose bell marks the beginning of the New Year. 

The Tablao Flamenco (flamenco show restaurant) is renowned as the oldest and most famous show in the world. The establishment draws kings and queens, international presidents, film stars, and well-known artists and writers who come to witness the nightly performances of top flamenco stars while receiving excellent service and dining on exquisite meals prepared by some of the best chefs in Madrid.

Cuisine in Madrid

As in most Spanish cities, tapas restaurants can be found all over Madrid and some of the most popular and diverse eateries can be found in the area around Plaza Mayor and Sol. Travelers should beware that lunch and dinner start much later than in many other countries. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest evenings for eating out and it is advisable to make a booking in advance to be sure of securing a table.

Travel to Madrid/Passport

There are regular direct flights from various airports in the USA to Madrid Barajas Airport, located eight miles (13km) from the city centre. Travel around the city can be accomplished by using the network of busses, the metro and trains. The 10 trip ticket package allows for cheaper travel. A valid passport is all that an American, Australian, British, Canadian, or New Zealand citizen needs to enter Spain. Visitors from these countries do not need a visa so long as their visit does not exceed 90 days.




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