Madrid is the capital and the largest city of Spain, and it is located in the heart of Iberian Peninsula and right in the center of the Castillian plain 646 meters above sea level. Madrid is a business, cultural and political center of the country, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the Spanish Royal Family. This cosmopolitan city has a population of over three million, whereas with its suburbs it reaches six and a half million.
Madrid is the third largest city in Europe after London and Paris. The name of the city comes from an Arabic word for the river Manthanares, Al-Mahrit which means “water source”. The Catholics, after taking the city and expulsion of Moorish people, have adopted the name Mahrit, which was eventually changed into Madrid.
Madrid is characterized nowadays by intense cultural and artistic activity and a very lively nightlife.
Useful Information about Madrid
City: 3.3 million
Metropolitan Area: 6.5 million
Large Cities Nearby
Zaragosa 198 mi / 319 km
Valencia 222 mi / 357 km
Euro (€); Equivalence 1€ ~ $1.3
233.9 sq miles / 605.8 km²
Barajas Airport; Code: MAD
2,133 ft / 650 m
Madrid Travel Guide: What to See
Madrid has numerous sites that cover all seasons. Do not miss to visit one of the major galleries of the world, Museum of Prado, admire among others the masterpieces of Goya, Velasquez and our El Greco. Other two adjacent to Prado Museum are Thyssen Bornemisza (Tisen) and Reina Sofia (Reina Sofia), which contain the famous Guernica of Pablo Picasso.
Museo del Prado
This is the most famous museum in Spain and one of the largest galleries in the world. It houses one of the greatest collections of European art from 12th to 19th century (around 8600 items). The museum was built in 1819 and located in the southern part of the city, Paseo del Prado, near the other two galleries (Reina Sofia and Tisen), just above the railway station Atotsa on the west side of Retiro Park.
Prado is famous mainly for four major collections: the Spanish Goya and Velasquez, our El Greco and the Dutch Bos. You can admire also works of many great artists, such as: Rubens, Raphael, Tisian, Murillo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and others. It is open daily: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 8 pm. Half an hour before closing the entrance is not available. Ticket costs 6 Euro, while on Sundays entrance is free, as well as for students, journalists, children or visitors over 65.
This museum is a cultural center containing a permanent collection of Spanish contemporary art and offering a wide variety of temporary exhibitions. Dominant modern painting with the most representative works of Picasso, Dali and Miro. The museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm. It is closed on Tuesdays. Ticket costs 6 Euro, whereas 3 Euro is for students.
This museum houses collections ranging from primitive Flemish to contemporary works. There are than 800 paintings and sculptures, carvings and other items displayed. It is open daily: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 7 pm.
Dining in Madrid
– Vinoteca: Wonderful spinach croquettes and Ramon. It is placed In the center, in Plaza de Santa Ana.
– Juana la Loca: Great tortilla (Spanish omelet) with caramelized onions. It is placed close to the metro station La Latina.
– El Viajero, La Musa: Local dishes (tapas) are served. It is placed close to the metro station La Latina. Generally in the area La Latina you will find many similar traditional bars with good food. It is something like Psiri in Athens.
Excellent cuisine and tapas could also be found in a street called Fuencarral, in the area of Chueca. If you decide to come here, we recommend you to taste smoked salmon and crabs and definitely accompany it with the local wine Sangria. This place is a gay center of the city and recently it years has grown into one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Madrid.
Drink and Entertainment
If the weather is nice, you can enjoy a drink in one of many outdoor cafes open throughout Madrid. Enjoyable is the coffee in Plaza de Oriente, in Café de Oriente, or in any other cafe in the square. Another beautiful place a little further, next to the Cathedral, in San Isidro, or Plaza Mayor on Sundays.
– Café Madrid: Great atmosphere and beautifully decorated with traditional painted Spanish tiles. It is placed in the downtown, near Plaza de Santa Ana.
– Delic: This place, in La Latina, has the best mojito cocktail in the ceter.
– Calle Huertas: Lots of little bars and also close to Santa Ana. You should know that it is difficult to find a place in Madrid which does not play only Spanish and Latin music.
– Joy Eslava: Classical club for tourists with beating music. It is located in Street Arenal, close to the metro station Sol.
– Palacio de Gaviria: 4 rooms with different music: Tango, Latin, Happy House and Spanish.
– Lolita: Near Bernabeu, on two floors; on the down floor you will listen to the Spanish, while on the upper – Retro on foreign music.
– Moma bar: Quite fancy and large, with both Spanish and foreign music.
– Buddha del Mar: Coming from the west side of Madrid, at the height of the Moncloa (near university grounds) and taking the highway A6, you will find at about 9 km on your left side a true must of city’s nightlife, club Buddha del Mar or Buddha Bar is known to locals. Inside is also a restaurant Kudeta, with menu based on oriental flavors. All the famous people are in this crowded place: actors, politicians, models, journalists, usually the entire team of Real Madrid.
Where to Go for Shopping
– For quick shopping visit El Corte Ingles (department store chain). It has everything.
– In Gran Via you can find classic Zara, Mango, H & M, as well as Fnac with CDs and books in Spanish.
– More classy shops can be found in the areas Salamanca, Serrano and Ortega y Gasset. Also Goya Street is full of shops.
– For the ladies there is Tous and Longchamp at excellent prices. As for shoes, look Augusto Figueroa Street and the area of Chueca.
– Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are an assortment of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, ropes, hats and religious articles.
– Rastro is the most famous of the flea markets which opens on weekends between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores.
Where to Go for a Walk
– From Paseo de la Castellana towards Torres KIO If you would like to see modern city, get to the Paseo de la Castellana (Kastegiana), the main boulevard that crosses Madrid from south to north. Somewhere in the middle is Plaza Colon with the beautiful fountain, which base is a statue of Columbus. Continue walking upwards to get a full picture of the economic, business and commercial side of Madrid with modern buildings of large established companies and banks. You will end in the northern entrance to the Spanish capital, in front of the famous Tower Torres KIO, one of the contemporary symbols of the city, along with Plaza Castilla. Shortly before arriving there, on your right stands the imposing mass of the Santiago Bernabeu, the stadium of Real Madrid.
– From Plaza Mayor in Oriente Palace. Behind Puerta del Sol, Town Hall Square in the center of Madrid is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, Plaza Mayor. It has rectangular square (129m x 94m) and is enclosed by an unbroken three-storey building from 1790. There are 237 wonderful balconies looking at the square. The “shape” was built during the Austrian period and in the center you will see the dominant statue of Philip the 3rd. There are 9 domed entrances, while the ground floor of the square is full of traditional bars and shops.
Do not miss the opportunity to sit somewhere outside and enjoy a beer or a wine with one or more tapas. Afterwards, you can pass through Calle Mayor and at the end turn left to Plaza de Oriente. There are busts of the Spanish kings and stands opposite to the imposing Palace of the Oriente, the official residence of the King of Spain.
Palacio Real was first time built in the 16th century. After being destroyed in a fire, it was reconstructed in 1755 and this construction exists today. The interior was decorated with works by Velázquez, Goya and Caravaggio. In Palacio Real is also exhibited the completed unique quintet of Stradivarius. You may visit the palace freely, but you should know that fixed timetable does not exist; it depends on the official ceremonies.
A stroll in the sunset is a unique experience. On the north side there are the gardens of Sabatini (Jardines de Sabatini), so named by the designer, one of the architects of the palace. On the opposite side stands the Catedral de la Almudena. On your way back, make a small pause at Café de Oriente, one of favorite hangouts of Almodovar and Victoria Abril. If you are lucky, you will even see small birds flying inside, giving a special melody and color to the place.
En route to Spain’s capital of Madrid it’s a great idea to see the other side of Spain: Catalonia. For those who plan to stay longer, we suggest to visit some wonderful destinations such as Toledo, Segovia, Aranchoueth, Avila, monastery El Escorial with tombs of Spanish kings. Also, the best way to soak up the distinct atmosphere of Catalonia is in its vibrant capital Barcelona.
Madrid, as all modern cities, has positive and negative aspects. People who plan to visit it should know that if they don’t speak Spanish, they will have problems in communication. Even people who speak any foreign language, you will probably find it hard to understand them. Nevertheless, this is compensated by their kindness and hospitality. These is even better visible for Greeks as Spanish people generally like the Greeks, mainly because of the origin of Queen Sofia. Telephone number – Code Country: 0034 Tourist information Tel: 900 300 600
You can easily move through the city using public transportation as it is well organized. You can use metro, although avoid remote stations at night. It these cases, better is to use taxi service which is not expensive and quite reliable.