Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. Madrid is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
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The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid is located on the geographic center of the Iberian Peninsula. Because of its central location and high altitude, the climate of Madrid is characterized by warm dry summers and cool winters. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. Madrid is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
The administrative and financial center of Spain pulsates with activity, but it wasn't until the mid-16th century that Madrid became home to Hispanic kings, the royal court, and consequentially, was titled “capital”. Any Madrileño will tell you about the city's turbulent and eventful past – they will also tell you there is nowhere else they would rather live. Madrid will have you captivated and very likely, coming back for more.
Rolling hills, splendid skies and historic bridges crossing the Manzanares River will welcome you to the capital city of Madrid. Gothic churches, convents and monasteries are scattered throughout the city. The Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the Renaissance town of Alcala de Henares (a world heritage sight), the ruins of the ancient Arab wall and the Royal Palace Complex are worthwhile sights to visit. For those looking for tranquility, visit one of the many parks, the Sabatini Gardens or the Fountains of Paseo del Prada. The 17th century Plaza Mayor in the city center is considered a highlight for any visitor. Enjoy lively markets and traditional tapas bars. You cannot pass up the opportunity to join in the legendary nightlife or shop for 'whatever your heart desires'. As additional holiday activities, you could partake in hunting, golfing, fishing and horse riding in the surrounding areas of the city.
Some might argue that Madrid lacks the architectural assertion of Barcelona, but the Spanish capital is certainly no supine European neighborhood. This city is packed with sights and activities - for a taste of art and culture, Madrid offers a prodigious 72 museums, including the renowned Prado Museum, which exhibits the rich heritage in art enjoyed by the Spanish.
Habsburg Madrid – One of the oldest districts in Madrid. You’ll find the city’s key historical attractions such as the Plaza Mayor with its numerous open-air cafés.
Palacio Real - The Royal Palace holds some 2,800 rooms and offers visitors the chance to bask in the lavishness of the royal house of Habsburg.
Parque del Buen Retiro - For a chance for some peace in the heady bustle of Madrid, wander through this 350-acre park located in the heart of the city.
Las Ventas Bullring - Bullfighting is popular in Madrid and this famous bullring has played host to only the bravest bullfighters.
Musueo de Prado - This art collection includes artists such as Botticelli, El Bosco, Velazquez and Goya.
When to go
Madrid is one of the highest cities in Europe and has a dry climate with hot summers and very cold winters. The Meseta Central regions have a continental climate with relatively low rainfall. The winters are cold and windy. The rainy period in this region is March - June and again in October/November. The summers are sunny and warm with average temperatures reaching just over 68 degrees F. The northern regions have a maritime climate with cool summers and cold winters and rainfall spread throughout the year. October through December is the wettest time of the year in this region. The southern and eastern part of the country has a Mediterranean climate characterized by low rainfall which occurs mainly in winter. Average summer temperatures range from 71 to 86 degrees F. Spain is by far one of the sunniest European countries.
What to Wear
In summer you will need beachwear and lightweight clothing for the warm days, medium weight clothing for cooler evenings as well as for the cooler months in autumn and spring. Depending on the region you intend traveling to, you will need medium and heavyweight clothing during the winter months. Waterproofing will be invaluable.
The Spanish cuisine is as vibrant and exciting as the people...paella, spicy sausages, delectable seafood including a lobster dish called La Opera and a desert called Postre del Musico (desert of the musicians). Tapas, or snacks, are an important part of their daily lives. A typical day starts with an early breakfast with a mid-morning breakfast following a couple of hours later, a three course lunch in the early afternoon, tapas at about 8 PM and a three course dinner in the late evening - not for the faint hearted. The local wines are remarkable and will perhaps help to down those last morsels after a long day of caloric consumption.
In many of the typical dishes of Madrid you’ll find chickpeas, garbanzo beans, asparagus, olive oil and garlic. Meats like lamb, beef and poultry are often mixed with rich sauces and spices but pork is the favorite among residents. Bacon, longanissa, and chorizo are very popular and can be found in many of Madrid’s dishes. For a different kind of dining experience look for traditional tapas bars, where a range of smaller local dishes are served.
Madrid revolves around small-specialized stores and great food markets. The various district zones in Madrid are filled with boutiques, specialty shops, department stores and supermarkets. The city is full of interesting shops to explore and everything from high fashion through to flea markets and grand delicatessens can be found. Leather is a good buy, especially shoes, bags and jackets. Two great souvenirs are Lladro porcelain figurines and Majorca pearls.
- Jan 1 New Year's Day Spain
- Jan 6 Epiphany ("Día de los Reyes," religious festival) Spain
- Early Feb La Candelaria (religious festival) Madrid
- April (week before Easter) Holy Week/Semana Santa Spain
- April 1 Maundy Thursday (Many regions)
- April 2 Good Friday
- April 4 Easter Sunday Spain
- May 1 Labor Day (closures) Spain
- May 2 Day of the Autonomous Community (closures, music, dancing in Plaza Mayor) Madrid
- Throughout May San Isidro (religious festival on May 15; also bullfights and zarzuelas all month long) Madrid
- June 11 Corpus Christi (religious festival) Spain
- Mid-Aug Verbena de la Paloma (folk festival) Madrid
- Aug 15 Assumption of Mary (religious festival) Spain
- Oct 12 Spanish National Day ("Día de la Hispanidad" commemorating Columbus' arrival in the New World, parades, some closures) Spain
- Nov 1 All Saints' Day (religious festival, closures) Spain
- Nov 9 Virgen de la Almudena (religious festival) Madrid
- Dec 6 Constitution Day (closures) Spain
- Dec 8 Feast of the Immaculate Conception (religious festival) Spain
- Dec 13 Feast of Santa Lucía (religious festival) Spain
- Dec 25 Christmas Spain
- Dec 31 New Year's Eve Spain
Population: 3.1 million
Time Zone: GMT
Currency: The Euro 1€ = 100 Cents. Spain is a member of the euro zone, along with Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia. The euro notes come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The euro coins come in denominations of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2.
Tipping and Bargaining: Tipping is expected. A 10% service charge is added to your bill in hotels and restaurants. Most prices for merchandise are non-negotiable.
Languages Spoken: Most prominent, Spanish. Other languages include Catalan, Galician, Basque. Note: Spanish is the official language nationwide; the other languages are official regionally. Tour guides and service professionals in tourist-oriented facilities are very likely to speak English.
- Hello - Hola
- Good Morning - Buenos dias (bwonos dee as)
- Good bye – Adios (dee os)
- Yes - Si (see)
- No - No
- Thanks - Gracias (gra see ass)
Roman Catholic 94%, other 6%
People and Culture
From flamenco dancing and music, to bullfighting and bull running, this nation sure is colorful and vibrant. Month after month sees flamboyant festivals come and go. The town of Bunol holds an annual Tomato Fight Festival. Valencia is famous for its fireworks. Wine harvesting festivals, religious festivals and drum festivals are held in different towns and at certain times of the year. We cannot forget that Real Madrid is an icon with hordes of fanatical followers! Spanish or Castilion is the main language of Spain. There are other variations and languages which are protected by the constitution. These include Euskera (a Basque language), Galician and Catalan. In between all your activities.....enjoy an afternoon siesta - as they say, "when in Rome..."