Madrid, located on the Manzanares River, is a city filled with history; from its prehistory beginnings through all the many rebellions and conquests, it is a city that attracts and fascinates. The many cultural influences of the past make Madrid today, a cosmopolitan metropolis.
In the modern Madrid of today, you are likely to encounter designer boutiques as well as historical and architectural and art treasures. This, the central capital of Spain, is today, a buzzing metropolis of cosmopolitan cultures creating an ambience of warmth, hospitality and a sense of a never-ending celebration. Restaurants and café abound, in this green city of parks and wide tree-lined boulevards.
In the centre of Madrid is the Plaza Mayor a much-visited square which has hosted multitudes of events such as football matches, bullfights and the much feared “auto de fe” of the Spanish Inquisition, but today under its many arches you find tapas bars, restaurants and cafés. Here is where local families stroll on balmy summer evenings and people from all over the world come to socialise over a glass of wine and a bite to eat.
A short distance from The Plaza is the Puerta del Sol the centre of the National road network. Puerta del Sol has been the very centre of Madrid life for centuries. The site of many a rebellion and royal reception in the past, it is today the site of the New Year’s Eve countdown. Nightclubs abound and things get really hot here after midnight.
For those whose interest is in the arts, there is much to see in Madrid, the home of two of Europe’s famed art collections. The Royal art collection in the Nacional del Prado showcases works by Goya, Velázquez and El Greco as well as much in the way of Renaissance religious art and 17th-century depictions of the conquest of South America. And for those whose interest is in 20th-century modernism, there is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, a converted 16th-century hospital in which classics by Dalí, and Miró can be viewed as well as Picasso’s famous commentary on the Spanish Civil War.
After your exhaustive exploration of the art collections of Madrid, you may like to take a little break and take in a little of the Moorish legacy of the city in a hot or cold bath and sauna while you sip sweet mint tea in the Arab bath-house at the Medina Mayrit.
Everywhere in Madrid are wide boulevards along which you can stroll not just for the walk but to find entertainment and perhaps indulge in a wild shopping spree or just simply to enjoy the scenery with its glorious fountains and manicured lawns. Along the Gran Via you will find all the commercial entertainment you could wish for and in the side streets off the boulevard, you will find many exclusive and delightful fashion boutiques. The Gran Via ends at Retiro Park, one of the many green parks in Madrid well worth a visit.
The Parque del Buen Retiro was gifted to the city residents by the royal family in the 19th century and today is a glorious recreation park with its paddle boats, street performers, and ice-cream vendors and on Sunday afternoons the free classical music concert given by the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra (Banda Sinfónica de Madrid)