Although Madrid is a thoroughly modern metropolis, the city has managed to preserve its traditional vibe. In fact, Madrid is home to cobbled streets and historic neighbourhoods aplenty. Indeed, Spain's capital is both cosmopolitan and sophisticated and blends the contemporary with the historical. The city's buildings are magnificent, the nightlife vibrant and the shopping world-class. Throw in a thriving food scene, and what's not to like?
Madrid is a major international city, which offers all the perks that comes with that distinction. However, a visit to the city is as much about hanging out in charming cafes and exploring the intriguing backstreets as visiting the sights. In fact, Madrid combines the best of both worlds.
Madrid boasts some of the finest museums and galleries in the world. Indeed, if you love art, you will find plenty to keep you busy. The Golden Triangle of Art includes the city's heavyweights, The Prado, Reina Sofia along with The Thyssen-Bornemisza. It is home to a host of great works, both classical and contemporary.
The Royal Palace, ex-home to the Spanish Royal Family, is the largest palace in Western Europe. The palace has a lavish interior including a throne room and is surrounded by stunning gardens and statues. From small specialist museums to internationally renowned institutions, you could spend a month in Madrid and still not see everything.
Shopaholics are in for a treat in Madrid. Calle Preciados and the surrounding streets are a shopper's mecca. Located in the city centre, there is something for everyone from funky indie shops to exclusive designer stores. An array of coffee shops, bars and restaurants provide sustenance to the weary shopper.
Madrid is blessed with an abundance of parks and gardens, where residents and visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The oasis of El Retiro is an elegant park in the heart of the city. With its beautiful gardens, together with a tranquil lake and fountains, it's a perfect chill-out spot. The Glass Palace, a romantic piece of architecture and a popular tourist attraction, is nestled in the depths of the park.
Day or night, the restaurant scene in Madrid buzzes with activity. During the day, there's nothing more agreeable than enjoying an alfresco glass of sangria and a plate of tapas whilst watching the world go by. At night, restaurants stay open into the wee small hours.
Calle Cava Baja, in the La Latina neighbourhood, is crammed with restaurants and bars. It's a perfect location to sample some of the best food that Spain has to offer.
One couldn't visit Madrid without taking in an exciting flamenco show. Top artists flock to the capital to perform in the many bars. Nightly shows take place when customers enjoy dinner and drinks together with some flamenco. Corral de la Moreria is the most famous venue in town and is known as the Cathedral of Flamenco.
For football fans, watching a Real Madrid match is an unmissable experience. The skills and precision of the Real Madrid superstars can be witnessed at their 81,000-seater stadium. The atmosphere on match nights is electric.
El Rastro, Europe's largest open-air flea market is held every Sunday. Check out the street entertainment and haggle for bargains. At lunchtime, sip on a cerveza while sampling some Spanish street food. As a matter of fact, Madrid has more than its fair share of specialist markets, many of which are open every day of the week.
Make the most of your stay in Madrid and hit the road. Madrid makes an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding area. In fact, there are several charming towns which are easily accessible from the city. These include Avila, Toledo and Salamanca. Additionally, the sixteenth century monastery of El Escorial, along with the UNESCO-listed fairy-tale castle of Segovia both make great day trips.