Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did you know … ?
- King Phillip II established Madrid as the capital of Spain in 1561.
- In the 17th century, Madrilenos used the elegant Plaza Mayor as a bullring.
- Madrid is north of Denver.
- The Prado art museum was originally designed to be a natural history museum.
- At the end of the 15th century, Madrid had only 3,400 inhabitants.
Old World charms
Known for wide boulevards, palatial monuments and elegant fountains, Madrid epitomizes Old World ambience. There also are top class museums, high-end restaurants and shops, plus grand squares with outdoor cafes where one may relax over drinks.
The city has its lively side, too. From soccer to the nightlife along the Gran Via, as well as activities in the mountains and countryside nearby, there is plenty to tempt the most adventurous traveler.
Madrid came into its own when it was tapped to be Spain’s capital in the 16th century. As such, the city played a role in the unification of the provinces — some of which still retain their own dialects and cuisine — helping to create a central government and a cohesive country that has endured.
The infusion of many cultures, including several centuries of Arab and Austrian rule, also has contributed to the city’s distinctive flavor. The Old Town, particularly the well-preserved Plaza Mayor, showcases architecture from the 17th century, and is home to the Royal Palace and the Opera House.
The Spanish capital is a modern city, too, as evidenced on the Gran Via, a 20th/21st century hub of restaurants, hotels and shopping, and the Paseo de La Castellana, known for its modern architecture. Madrilenos take pride in their art museums — there are 73 — particularly the Prado, which counts works by such notables as El Greco, Goya and Velazquez among its permanent collection, and the Reina Sofia, where visitors see masterpieces by the likes of Dali, Miro and Picasso.
Situated midpoint in the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid also is known for fine cuisine, thanks in part to its multicultural heritage, with dishes that range from seafood and meat to the popular mini-dishes, called tapas, available at designated bars throughout the city. Given that most restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., the city’s robust nightlife is a given.
As capital of Spain, Madrid also is a hub for finance and government and has several convention centers and exhibition halls.
The city is more than 2,000 feet above sea level, and temperatures can drop to freezing in winter.
Things to do for Venturers
- Leap into the skies on a tandem skydiving jump — no experience necessary, just plenty of nerve — at Skydivelillo, just outside the city. Or, just sightsee from a hot-air balloon.
- Hit the slopes at the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains, about 36 miles from Madrid, where rental equipment is available. In other seasons, make that a self-guided mountain biking tour.
- Try windsurfing and kayaking in the nearby Sierra Norte Mountains, or brave the rapids on inflatable dinghies on the Lozoya River.
- Catch your dinner fishing for trout and crabs at any of a number of rivers and reservoirs sprinkled throughout greater Madrid.
- Dance the night away during the 2 de Mayo Fiesta, when throngs of people party in the streets in remembrance of Napoleon’s defeat in the early 19th century.
- Saddle up for a horseback ride through the Fresnedillas de la Oliva Sierra Oeste Mountains. Riders can usually choose half- or full-day outings.
Things to do for Centrics
- Learn to cook at one of the numerous cooking schools in Madrid, such as A Taste of Spain, which includes food preparation and lunch with wine.
- Take in the sights from a cable car, which leaves from the Pintor Rosales, and keep your eye out for such landmarks as the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral below.
- See soccer played the way it was meant to be played at a Real Madrid game and see why the team won the 2006-07 ACB league championships.
- Enjoy a day at the zoo and aquarium at the Casa de Campo, where you can also book a dolphin encounter.
- Brave the roller coaster at the Parque de Atracciones in Casa de Campo theme park, but don’t try it right after lunch.
- Unwind at the Medina Mayrit Baths, which features Arabic baths in a traditional hammam, as well as a restaurant and live entertainment.
Things to do for Authentics
- Buy a 24-, 48- or 72-hour Madrid Card for free admission to the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum, among other attractions.
- Take a self-guided tour of Goya’s life and art, ranging from his statue on Calle Antonio Maura to the shrine of San Antonio de la Ribera del Manzanares, which contains some of his bones.
- Sample regional dishes, which can range from grilled prawns to tripe and roast pig.
- Get in the yule spirit from mid-December to Jan. 5 with a little help from Christmas concerts in churches throughout the city and the Three Kings’ Parade in the Plaza Mayor.
- Shop for olive oil at La Vaguada Shopping Centre or learn about the various uses of cocoa at the Cacao Sampaka cocoa market.
- Stroll through the Rastro, an open-air flea market that takes place Sundays near the Ribera de Curtidores.
For more information, consult Destination Madrid at www.esmadrid.com/en