Posted by on 01 Nov 2019 , in Europe
No other place on earth celebrates life as vividly as the beguiling capital of Spain, Madrid. Music, art and food form the fabric of daily life in the city, seducing people to let go, take it easy and just enjoy the best things in life. Crisscrossed by cobblestone pedestrian streets and dotted by sprawling palaces, numerous museums and world-class art galleries, Madrid pulls in around 6 million international visitors each year, making it the most visited city of Spain. Go on an adventure and get lost in the maze of its streets and alleys, tantalize the taste buds with an array of tasty tapas and come sunset, nail a lofty spot and witness the late sunlight transform Madrid into a striking, golden sight that will simply take your breath away.
Madrid is undoubtedly one of the most historic cities in the world. Built in 854 by Muhammad I, emir of Cordoba, Madrid was originally a settlement called Mayrit (or Magerit), a name derived from the Arabic work majira which means water channel. Because of its strategic location in the heart of the peninsula, the city changed hands several times until the travelling royal court and parliament of Cortes took hold of it in 1309. When Felipe II sat on the Spanish throne in 1556, Madrid was already a walled city boasting six stone gates and 130 towers. However, it was only during the Spanish golden age in the 17th century that Madrid began to really be the capital, replacing the former mud fortifications with stronger constructions and listing around 175,000 residents, making it Europe’s fifth largest city at the time after London, Paris, Constantinople and Naples.
WHERE IS MADRID?
Located at the heart of the Iberian Peninsula on the southern Meseta Central and mere 60 kilometres away from the Guadarrama mountains in the north, Madrid enjoys an ideal position as the climate is cooled by mountain breezes during summer. Although the city is a delightful destination all year round, the best time to be in Madrid is from September to November in the fall or March to May during spring when balm temps blow through the capital. Here’s a tip: If you’re working a tight budget and don’t mind drab weather, come visit in the winter when hotel rates are often slashed.
Madrid’s first-rate transport system lets travellers get around the city easily and safely. Its underground metro is one of the best in the world and can take you to pretty much anywhere in the capital. Cabs are also common and the train and city bus systems are also well-organized and accessible. Public buses are easy to spot; just look for the ones marked “EMT”. A single ride costs around €1.50. If you want to get a quick overview of the city and visit the top sites, the city tour buses are a brilliant idea. Join a hop-on/hop-off Madrid city tour to see the architectural and cultural magnificence of Madrid from a double-decker bus. A city map and discount vouchers are even included for shops and restaurants along the bus routes, and buses depart regularly so you don’t have to worry much about working it into your schedule!
WHAT’S TO LOVE ABOUT MADRID?
Spain’s capital city is sure to entice you with its many activities and never-ending possibilities. Art aficionados would not want to miss Madrid’s famous ‘Golden Triangle of Art’, an area within the city centre that is home to three museums: Prado Museum, Reina Sofia National Art Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Prado Museum is the primary national art museum of Spain, housing the single best collection of Spanish art and one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the 12th to early 20th century. 20th century art is lodged in Reina Sofia National Art Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, or simply Thyssen, fills the historical gaps in the two’s collections.
Wanna try something new? Join a Segway tour!
The city’s oldest districts and famed attractions are also begging to be rediscovered—and there’s more than one way to do so. You can explore the capital on foot and walk to the breathtaking Royal Palace and the Cathedral of Almudena, or get some adrenaline pumping with a bike tour.
Pedal your way through Madrid!
Wanna try something new? Wind your way through the vibrant city on the innovative Segway! Segway tours often start at the glamorous Plaza de Callao and trace the Gran Via, one of Madrid’s most important commercial arteries, and destinations include the mysterious and romantic Debod’s Temple, an authentic ancient temple of Egyptian Pharaohs.
Debod’s Temple, a piece of Egypt in Madrid
Beautiful Madrid is also full of diverse neighbourhoods ranging from the bustling business centres to the hip Chueca quarter where one can enjoy fashion in all its shapes and sizes. The quarter is also where you want to be for really great nightlife. Whether you want to dance until dawn or enjoy a quiet drink, the multitude of bars and clubs in Chueca is sure to have something for you. Speaking of drinks and food, here’s a huge must: TAPAS! No visit to Spain is ever complete without sampling the mouth-watering tapas. Give it a try and chances are you’ll be asking for seconds (or thirds) or combing the capital city for the best tapas in no time! Tapas have become quite enmeshed in the local culture and plenty of visitors to the city sign up for tapas and wine tasting tours hosted by Madrid-born connoisseurs to get an authentic insight into Spain’s gastronomic side.
Never leave Madrid without eating (a lot of) tapas!
For lazy afternoons, head to the city’s elaborate main square, Plaza Mayor. A bronze statue of King Phillip III (he built the plaza by the way), adorns the centre of the grand arcaded square. There are nine entrance ways and rows of three-story residential buildings surround the square with all their 237 balconies facing the Plaza, so there’s just absolutely no way you’ll run out of places to kill some time in even when the square gets quite crowded.
Madrid is also a city of elegant boulevards embraced by parks such as El Buen Retiro, the city’s version of New York’s Central Park. The expansive public park is one of the largest in the capital, filled with magnificent sculptures, galleries and monuments. Spend some quiet time by the peaceful lake or admire the powerfully-rendered Fountain of the Fallen Angel whose crowning statue of a fallen angel is a Ricardo Bellver masterpiece inspired by verses from John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Some statues of kings sculpted between 1750 and 1753 also line the famous Paseo de las Estatuas (Statue Walk), and a collection of 19th and 20th century paintings are housed in the Casón, including some creations by the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla. El Buen Retiro is also a popular venue for different international exhibitions and local events and there’s a huge chance you’ll stumble upon one should you go there.