Madrid Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Spain > Madrid > History

Spanish people will tell you that while the rest of the world lives to work, the people of Spain work to live. Nowhere is that more evident than in the capital. If you could only visit one city in Spain, then Madrid would have to be the place, for it is here that all the country comes together in a wonderfully diverse mixture of excitement and pleasure. Its unrivaled number of bars, cafés, discos, restaurants, and live music venues, combined with the typically Spanish manner to enjoy them, makes this the place to come for unbridled fun. Above all, and it will become clear after little time, Madrid's main attraction are the Madrileños themselves with their freespirit and love of life. Although historically not in a league with Paris, Rome or even Barcelona for sights per se, there is still plenty to keep you busy intellectually, with the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen Bornemizsa museums ranking as some of the best in Europe. Recently completed restorations have now given the city a brilliant shine.

Sol - The heart of it all! Puerta del Sol is where you should start your tour of Madrid. Expect to find hustle and bustle, meeting points, traffic terminals, noise, shops, news stands, as well as wonderful 19th-century buildings, cafés, bars, restaurants and people moving about. From this point your feet can take you anywhere. Head up Calle Mayor and find Plaza Mayor and Plaza de la Villa as well as the old historic district. Take Calle Arenal and visit the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and Teatro Real (Opera House). Go up the opposite Carrera de San Jerónimo and you will find the Prado or stroll down Alcalá to take in the grand bank buildings and Retiro Park.

Castellana- Very much the backbone of Madrid and much more than a wide, tree-lined street, this boulevard is so long that it has three official names. Come to relax, take a coffee break or sightsee. Starting from the Atocha train station, stroll up shady Paseo del Prado and take in two of Madrid's most famous art museums: the Prado and the Thyssen Bornemisza. Also in the area is the Real Jardín Botánico (Royal Botanical Gardens), which features numerous exotic plant species. Continue up until you reach the Plaza de Cibeles where you will encounter the grand, Palacio de Telecomunicaciones which looks slightly like an ornate wedding cake and dwarfs the ornate Goddess Cibeles fountain in front of it.

Suddenly, the stretch turns into Paseo de Recoletos. A great place to take a relaxing stroll or, better still, stop into the Café Gijón for a café con leche (white coffee) over intellectual debate. There are frequent book and craft fairs along this part of the Castellana so check the local listings for times and dates. Continuing up, you will pass the massive square and monument to Columbus and the Bibilioteca Nacional (National Library). At this point, the street officially becomes the Paseo de la Castellana and is busy with the hustle and bustle of traffic. This section of the avenue features Real Madrid's home, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and various banks.

Gran Vía - This is yet another long avenue with a character that totally contradicts Castellana's: very busy and noisy, with swarms of locals and tourists as the traffic buzzes by. Look up and admire all the eccentric 20th-century architecture vying for your attention. Built during the Franco era, you will find every style represented, from Neo-baroque to Art Deco. As you follow the Gran Vía all the way from Calle Alcalá to Plaza de España, take note of the grand old movie houses, some of the last of their breed which continue hiring artists to paint original movie posters and with only one giant screen. Other buildings to watch out for are the elegantly domed Edificio Metrópolis at the Alcalá intersection, and the monstrous Telefónica building halfway down.

Madrid de los Austrias - This is old historic Madrid. It's a great place to just walk around in and lose yourself amongst the cobbled winding alleys, iron balconies and leaning old buildings. It's easy to imagine you're back in 18th century setting about to visit the King, especially at night when the street lamps give the place an even more romantic feel. Named after the Austrian Hapsburgs, this zone is also an elegant place to enjoy dinner or a drink. Within this neighborhood, visit the Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, the Opera House, great Basque restaurants and elegant cafés.

La Latina (The Rastro) - Just next to Madrid de los Austrias, this old district is notable for its huge array of bars, cafés and restaurants and Spain's largest flea market, the Rastro. Every Sunday morning until the early afternoon, you will find vendors selling everything from gracious antiques to old junk.

Retiro Park - Escape the city in this huge, lush, green Parque del Buen Retiro (Good Retreat Park). Do what the Madrileños do: Buy a bag of sunflower seeds or fried corn kernels, or kikos, dress up in your Sunday best and stroll down the long paseo (promenade) in front of the beautiful pond overlooked by a statue of Alfonso XII. On sunny days, you can rent a rowboat (watch out for the pesky splashers!), or you can enjoy one of the numerous magicians, folk musicians, Michael Jackson wannabes dancing away and poets (who will reject any donations under 50 pesetas!) performing on the promenade. The best way to enter this park is off of Calle Alcalá as you pass by the monumental 19th century Puerta de Alcalá. Watch your bags if you enter by the metro station, or if leaving at night. Right outside the boundaries of the park is elegant Salamanca, which features several up-scale boutiques and art galleries.

Moncloa and Argüelles - Nightlife, nightlife and more nightlife! This zone is dominated with great bars and tapas joints that don't even open until 9pm or later. A student enclave, come prepared to encounter a lot of enthusiasm.

Huertas and Plaza Santa Ana - This is yet another great spot for cafés, bars and nightlife action. It is centred around Plaza de Santa Ana. Located close to Madrid de los Austrias, this is also the place to go to see live music. The crowds here are 20 to 30-somethings. Here you will also find typical bars like Viva Madrid and Los Gabrieles, decorated in beautiful tiles and serving great cocktails and sangría. Or go to the traditional Cervecería Alemana for crowds, beer and tapas. Café Central is another perfect stop for coffee during the day or live jazz at night.

Malasaña and Chueca - This is a fairly quiet area during the day, with winding streets and 19th century architecture. At night it transforms itself into the perfect 'wild night on the town.' Young and old alike mix in a strong concentration of bars, discos and cafes. Malasaña is dominated by Plaza Dos de Mayo, while Chueca is the epicenter for the city's gay population. Discos like Black & White are great places to meet people while dancing or taking in a drag show!


  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. Temp. 42° 45° 49° 53° 60° 69° 76° 75° 69° 58° 48° 43°
Avg. Precip. 1.6 in 1.8 in 1.2 in 1.8 in 1.5 in 1.0 in 0.3 in 0.4 in 1.1 in 1.5 in 2.3 in 1.7 in

Fahrenheit temperature scale is used.