“From Madrid to heaven, and in heaven a little window to see it”. Spanish proverb
Madrid was only made the capital of Spain in 1606. The result is a delightful mishmash of a city. Beyond an old town of maze-like streets are grand neoclassical boroughs, and beyond that a sprawling suburbia. At the centre of it all is the Plaza Mayor, a giant, bustling public square.
When Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992, it stole Madrid’s place at the front of foreigners’ minds. But this has been a blessing in disguise for the capital. Fewer visitors means that Madrid has kept more of its authenticity.
Now, the home of Los Blancos offers just about everything to the modern visitor. From palaces to museums, cafés to football, fiestas to parks, the city moulds itself to any itinerary. The Plaza Mayor is a must-see in itself, but don’t forget the Royal Palace, residence of the Spanish king. The Buen Retiro Park is giant, boasting fountains and boat trips beneath Spanish sunshine. The Prado Museum has one of the Europe’s finest collections of art. For those in search of “living” culture are the verbenas, public festivals held each quarter in honour of Madrid’s patron saint. But late evening and night are when the city becomes electric, as residents descend on cinemas, theatres, cafés and restaurants. It’s as if Madrid cleanses itself of mass tourism every sunset.
Dodge the bullet of the Costa del Sol, and come here instead.
Places to Stay: