Madrid City Guide
Madrid Location: Central Spain (Communidad de Madrid)
Madrid is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Madrileños are a vigorous, joyful lot, famous for their apparent ability to defy the need for sleep; they embrace their city’s cultural offerings and make enthusiastic use of its cafés and bars. If you can match this energy, you’ll take in Madrid’s museum mile, with more masterpieces per square foot than anywhere else in the world; the palaces and boutiques of regal Madrid; the dark, narrow lanes of medieval Madrid; and Madrid post-midnight, where today’s action is.
Life in Madrid is lived in the crowded streets and in the noisy cafés, where talking, toasting, and tapa-tasting last long into the night. Many find the city’s endless energy hard to resist, and its social lifestyle makes it especially easy for travelers to get involved.
Madrid’s other chief attraction is its unsurpassed collection of paintings bysome of the world’s great artists, among them Goya, El Greco, Velázquez, Picasso, and Dalí. Nowhere else will you find such a concentration of masterpieces as in the three museums—the Prado, the Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza—that make up Madrid’s so-called Golden Triangle of Art.
The bright blue sky, as immortalized in Velázquez’s paintings, is probably the first thing you’ll notice about Madrid. Despite 20th-century pollution, that sky is still much in evidence thanks to breezes that sweep down from the Guadarrama mountains, blowing away the urban smog.
The skyline has its share of skyscrapers, but these are far outnumbered by the more typical Madrid towers of red brick crowned by gray slate roofs and spires. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries by the occupying Habsburgs, who made Madrid the capital of the Iberian realm, this architecture gives parts of Madrid a timeless, Old World feel. Monumental neoclassical structures, like the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace, and the Puerta de Alcalá arch—the sights most visited by travelers—make up Madrid’s other historic face. Most of these were built in the 18th century, during the reign of Bourbon monarch Charles III; inspired by the enlightened ideas of the age, Charles also created Retiro Park and the broad boulevard known as the Paseo del Prado.
Madrid’s sophistication stands in vivid contrast to the ancient ways of the historic villages nearby. Less than an hour away from the downtown skyscrapers are villages where farm fields are still plowed by mules. Like urbanites the world over, Madrileños like to escape to the countryside. Getaways to the dozens of Castilian hamlets nearby and to Toledo, El Escorial, and Segovia are cherished by both locals and travelers.
Castilla (Castile), the area surrounding Madrid, is a vast, windswept plateau with clear skies and endless vistas. An outstanding Roman aqueduct and a fairy-tale castle and cathedral make Segovia one of the most popular excursions from Madrid. The walled city of Ávila was the home of St. Teresa, Spain’s female patron saint, and the university town of Salamanca is a flourish of golden sandstone. Aranjuez tempts with the French-style elegance of a Bourbon palace, while enigmatic Toledo is dramatic and austere, with rich legacies from three religions.
Things To See And Do In The Area
- Visit world class art museums
- Check out the Puerto del Sol
- Visit the royal palace
- Visit nearby Segovia or Toledo
- Excellent nightlife
- Great dining
- Explore the city
- And much…much…more!
We are confident that learning Spanish at the Madrid Spanish School will be a wonderful experience!
Getting To Madrid, Spain
Fly into Madrid
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