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Introduction

Madrid, a capital city worthy of pride by the Spaniards. It is situated in the center of Spain and is modern and refreshing oozing with history and elegance. The buildings are tall and the streets are wide beckoning Spaniards and tourists alike to explore and enjoy what it has on offer.
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What to See


Puerta del Sol
The bear at Puerta del Sol
This is the heart of "old" Madrid and translates as the door to the sun. The semi circular junction of Plaza de Sol comprises of shops, bars and restaurants and serves as a great meeting point. Just to the left of one of the metro exits for Sol is the statue of the bear eating a strawberry tree or madrona - the symbol of Madrid. Just south of the bear you will find the statue of King Carlos III.

The Puerta del Sol is also known for being the point from where all distances are measured in Spain. This dates back centuries and so, when you travel around Spain, you can always find out how far you are from the Puerta del Sol.

Plaza Mayor
Street performers in the Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor is about a five-minute walk west from Puerta del Sol along the Calle Mayor. Plaza Mayor is yet another major meeting point and is buzzing with activity on sunny days as people enjoy a drink or meal at the cafes or simply sit in the square itself. The statue in the middle of Plaza Mayor is of Felipe III. The coloured murals of the front wall of the Plaza is the bakery that was built in the 16th century known as the Real Casa de la Panderia.

Palacio Real
The huge Palacio Real
The Palacio Real or Royal Palace is very impressive. It has been kept in immaculate condition and parts of it are open to the public. There are over 2000 rooms in the Palace and it is therefore understandable why the Royal family live in the countryside in a smaller and more manageable abode. The décor in the palace is tasteful and the chandeliers hanging in every room are amazing. The dining room can seat up to 140 people and the collections of silver, string instruments and porcelain as well as the Farmarcia (pharmacy) make for an interesting visit.

Catedral Santa Maria de la Almuneda
Inside the Cathedral
Catedral Santa Maria de la Almuneda is the beautiful cathedral next to the Palacio Real. The domed decorated ceiling is high and the windows are stained with religious images.

Plaza del Oriente
Plaza Del Oriente is the magnificent square next to the Palacio Real. The statue of the man on the horse is Felipe IV and the statues that surround the Plaza Del Oriente are of monarchs. There are over 40 of them and were originally designed to be placed on the Palacio Real.

Parque del buen Retiro
The lake at Parque del Buen Retiro
The Parque del buen Retiro is a park within walking distance from the Prado museum. It is huge and the gardens are gorgeous and far more worth a visit than Madrid's botanical gardens. There is a large man made lake where you can hire a boat and go paddling and the park itself is host to some art exhibitions. It is also home to the Crystal Palace that looks like a large green house. A fountain springs up in front of the Palace making it a perfect place to sit on the grass and take it all in.

Museo del Prado
Goya at the Museo del Prado
Museo del Prado needs no introduction. It is notorious for the large collection of Spanish art that it houses and rightly so. Artists include Goya, Rembrandt, Velazquez and El Greco. There are also numerous pieces created by other Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Italian and French artists. Be sure to get a map of the gallery when you enter to find your way around. The museum is open everyday and is free on a Sunday - but get there early to avoid the crowds.

For more information on the Museo del Prado, visit - http://www.museodelprado.es/en

Basilica San Francisco el Grande
The Basilica San Francisco el Grande may appear to be off the beaten track, unimpressive on the outside and may often be missed. Don't make this mistake. It is in the opposite direction and is actually the same distance away from the Palacio Real as the Plaza de Espana. The opening times seem to only be in the evenings but if you go on a Sunday you will be able to join one of the services. Be sure to visit this cathedral though as the interior and ceilings have been beautifully designed and decorated.

Plaza de Espana
Plaza de Espana
The Plaza de Espana is a 10-minute stroll from the Palacio Real. The statue in the middle is a monument to Cervantes. Grass and trees surround the Plaza and the sound of the beautiful fountains form a barrier between the busy city streets and the Plaza making it a perfect spot to take a break and people watch.

Palacio de Communi-
caciones
The Palacio de Communicaciones
The Palacio de Communicaciones must be one of Madrid's most amazing buildings. It is hard to believe that this architectural masterpiece is actually the Post Office!


What to Do


Go Shopping
There are a vast array of shops and boutiques in Madrid. You'll notice the number of "Zapaterias" or shoe shops in and around the Puerta del Sol. Don't limit yourself to this central area, try the Corte Ingles for a department store and visit the different suburbs to find a bit of everything from fruit market to designer clothes.

Eat in Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor on a sunny day is a great place to sit back and enjoy a drink or bite to eat as visitors stroll past. There are several cafes and tapas bars in the square where you can get something to quench your thirst or fill your stomach. Beware though, the prices are steep.

For a cheaper alternative, you can try one of the little restaurants on the side streets leading to Plaza Mayor and buy a bocadillo or sandwich filled with calamari, chorizo or jamon serrano.

See a Flamenco Show
You can watch and enjoy this wonderful dance at theatres, bars and impromptu in places around Madrid. To book a show or find out about acts, ask your hotel or hostel desk for information.

Visit the Museum del Prado
The museum is world renowned and definitely worth a visit to acquaint yourself with the brilliant Spanish artists Spain has given birth to.

Picnic in the Park
Parque del buen retiro is a good spot for a picnic and to get away from the city on a nice day. It is located just east of the Museo del Prado.

Go to a Soccer match
While in Madrid, why not try and see a game at the Bernabeu played one of the biggest clubs in the world - Real Madrid

Find out more at - www.realmadrid.es

Red Light District
A well-known area of Madrid that could be considered to be the city's Red Light District is on Calle de la Montera. There a sex shops, cinemas, peep shows and of course the ladies of the night. The locals speak of the area as safe due to the police presence.

Holidays in Spain
Need a holiday? Search with Dealchecker to find the best holidays in Spain at the lowest prices.

Alternatively, if you'd like to spend some time by the sea after your visit to Madrid, you can find all sorts of budget holidays to the balearics and the mediterranean to help you enjoy the Mallorcan coast.


What to Eat


Tapas
Literally meaning a pot top, tapas are served when you place an order for a drink but you can also make a meal of it. Choose a selection of dishes from calamari, jamon serrano, gambas or shrimp, salad, chorizo and bread.

Bocadillo
Bocadillo is the Spanish word for sandwich. You can have ham, calamari, cheese or chorizo bocadillos almost anywhere in Madrid.

Jamon Serrano
Spanish mountain cured ham and you'll be amazed at how much of it the Spaniards actually eat.

Shrimp or Prawns
Gambas and langostinos are the Spanish words for shrimp or prawns. Have them a la plancha, with garlic or just plain grilled. The Spanish are big fans of gambas and langostinos.

Paella
Paella is a rice based dish formerly a staple among peasants. You can have a seafood or chicken paella in many places around Madrid.

Beer
The popular beer in Spain is Mahou. Not bad at all after a long day walking. You can order it in a "cana" which is a small glass.

Wine
Rioja, Crianza, Torres, Sherry and Sangria ... Spain has an excellent variety of wines and they can all be found in Madrid.

Marquilla
Marquilla is a wafer cone you'll be able to spot on sale on the street by salesmen carrying them in baskets. You can have a plain or chocolate coated one.

La Casa del Abuelo
La Casa del Abuelo
La Casa del Abuelo is part of Madrid's cultural heritage. The name means, Grandfather's house and they serve tapas or seafood. The seafood establishment is a standup restaurant where they serve their special wine and specialise in shrimp a la plancha or in garlic. The seafood is delicious and la Casa del Abuelo is definitely worth a visit. You can find it near Puerta del Sol, off San Jeronimo Street on Calle de Victoria.

Museo del Jamon
The Museo del Jamon
The Museo del Jamon translates as the museum of ham and obviously specialises in ham. You can have a quick bite of a bocadillo with ham or cheese and enjoy it with a cana.


Where to Sleep


Hotel
There are a variety of hotels in Madrid to cater to different budgets and tastes. Many of the main hotel sites will have listings for you in Madrid or find Hotels.

Hostels
There are loads of hostels and cheap accommodation around Madrid. Prices vary from hostel to hostel but are generally affordable. Search and book Madrid youth hostels.

Hostal Asturias
Hostal Asturias offers basic accommodation centrally on San Jeronimo street. The staff are friendly and helpful and speak English. You can book a room at Hostal Asturias if you click here


How to Move


Airport
The Madrid Airport is called Barajas and is a quick 30 minute metro ride into the centre of town, Puerta del Sol. You can find information on Madrid Barajas Airport at www.aena.es

The national carrier of Spain is Iberia and you can find them at www.iberia.com

Taxi
Taxis are efficient and comfortable way to get around Madrid.

Metro
Madrid Metro
The Madrid Metro is quick, clean, affordable and very convenient to get all around Madrid. You can find a map of the Metro and more information of the Metro of Madrid at www.metromadrid.es

Walk
The sights in Madrid are mostly centrally located and easy to reach by foot. Be sure to get a map of the city before you set off.

Car
Driving in Madrid can be a difficult task and certainly not for everyone. A rental car is the ideal way to visit the province of Madrid.

Bus
Madrid has an extensive bus network which is both affordable and efficient.

Train
As with the rest of Europe, train travel is very popular throughout Spain and to and from Madrid.


Locals


Lively
Madrilenos are a lively bunch who enjoy their city to the maximum. They are friendly, helpful and chatty. If you are a bit lost, don't hesitate to ask and a local will point you in the right direction.

Language
Castilian Spanish

The locals do however appreciate visitors knowing the basics of Castellano. Many people speak basic English and French.

Currency
The Euro is the local currency.

Time Zone
GMT + 1

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