In recent years, Madrid’s food scene has evolved to become one of the best in Europe, if not the world. Combining traditional flavours and local produce, with a range of new and innovative culinary techniques, the tapas here is unlike anything you’ll have tasted before. The restaurant scene in Madrid might be undergoing something of a gastronomic revolution, but its roots remain the same. Here, mealtimes are all about celebrating good ingredients, good food and good company.
Madrid is recognised all over Spain as one of the country’s most important cultural destinations, and it’s not hard to see why. An absolute haven for artists and art-lovers alike, the city boasts a truly impressive array of museums, with collections featuring everything from Spanish greats such as Goya, Picasso and Velasquez, to the works of Italian, Flemish and German sculptors and painters. In many galleries, exhibits date from the present day right back to medieval times.
Whether you want to dance until the early hours or simply enjoy a cocktail or two, the nightlife in Madrid offers something for everyone. With more bars than almost anywhere else in the world, there really is a drinking establishment for every mood, so however you decide to spend the evening, you won’t be short of choice. The high-end restaurant scene is accompanied by a selection of equally sophisticated cocktail bars but for something a little more casual, just follow the crowds to find the best party in town.
With more than 7,000 paintings, the collection at Madrid’s Museo del Prado is one of the largest in the world. Used as a barracks for Napoleon’s troops during the early 1800s, this magnificent building became a museum in 1814, opening five years later with just over 300 artworks on display. Because today’s collection is so large, only 1,500 exhibits are available to see at any one time but even so, it’s a good idea to plan your visit over a couple of days to make sure you get the most out of the experience.
Madrid’s picturesque Plaza Mayor was designed in 1619 by Juan Gómez de Mora, and has since been the site of some of the city’s most exciting – and at times controversial – events. During the Spanish Inquisition, heretics were burned at the stake here and until 1878, regular bullfights were held to commemorate royal occasions such as births, deaths and marriages. Today the square is altogether more tranquil; it’s perfect for people watching at any time of year, and in December, the Christmas market is a great place to stop for a drink or do a bit of shopping.
Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro really is a breath of fresh air. Opened to the public back in 1868, this beautiful park features an array of impressive monuments, buildings and statues, including the Monument to Alfonso XII, and the wonderfully elegant Palacio de Cristal. Whether you’re here to stop for a picnic, take a rowing boat for a spin or simply watch the world go by, this is without a doubt one of the most peaceful spots in the city.
It might not be home to the royal family any more, but Palacio Real is still one of the grandest buildings in the whole of Madrid, and with almost 3,000 rooms inside, it really is the very definition of palatial. The palace interior features sumptuous fabrics, an ornate stucco ceiling, and more than 200 intricate clocks, as well as a series of original works by the world-renowned Spanish painter, Goya.
In Madrid, there is essentially no period of moderate weather and the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring are often short-lived, called by the Spansh sol o sombra, meaning “sun or shadow” when it comes to the weather. In the summer, daily highs can sometimes reach in the region of 40 degrees but the best month to visit would be June where temperatures hit an average maximum of 27 degrees.
If you are a British citizen, you don’t need a visa to enter Spain but you must have a valid passport. For the latest information on European travel regulations, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain/entry-requirements.
The currency is the Euro (EUR).
Spanish is the main language spoken.