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Guide to Madrid. What to do and see in Madrid

Madrid is the capital of Spain. Located in the middle of the country, 660 metres above sea level it gets extremely hot in summer and cold in winter, like many other interior cities in Spain. If you don't like walking in temperatures of around 40ºC it is not advisable to visit Madrid in the Summer. On the other hand, if you don't mind the heat but don't like crowds, August is the best month as thousands of Madrileños leave the city to spend their holiday month elsewhere.


Madrid is well equipped for tourisim with its large number of hotels and restaurants. It is well connected to the rest of the country by road and rail. The city itself has an extremely user-friendly underground system, bus network and local trains to surrounding areas. As in any major European capital city, stations get extremely crowded during rush hour times.

Madrid is a charming city with a lot of personality. People from Madrid are friendly and hospitable. There are many historical buildings and sights to visit. For further information see: museums, palaces, parks and sights in Madrid.

Walking around Madrid

Madrid is a lovely city to walk around, full of interesting plazas, buildings, parks, shops.... Here are a few recommendations of the best places to stroll around to get a real feel of the city. For more detailed description of Madrid's main sights, click on the links at the bottom of the page.

MadridBarrio del Madrid Antiguo or Madrid de los Austrias: this is an old neighbourhood full of bars, pubs and restaurants with lots of history. It is where you can find many of Madrid's oldest buildings, squares and monuments such as the Palacio Real, the Opera House, the famous Puerta del Sol where Madrileños gather to greet the New Year, the Plaza Mayor, the Arco de Cuchilleros, the Basílica de San Miguel, the Almudena Cathedral, the Encarnación Monastery, the Descalzas Monastery, la Casa Cisneros, la Colegiata de San Isidro and the Santa Cruz palace...A walk along calle Mayor, which goes from the Palacio Real to the Puerta del Sol, and which is full of shops of every type is definitely recommended. Also recommended is a walk along calle Arenal, the location of an old church called Iglesia de San Ginés and many interesting shops.

MadridThe area known as Madrid de los Borbones, is another place which shouldn't be missed. This is where the famous Retiro park is located. The Barrio de Salamanca, is one of Madrid's most exclusive areas where the most expensive designer shops, art studios, hotels and residences are located. People who enjoy window-shopping are advised to stroll along the streets Serrano, Velazquez and Claudio Coello. Two well-known plazas (Plaza Cibeles and Plaza Colón) are in Salamanca, as is the Retiro Park with its boating lake and open-air artists and buskers, the National Library, the Arqueological Museum and the Real Jardín Botánico (Botanic Gardens).

Many of Madrid's most important museums are in the area known as Alcalá: the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Reina Sofía, the National Archeological museum, the Military Musuem and the Decorative Arts museum. You can also see the emblematic Puerta de Alcalá. Other historical buildings to see are the Teatro Español, el Congreso de los Diputados, Atocha station, el Café Gijón, la Casa de Lope de Vega, el Ateneo...

To the west of the city you have the Gran Vía, a commercial street where many theatres, cinemas and restaurants can be found as well as the Gran Casino de Madrid. The Plaza de España and the hill known as la Cuesta de San Vicente, which goes down from the Estación del Norte (the North Station) and along el Paseo de la Florida, eventually takes you to the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida. From the Plaza de España you can easily get to the Parque del Oeste or de Rosales where you can visit the Templo de Debod.

In the east of the city you can visit the famous bullring la Plaza de Toros de las Ventas, in the street called calle Alcalá.

To the south of the city you can find interesting areas such as La Latina and Lavapiés. This is where the famous Rastro flea market is located. The Reina Sofia Museum of Art is situated between el Paseo de las Delicias and el Paseo de Santa María de la Cabeza, Embajadores and la Ronda de Atocha.

The Paseo de la Castellana is the centrepoint of the city. It crosses from the north to the south of Madrid (the impressive Kio towers are situated in the Plaza Castilla), it continues until the Plaza Colón where it becomes the Paseo de Recoletos until the Plaza de Cibeles (flanked by the main headquarters of the Bank of Spain and the Post Office) where it becomes the famous Paseo del Prado. This continues until la Glorieta Carlos V, next to the Atocha railway station. The headquarters of banks, and the most important national companies are all found on the Paseo de la Castellana as well as the most famous museums and galleries: the Thyssen, the Prado, the National Library, the Science Museum...There are also a number of government ministeries here too: (the Ministry for Work, the Ministry of Defence...). The Museum of Sculpture can also be found here with exhibits from contemporary artists such as Botero and Chillida as well as buildings such as the Picasso Tower, the Tower of Europe and the world famous Santiago Bernabeu football stadium, home to Real Madrid.

MadridAdvice on eating out in Madrid: There are thousands of restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world as expected in any capital city. Even though it could hardly be further from the coast, people say that 'Madrid is the best harbour in the world' referring to the excellent fish and seafood restaurants. The most typical restaurants in Madrid are called 'mesones' or 'tascas', serving traditional dishes and tapas. Asian and Japanese restaurants are very popular in Madrid at the moment as is creative cuisine, and some of Spain's best innovative chefs have restaurants in the capital city. For reviews of our favourite restaurants see restaurants in Madrid and for reviews of what the food critics rate as the top of the bunch, see best restaurants in Madrid

The best restaurants in the area surrounding Madrid: It is very typical for people from Madrid to go to the area known as the Sierra at weekends to escape the city. There are some excellent restaurants in this area where you can eat typical dishes from the province. Here are a few we recommend: El Charolés in El Escorial (c/ Floridablanca, 24, Tel: 91 890 59 75); Mesón de la Virreina in Chinchón (Telf: 91 894 00 15, Plaza Mayor, 28); El Caserón de Araceli in San Agustín de Gudadalix, (c/ Olivar, 8, Tel: 91 841 85 31); Casa Pablo in Aranjuez (Telf: 91 891 14 51, c/ Almibar, 42); Casa José in Aranjuez (c/ Abastos, 32, Tel: 91 891 14 88); El Cenador de Salvador in Moralzarzal (Av. de España, 30, Tel: 91 857 77 22); La Ermita de los Negrales in Alpedrete-Los Negrales (c/Santa Emilia, 4 B, Tel: 91 851 33 71); D'Moncho in Guadarrama (Plaza de España, 5, Tel: 91 854 33 98; La Chimenea in Alpedrete, c/ La Sierra, 20 (Tel: 91 854 29 36); Mesón del Comendador in (Plaza Mayor, 21, Tel: 91 894 04 20); Casa Sala in Guadarrama, (on the los Molinos road, 2, Tel: 91 854 21 21); Bodega La Ardosa (c/ Colón, 13).

For good tapas we recommend: Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas, La Chata (c/ Cava Baja, 24), Oliver (c/ Almirante, 12), El Telegrafo (c/ Padre Damián, 44), José Luis, (Paseo de la Habana, 4), La Gran Barra de la Máquina (por Angela de la Cruz, 22), Viña Olivo (Infanta Mercedes/Pensamiento), El Mesón de los Castúos, (Infanta Mercedes, 56), Entrevinos (c/ Ferraz, 36), L'Antigua, (c/ O'Donnell,8), Cervecería Santa Barbará (c/Alcalá,149; Goya,70; Pl.Sta. Barbara, 8),

Cuisine from Madrid: Madrid does not have any special dishes as such but incorporates dishes from the province such as hotpots and stews - popular due to the harsh temperatures in winter.

Some dishes to look out for are: el Cocido Madrileño (a type of stew), los Callos a la madrileña (tripe); el Asados de Cordero (roast lamb), Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), Cabrito al Ajillo (baby goat with garlic sauce), Caracoles a la madrileña (snails), Ensalada de San Isidro (salad), Potage de vigilia con garbanzos (chickpea stew), Besugo a la madrileña (sea bream Madrid style), Rabo de Buey con setas (oxtail with mushrooms) , Estofado de toro de Las Ventas (stew made from the bulls killed in the Ventas bullring), Bacalao a la madrileña (cod Madrid style), Cochinillo asado (roast piglet), Guisadillo de ternera madrileño (beef stew), Criadillas de cordero (lamb).

Popular deserts are: Panecillo de San Antón de yema, Bartolillos, Huesos de Santo, Natillas estilo Casa Lucio, Madrileñas, Torrijas, Churros, Leche Frita, Buñuelos de viento.

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