Travel to Madrid?
Not quite making it into Europe's top five
cities but Madrid has many grand, ornate buildings, some superb museums,
and the mother of all late night party scenes - and not just for the
young tourists. Madrileños of all ages just love to
walk, talk, drink and smoke late into the night.
Myths blown: Traffic! No worse than most other big cities; Roadworks!
Not when we were there; Street litter! An army of cleaning conquistadores slay
every scrap on sight; Pickpockets! No worse than etc etc...
The city centre is small, well signposted, the natives are friendly
- apart from some harassed bar/restaurant staff, the metro/tube is
efficient and the tap water is drinkable - if you like the taste of
went to bed here until they had killed the night ' Hemingway
- Spain is not a cheap option, though the credit crunch has introduced a reality check into prices.
- Big baroque buildings can get monotonous after a while, there
isn't much architectural variety around.
- Church overdose is particularly rampant.
Best: April-June, September-November. Very best? June and September.
Worst: July-August, the holiday
period and extremely hot, averaging highs of 30C-35C (86F-95F), though it's usually a dry heat).
October - December are the wettest and coldest months, with averaging lows of zero to 4C (40F). May is also quite rainy.
Current Madrid temperature and time.
Things to Do
The most important sights are clustered in the Centro (the old city) so walking that route is Madrid's main attraction,
from the Royal Palace at the west end to the incredible
Post Office at the east.
On the way between them visitors will stumble upon many and varied plazas that
will offer refreshments and sights.
Best plazas are: Mayor (great
murals), del Sol, de Oriente, and de
Oddest great sights: the most magnificent Post Office ever (Plaza
Cibeles), the strangest train station waiting room (Atocha's tropical
Madrid's best green relief is Parque del Retiro.
And don't forget to try some of the little tiled bars where Carmen
awaits you, possibly.
Museums: Among many in in this city three art museums stand out - the
Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia,
all featuring paintings and all in the Golden Triangle of Art on Paseo del Prado.
For something different Museo de America has Latin American artefacts
and Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas has an interesting collection
of interior goodies.
The tiny Museo Sorolla is charmingly set in Sorolla's former home.
Classical Music: Auditorio Nacional.
Dance/Opera: Teatro Real, Teatro Albeniz, Teatro de la Zarzuela.
Theatre: Some good theatre, but naturally in Spanish - try Teatro
de la Comedia, Teatro Maria Guerrero or Teatro Alfil if you're
up to it.
El Escorial, 50km NW (plenty of trains from Atocha station)
is a stunning palace/monastery complex (April-Sept only). Toledo
70km south (good trains) is a gorgeous town with a fascinating medieval
heart and a million tourists checking its beat, while Aranjuez 48km
south is a pleasant town with a superb palace.
From about 10-20 May, but esp. 15 May, Fiesta de San Isidro. Lots
of dancing in traditional clothing, concerts, stalls.
27 July-15 Aug, lively local fiestas in La Latina, Lavapies and
Calle de Calatrava.
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
There's plenty of action in the old city in plazas and bars, but
for more exclusively Spanish nightlife target the areas that
locals frequent: Huertas (ages 18-30), Malasaña(30s), Chueca
(gay), Salamanca (older/posh), Bilbao and Alonso Martinez(varied).
Classy: especially convenient are the pedestrianised
streets running off the Plaza Puerta del Sol - Preciados and Carmen,
and Gran Via. And if you don't know where to find something, try
El Corte Ingles which is everwhere and appears to stock everything.
Wacky: El Rastro Sunday market is large and prettily located,
tho' a little short of originality.
ps. don't buy the cheap CDs you will see offered by hawkers everywhere.
Many have flaws.
Madrileños famously start early with coffee, brandy and tasteless
churros (unless you get the chocolate coated variety), and dine
late, tho restaurants are well used to serving aliens early.
In fact many central places shut around midnight.
Madrid meals tend to be bread/protein heavy so dieters and vegetarian
tourists will have a struggle.
Naturally price differentials between tourist places and local eateries
are huge, so budget travellers should avoid the big plaza restaurants.
The most typical Madrid dish is 'El Cocido Madrileño' (chicken
soup with noodles, chickpeas, meat, ham, chorizo and vegetables).
There are plenty of hotels - both good value and not so - in the
city centre, so stay there and save on taxis/tube hassles, unless
you're in Madrid for the big museums and have a big wad. However, since Madrileños like to party very late - often until dawn - it's best to get a room in a hotel/guest house/hostal that's away from potentially noisy street scenes.
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