Madrid Pictures and Visitor Information
The Casa de la Panaderia building in Madrid's Plaza Mayor, the city's most famous plaza and site of many inquisition burnings, bullfights, concerts, markets and tourist restaurants and cafés.
Spain's capital, Madrid, is far less toxic than many guide books would have you believe. Traffic is no worse than many European capitals, air pollution is acceptable - our researchers walked 12km a day in the city centre without noticeable effects - and litter is being exterminated throughout by an army of cleaner conquistadors.
Madrid is hardly one of the best places to travel in Europe but it does offer the tourist magnificent, ornate buildings packed into a compact old city centre, generally approachable natives, superb museums and an extraordinarily late and lively night life - and not just for the young dudes.
It is not, however, a particularly good city for kids since it's primarily about buildings, museums and late night partying.
A fine example of a tiled Madrileño bodega/bar.
Best Seasons: April-June, September-October. Very best? June and September.
The Don Quixote monument in Plaza de España, one of the few Madrid attractions to appeal to kids. Unfortunately the buildings surrounding the Don are stunningly unattractive and uninteresting mini skyscrapers.
• Wander around the Old City (el Centro), starting perhaps at the old city gateway, Puerta de Alcala, passing various wildly over decorated buildings and stumbling through the city's heart (Puerta del Sol), soul (Plaza Mayor), wallet (Royal Palace) and brain (Plaza de España, Quixote monument). Some parts will be traffic free, others will not.
• Visit the 'Golden Triangle' museums of del Prado and Reina Sofia for great Spanish works and then relax in the lush Royal Botanic Garden.
• Stroll the back streets looking for funky tiled buildings, odd monuments and markets.
• Eat late, very late, and try at least Spanish ham and tapas, drink sherry and vino roja in a thousand little bars and cafés, but don't bother with the frequently dry and disgusting paella. Madrid is not a coastal town so sea food is unlikely to be fresh or cheap.
The most spectacular Post Office known to mankind is in Plaza Cibeles...
Palacio de Cibeles, that dazzling confection above, encompasses Madrid City Hall, various cultural centres, the Bank of Spain and the city's main Post Office.
...and the oddest train station décor can be seen at Atocha Railway Station long-distance section (Barcelona, Valencia and southern Spain). This is inside!
Madrid has two main rail stations, Chamartin in the north and Atocha in the south. Both stations have excellent connections to the city's massive and efficient underground metro network. The metro system is both cheap and bilingual so a lot easier to use than local buses and much cooler too, in the summer.
Puerta de Alcala and the start of Madrid Old City.
Madrid's main street, Gran Via.
Gran Via is a bit traffic heavy and possesses few ground-level attractions but the rooftops are exquisite. It runs from Plaza de Cibeles to Plaza de España and does offer Madrid's main cinema district and a selection of shopping malls.
Madrid Old Town Hall, Plaza de la Villa.
Madrid National Library entrance. Fine exterior, forget the interior unless you're a Spanish literature professor.
Mercado de San Miguel, a fairly normal, large market inside but gorgeous exterior.
Another weird and wonderful old artifact in Madrid. So that's where Dali got his museum poo-on-the-walls idea from! Or not. Maybe Dali designed the exterior of this building.
The Royal Palace.
The vast Palacio Real no longer houses the Spanish Royal Family but is frequently in use for important state ceremonies and has lovely pedestrian-only walks around it.
Tours of the palace, both guided and not guided are available, with glittering displays of elaborate state goodies such as china, silver, fixtures and fittings as well as armour and weapons in the Royal Armoury.
Open Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sundays and holidays from 9am-3pm. It's pay to enter except on Wednesdays when it's free, but inevitably crowded.