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.
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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: April-June, September-October. Very best? June and September.
Worst: July-August, the holiday
period may be extremely hot, averaging highs of 30C-35C (86F-95F) reaching up to 40C, though it's usually a dry heat.
November - January can be bitterly cold with average lows of zero to 4C (40F).
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.
Things to do in Madrid:
• Wander around the
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.
Sadly Plaza Cibeles is a very busy roundabout so getting a close look at the Roman goddess of fertility in her lion-drawn chariot in the centre of the plaza would be suicidal.
...and the oddest train station décor can be seen at Atocha Railway Station long-distance section (Barcelona, Valencia and southern Spain). This is inside! Next, Madrid Old City Sights.
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.
Don't even think about driving around the city, parking is near impossible and roads labyrinthine.
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