A Travel Guide to Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain, as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the same name (Comunidad de Madrid). As of July 2005, the population of the city was 3,228,000 and the population of the metro area was 5,843,000. Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage, a good example of which is the El Prado museum. Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world.
Madrid became Spain's capital simply by virtue of its geographical position at the centre of Iberia. Felipe II moved the seat of government here in 1561, to symbolize the unification and centralization of the country. The site itself had few natural advantages – it's 300km from the sea on a high plateau, freezing in winter, boiling in summer – and only the determination of successive rulers to promote a strong central capital ensured Madrid's survival.
Today, Madrid is a vast modern city, with a population of four million. While the journey in isn't pretty, the streets at its heart are a pleasant surprise, with pockets of medieval buildings and narrow, atmospheric alleys, dotted with the oddest of shops and bars, and interspersed with eighteenth-century Bourbon squares. There may be few sights of great architectural interest, but the monarchs did acquire outstanding picture collections, which formed the basis of the Prado museum. Thanks also to the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums, Madrid is a top port of call on the European art tour.
It's the lifestyle of the inhabitants – the madrileños – that's the capital's key attraction: hanging out in traditional cafés or summer terrazas, packing the lanes of the Sunday Rastro flea market or playing hard and very late in a thousand bars, clubs, discos and tascas.
Madrid's main sights occupy a compact area between the Palacio Real and the gardens of El Retiro. The great museums are ranged along the Paseo del Prado, over towards the Retiro. The oldest part of the city, known as Madrid de los Austrias, centres on the gorgeous, arcaded Plaza Mayor, just east of the Palacio Real.
However, monuments are not really what Madrid is about. To get a feel for the city you need to branch out a little, and experience the contrasting character of the various barrios. The most central and rewarding are the areas around Plaza de Santa Ana and c/Huertas, east of Puerta del Sol; La Latina and Lavapiés, south of Plaza Mayor, where the Sunday market, El Rastro, takes place; and Malasaña and Chueca, north of Gran Vía.
Madrid is located just northeast of the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula, in the middle of the Spanish central Castillian plateau (Meseta central), at an average altitude of 650m. Nearly all of the most famous tourist areas are located in the center of the city including Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, and Plaza de Colón. The major streets in Madrid include the Gran Via, Alcalá Street, and Paseo de la Castellana.
The climate of Madrid is continental; mainly dry and quite extreme at times. Madrid sees perpetual sunshine and a characteristically hot and dry summer, and a fairly cold winter with frequent frosts during the night and the occasional snowfall. Spring and autumn are mild with the most rainfall concentrated in these seasons. Spring and autumn are definitely the best times to visit, especially the months of April, May, June, September and October. There is very little rainfall during summer and also less rainfall during winter. During winter snow occurs sporadically, however snowfall usually lasts only for a few days, but there is abundant snowfall in the adjacent mountain ranges nearby.
Suzain Allen is a Travel Consultant and she has years of experience in travel industry. She in now introducing her views about Madrid travel and tourism.
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