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Madrid - Capital City of Spain

Madrid is the capital city of Spain and also it's largest with a population of approximately 3.3 million.

Located in the centre of the country, Madrid is an ideal place to stay if you're looking to explore the country at large.

Of course there's lots to see and do within the city itself from parks to museums and designer shopping malls.

The whole city has a very modern feeling to it although there are plenty of very old and historic buildings throughout. The bohemian culture is also well preserved in those little side street restaurants, bars and cafe's where people are warm and friendly.

Being the financial centre of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid has modern infrastructure and busy city centre lifestyle. However, you don't have to travel too far out into the suburbs to notice how life starts to slow down into a more relaxed pace.

Still, if you're looking for some excitement to add to your holiday experience then the Madrid nightlife certainly won't disappoint you. Whether it's a night at the opera or hitting the trendy nightclub scene a night out here will be one to remember for a long time.

Top 10 things to do in Madrid

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace, locally named as Palacio Real de Madrid, is the official residence of the King of Spain.

The site where the palace has been built dates back from a 10th-century fortress and has seen many buildings come and go over the years.

The current building was built between 1738 and 1755 after the previous castle was burnt to the ground.

Today, the palace is a top Spanish visitors attraction as well as being actively used for state ceremonies.

The walls of the palace are richly adorned with paintings and tapestries from the several royal collections and the armory building contains weapons dating back to the 13th century.

Outside, to the west and north, are the extensive palace gardens and to the south lies the Plaza de la Armas square leading on to the Catedral de la Almudena.

When not closed for state occasions, the palace is open daily from 9am to 6pm (times vary slightly seasonally).

Almudena Cathedral

The catholic cathedral Santa María la Real de La Almudena has a long building history.

When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, plans were discussed to build a cathedral in the city dedicated to one of Madrid's patron saints, the Virgin of Almudena but construction did not begin until 1879.

Construction was constantly hampered by political issues as well as opposition from the archdiocese of Toledo and was halted completely during the Spanish Civil War.

Picked up again in 1950, the cathedral was finally completed and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Due to it's long build history, the cathedral has a mixture of architectural styles including a Gothic interior and baroque exterior as well as neo-Romanesque influences.

The architecture alone makes the cathedral quite a unique and interesting building to visit as does it's cast size, measuring 104m long and 76m wide with a central dome of 20m in diameter.

Open daily from 9am to 8.30pm. Entry is free.

Prado Museum

The Museo del Prado combines a museum with an art gallery and has one of the finest collections of European art from the 12th to early 19th century.

The painting collection held by the museum numbers almost 8,000 of which only around 1,300 are on display to the public at any one time.

The best known work on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Velázquez. Velázquez not only provided the Prado with his own works, but his keen eye and sensibility was also responsible for bringing much of the museum's fine collection of Italian masters to Spain.

As well as the permanent collection, the museum and gallery hosts temporary exhibitions which are detailed on the website.

This is one of the most visited art museums in the world with an average of 2.5 million annual visitors.

Closed every Monday and public holidays, the museum is open daily between 9am to 2pm. Audio guides are available, photography, food and drink are prohibited and backpacks can be stored in the museum's cloakroom.

Buen Retiro Park

Located behind the Prado museum, the Retiro Park is widely used by locals and tourist to escape the demands of modern Madrid life.

Whatever the day and time, there will be a mixture of people and ages using the park from kids on roller blades to older men playing the popular petanca (Bowls).

The park itself was originally built for King Phillip IV in the 17th century and was opened up to the public in the 1800's.

The Rosaleda rose garden is particularly beautiful in summer with it's Fountain of the Falling Angel at the centre.

Scattered throughout the park are various statues, ponds and lakes as well as original buildings, some restored and used as small museums showing painting collections.

The central lake is large enough to leisurely boat around or you can just sit on the steps, sipping a beer from the many terrazas (open-air bars), people watching and listening to the street entertainers.

Plaza Major

This central square plaza dates back to 1589 when King Phillip II remodelled the existing busy and chaotic square to an area where citizens could enjoy and use.

The plaza is surrounded on three sides by three-story residential buildings each with balconies that face directly onto the square.

The Casa de la Panadería municipal and cultural building sit's to the north of the square with it's slightly large four-story design and square towers at the ends.

Over the years the plaza has seen many uses including bull fighting, soccer matches, markets and even public executions, which thankfully don't happen today.

Widely uses as a central meeting area, the square is always busy and is often used in the summer months to host markets and entertainment events.,_Madrid

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Las Ventas

The Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is considered to be the home of bullfighting in Spain.

Built in 1931 at Salamanca towards the east of Madrid, the bullring has a capacity of 25,000.

The bullfighting season is between March and December with bullfights being held every Sunday and public holidays from around 6pm to 10pm.

In recent years, the area has been used for music concerts and clay tennis tournaments.

The main website is in Spanish and doesn't have an English section, however, they have produced a downloadable English PDF guide.

Teleferico Cable Car

This cable car ride offers a fantastic panoramic view over the Madrid skyline.

The terminal for the cars is located within Casa de Campo park.

At a height of up to 40m above the city, the 2.5km ride takes you over and past attractions such as the Aeronautical Museum, Egyptian temple, Plaza de España as well as the Atletico Madrid Stadium.

Once at the summit you can further wander around taking in the great views of Madrid from the other side of the banks of the river Manzanares.

Once you've seen and photographed everything you possibly can why not chill out at the restaurant and bar complex before heading back down again?

Opening times vary seasonally but are generally from 12noon to nightfall.

Plaza Cibeles

Of all the plaza's in Madrid, this one is possibly the most picturesque, if you can excuse the heavy traffic whizzing round.

At it's centre is the fountain of Cibeles, depicting the Phrygian goddess of fertility Cibeles, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. Illuminated at night, if you can find a gap in between the traffic, it makes for a wonderful holiday snap.

The most striking building at the plaza is the Palacio de Comunicaciones or City Hall. Built in 1909 as the post office HQ it also served as the Postal and Telegraphic Museum until becoming Madrid's official city hall in 2007.

Also around the square is the Banco de España, Spain's central bank headquarters and the Palacio de Linares, a baroque palace built in 1873.

Faunia Nature Park

Faunia is a huge nature park, containing thousands of different species of animals from all over the world comprising of both indoor and outdoor areas.

The park is said to have the largest reconstruction of a Polar Eco-system in Europe, that houses animals from both the North and South poles.

As well as the arctic regions, the Amazon Jungle area is a tropical rainforest construct and is kept at a constant temperature of 28°C with 80% humidity. It's filled with colourful birds and odd looking reptiles which you can get really close up to before they scurry away. There are even monkeys!

The whole park is really interactive and fun and a great day out for the family.

There are several bars and restaurants throughout the park although it's usually cheaper to pack a lunch and sit on one of the benches next to the lake.

Opening times vary seasonally and the park usually has some type of special event running so it's best to check the website in advance for details.

Casa de Camp

The largest of the urban parks in Madrid, Casa de Campo was formerly a royal hunting estate until 1931 and is located towards the west of the city centre.

It receives around 500,000 visitors every week who make the most of the 1,700 hectares of parkland.

There is a large lake in the middle where you can rent out small boats to glide across the water.

The park includes the Madrid Zoo and the Parque de Atracciones de Madrid amusement park within its grounds.

It is also the terminus for the Teleférico cable car and the local swimming pool can be found here.

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Temperature & Rainfall Guide for Madrid

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