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Welcome to Madrid, Spain!

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). The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million with a metro area population of almost 6.5 million. 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.

In the year 2006 Madrid was the fourth most visited city in Europe and the first of Spain, with almost seven million of tourists. It is also the seat of the World Tourism Organization and the International Tourism Fair – FITUR.

Most of the tourist attractions of Madrid are in the old town and the Ensanche, corresponding with the districts of Centro, Salamanca, Chamberí, Retiro and Arganzuela. The nerve centre of the city is the Puerta del Sol, starting point for the numbering of all city streets and all the country’s highways.

The Calle de Alcalá or Alcalá Street lead from the Puerta del Sol from the NE of the city. From the street you get from Plaza de Cibeles. Subsequently the street reaches the “Plaza de la Independencia”, which includes the Puerta de Alcalá and an entrance to the Buen Retiro Park.

The Calle Mayor leads to Plaza Mayor continuing for the called Madrid de los Austrias, in reference to the Dynasty of Habsburg – finally reaching Calle de Bailén, near the Cathedral of the Almudena and the church of San Francisco el Grande.

The Calle del Arenal comes to Royal Theatre in Plaza de la Ópera, continuing through Plaza de Oriente, where the Royal Palace is it. From there the Calle Bailen leads to Plaza de España and the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple moved stone by stone to Spain in gratitude for their help in the construction of the Aswan Dam. Also in this square is the start of Gran Vía street.

The nightlife in Madrid is one of the city’s main attractions. Tapas bars, cocktail bars, clubs, jazz lounges, live music venues, flamenco theatres and establishments of all kinds cater to all. Every night, venues pertaining to the Live Music Venues Association La Noche en Vivo host a wide range of live music shows. Everything from acclaimed to up-and-coming artists, singer-songwriters to rock bands, jazz concerts or electronic music sessions to enjoy music at its best.

Nightlife and young cultural awakening flourished after the death of Franco, especially during the 80s while Madrid’s mayor Enrique Tierno Galván (PSOE) was in office, at this time is well-known the cultural movement called La Movida and it initially gathered around Plaza del Dos de Mayo. Nowadays, the Malasaña area is known for its alternative scene.

Some of the most popular night destinations include the neighbourhoods of Bilbao, Tribunal, Atocha, Alonso Martínez or Moncloa, together with Puerta del Sol area (including Ópera and Gran Vía, both adjacent to the popular square) and Huertas (Barrio de las Letras), destinations which are also filled with tourists day and night. The district of Chueca has also become a hot spot in the Madrilenian nightlife, especially for the gay population. Chueca is popularly known as the gay quarter, comparable to The Castro district in San Francisco.

What is also popular is the practice of meeting in parks or streets with friends and drinking alcohol together (this is called botellón, from botella, ‘bottle’), but in recent years, drinking in the street is punished with a fine and now young madrileños drink together all around the city instead of in better-known places.

Usually in Madrid people do not go out until later in the evening, and do not return home until early in the morning. A typical evening out could not start before 12:30 AM and end at 6:30 AM.

-Courtesy of WikiTravel.org and Wikipedia.org

More information about Madrid

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.
The culture of Madrid was dominated by its Royal history, centre of the Spanish Empire. The Royal Palace, big places and buildings used by the Spanish Monarchy, enormous cathedrals and churches are plentiful in Madrid, as well as medieval architecture, although nowadays Madrid is just as much a cosmopolitan city as Berlin or London, full of new architecture, lifestyle and culture.

As Spanish Capital, Madrid has meant the different “establishment” for most Spaniards. During the 2nd Republic (1931-1936) was a bustling city of new ideas. Being capital of the Franquist dictatorship (1939-1975) made the city still seemed to represent a conservative part of Spain to many Spaniards. However, the city is also the epicentre of the famous Movida, Spain’s 80s movement that bred personalities such as the director Pedro Almodóvar. The heritage of this era is indeed still visible in the city centre, where a party can be found at all times and one of the most liberal and colourful environments of Spain can be seen. The city is also known for its great gay tolerance.

The citizens of Madrid, who refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term “gatos” (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the climate. Due to the typically midday heat during summer, a “siesta” can be still observed during which some citizens take a break to cool off, though Madrileños can usually only afford this ‘luxury’ during holidays and weekends. Most stores are open during all the day; just small stores are often closed during this time. Workers and those more afflicted by Western lifestyles choose not to observe this long break and work traditional business hours, which are usually between 9AM and 6-7PM. During summer many offices, however, will have a summer schedule requiring workers to start at 8am and finish at 3pm (most commonly without the standard 1-2 hour break for lunch). Offices usually close during the weekend but businesses are often open Saturday morning (downtown stays open until afternoon). Most grocers are closed on Sundays, but some major chain and department stores linked to “culture” (books, music, etc.) will be open throughout the day and all of them on the first Sunday of the month. Shops and department stores in Puerta del Sol area are open every day.

Madrid possibly has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city and a very active nightlife; Madrileños are known to stay up until as late as 5AM-7AM. It is quite common to see a crowded Gran Vía on weekend nights. It is important to note that, due to this lifestyle, lodging located near the fun areas may end up a nightmare for light sleepers if your window faces the street.

Madrid has a very modernized and elaborate transportation network of buses and Metro. The city contrasts with some large European cities in that it is extremely clean, and city employees in bright yellow vests can almost always be seen cleaning the streets and sidewalks. Like most large cities, however, there is a substantial population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.

Madrid is one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Communities of West Africans, North Africans, other Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis and (especially) Latin Americans are prominent.

Madrid–Barajas Airport (Aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas) is Spain’s busiest airport, and is the main hub of Iberia Airlines. It consequently serves as the main gateway to the Iberian peninsula from Europe, America and the rest of the world. Current passenger volumes range upwards of 49.8 million passengers per year, making it the country’s largest and busiest airport, and in 2009 it was the world’s 11th busiest airport and Europe’s fifth busiest airport. Given annual increases close to 10%, a new fourth terminal has been constructed. It has significantly reduced delays and doubled the capacity of the airport to more than 70 million passengers per year. Two additional runways have also been constructed, making Barajas a fully operational four-runway airport.

The airport located within the city limits of Madrid, at 9 km (5.6 mi) from the city’s financial district and 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of the Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s historic centre. The airport name derives from the adjacent district of Barajas, which has its own metro station on the same rail line serving the airport.

The Minister of Transport of the Community of Madrid, Manuel Lamela, announced in 2007 that the city will also be served by two new airports which are expected to be fully operative in 2016, the first of which will be located in Campo Real, it will be initially be used for cargo flights, and also as hub for low-cost carriers, and the second one, expected to be built between the two municipalities of El Álamo and Navalcarnero, which will only take over the routes operating in Cuatro Vientos Airport (Aeropuerto de Cuatro Vientos).

Spain’s railway system, the Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles (RENFE) operates the vast majority of Spain’s railways. Cercanías Madrid is the commuter rail service that serves Madrid and its metropolitan area. It is operated by Cercanías Renfe, the commuter rail division of Renfe. The total length spans 339.1 kilometres (210.7 miles). Main rail terminals are Atocha in the south and Chamartín in the north.

The most important project in the next decade is the Spanish high-speed rail network, Alta Velocidad Española AVE. Currently, an ambitious plan includes the construction of a 7,000-kilometre (4,300 mi) network, centred on Madrid. The overall goal is to have all important provincial cities be no more than 4 hours away from Madrid, and no more than 6 hours away from Barcelona. As of 2008, AVE high-speed trains link Atocha station to Seville, Málaga, Córdoba, Ciudad Real and Toledo in the south and to Cuenca, Albacete, Valencia, Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona and Barcelona in the east. AVE trains also arrive from Valladolid in the north.

Serving a population of some five million, the Madrid Metro (Metro de Madrid) is one of the most extensive and fastest-growing metro networks in the world. With the addition of a loop serving suburbs to Madrid’s south-west “Metrosur”, it is now the second largest metro system in Western Europe, second only to London’s Underground. In 2007 Madrid’s metro system was expanded and it currently runs over 283 kilometres (176 mi) of line. The region of Madrid is also served by an extensive commuter rail network of 370 kilometres (230 mi) called Cercanías.

The system is the sixth longest metro in the world after London, New York, Moscow, Seoul and Shanghai, though Madrid is approximately the fiftieth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Its fast growth in the last 20 years has also put it among the fastest growing networks in the world, on par with the Shanghai Metro and the Beijing Subway. Unlike normal Spanish road and rail traffic, Madrid Metro trains use left-hand running on some lines due to historical reasons.

This railway network is ably supported by an ever-expanding network of city buses. The overall length of the bus network of Madrid’s Municipal Transport Corporation (Empresa Municipal de Transportes, or EMT) at yearclose 2013, when 426 million passengers were transported, stood at 3,690 km (2,293 mi), marking a 31% increase over the last eight years. These routes are serviced by a growing fleet of over 3,000 vehicles, while the network as a whole is undergoing a continuous improvement process with a view to attaining the utmost standards of speed, quality and sustainability. The buses in Madrid are the only public transport system available 24hours as the metro network closes down during night hours. The night buses, also known as “Buhos” (Owls), are running from 11.45pm to 6.00am. The heavy traffic in Madrid can in some cases make the city buses a fairly slow form of transportation but the city of Madrid has more than 90 km of special bus and taxi lines to help solve this issue.

Madrid is the most important hub of Spain’s motorway network and is surrounded by four orbital motorways: M30, M40, M45 and M50. M30 circles the central districts and is the inner ring motorway of Madrid. Significant portions of M30 runs underground and its urban motorway tunnels have sections of more than 6 km (3.73 mi) in length and 3 to 6 lanes in each direction, between the south entry of the Avenida de Portugal tunnel and the north exit of the M-30 south by-pass there are close to 10 km (6.21 mi) of continuous tunnels. M40 is a ring motorway which borders Madrid at a mean distance of 10.07 kilometres (6.26 mi) and it has a total length of 63.3 km (39.33 mi). M45 is a partial ring around the city serving the metropolitan area of Madrid. It was built to help alleviate the congestion of the M40 from the southern to the north-eastern, runs between the M40 and the M50 where the two ring motorways are more separated. M50 is the outer of the Madrid orbital motorways and has a total length of 85 km (52.82 mi). It services mainly the metropolitan area at a mean distance of 13.5 km (8.39 mi).

Languages Used

Castilian Spanish 74%
Catalan 17%
Galician 7%
Basque 2%
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