The capital of Spain and one of the largest cities in Europe, Madrid is one of the most vibrant, alluring and best loved cities on the continent attracting millions of tourists, business travellers and globetrotters every year.
Modern Madrid originates from the 9th century when the city, known as Magerit, was founded by Mohammed I of Córdoba as a palace and citadel. The area was later conquered by the Christian king Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo, a move in which brought Madrid under Christian rule. In 1561 Madrid was declared the capital of Spain under Philip II and the 16th and 17th centuries saw Spain flourish in the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century) and saw Madrid at the centre of a global empire. The 1960s saw the south of Madrid industrialise causing a mass migrations of people from rural areas of Spain to the city. The 1980s and 1990s saw Spain benefit from increasing prosperity and saw Madrid secure its position as an important economic, cultural, educational, technological and industrial centre of Europe. Madrid today remains to be the capital of Spain and is the third largest city in Europe.
Getting In & Getting Around
Madrid is served by Barjaras International Airport which lies some 12km (8 miles) from the city centre and, as one of the 20 busiest airports in the world, charters flights from all corners of the globe. Metro services link the airport to the city centre. There are two main train stations in Madrid – Chamátin Station and Atocha Station. Atocha Station is the largest in Spain and has services to a range of destinations including Malaga, Valencia and Lisbon along with high-speed services to Barcelona and Seville. Chamátin Station serves Northern Spain and France. Travelling around the city couldn’t be easier thanks to Madrid’s comprehensive transport network. 200 bus routes, 12 metro lines and 12 local train lines cover the city.
Culture, Sights & Attractions
As you would expect from a major capital city there is much to be seen and done in Madrid. The Puerta del Sol is probably the best place to start when touring Madrid as the plaza is considered to be the real heart of the city and where you can see the famous statue of a bear climbing the madroño (strawberry) tree. The enormous Palacio Real (Royal Palace) is one of the beautiful buildings in the city and the Plaza Mayor, one of the best known squares in the city, is a popular spot for and alfresco drink. The Golden Triangle is one of the most famous attractions in the city. Consisting of three art museums – Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen Borno Misza – linked by the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk), it is a must see on any trip to Madrid. Sports enthusiasts will not be disappointed with the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, home of Real Madrid, to tour and watch a game and shop-a-holics can indulge in the city's many shops and boutiques.
As with most large European cities, Madrid has a wide variety of restaurants on offer which serve both Spanish and all kinds of international cuisine. From fast-food chains to Michelin starred restaurants, from quaint, intimate eateries to grand, elaborate restaurants, Madrid has it all to offer. There are a number of local dishes that are well worth a try when visiting the Spanish capital including tapas, paella and bocadillo de calamares (squid sandwich).
Outside The City
Visiting Madrid doesn’t mean you have to be confined to the city centre. There are a number of fascinating destinations within very easy reach of Madrid. Toledo, the medieval walled city and former royal residence is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is just 70km (43 miles) south of Madrid. Segoria, also a World Heritage Site, is medieval city home to a 2,000 year old Roman aqueduct the Spanish Mint and is located some 90km (55 miles) north of Madrid. El Escorial, the mountainous retreat and home to Spain’s largest monastery is again a World Heritage Site and is easily reached by train. The medieval town of Chinchon is within easy reach of Madrid. This picturesque town, surrounded by olive groves, has managed to retain much of its authentic character and is home to an impressive fort.
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