Madrid’s a city which knows how to party, combining its fine dining and artistic excellence with a reputation as a place where the fun never stops. In the daylight hours you’ll find plenty of cultural treats, whether gazing at a Goya or eating some of the country’s finest tapas in an ancient temple, but however much you’ll get to know the Spanish capital by day, it really comes alive when the sun goes down. Crammed with bars and clubs, you’ll be forgiven for mistaking Madrid for one big party to which everyone’s invited, and wherever you are you’ll never be far from what the locals call marcha, or the action.
Things to see
Dating back to the Hapsburg era, the Plaza Mayor is a huge square which acts as an unofficial heart of Madrid. Whether lazing away an hour watching street performers, mulling over souvenir matadors on the arts and crafts stalls, or coming here to take advantage of the shops and restaurants, this is a vibrant – and always busy – slice of the center. For a more upmarket art experience, the Prado Museum boasts paintings from the likes of Velasquez and El Greco, as well as plenty of non-Spanish greats, all set in a building dating back to Charles III’s grand scheme to overhaul Madrid’s architecture in the 18th Century. For something even more historic, a trip to the Puerta del Sol – or Gate of the Sun – is a reminder of the ancient walls which protected the city. Nowadays, the gate is home to lavish New Year’s Eve celebrations, and also marks the center of a network of the nation’s roads.
Hotels in Madrid
Spain’s capital may be a party town, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do high-end luxury too. There are a wide range of five-star options for splurging on your stay, with many of the top end hotels offering outdoor pools, spas, fitness facilities, and steam rooms as well as in-room WiFi, flat-screen televisions, and CD players or MP3 docking stations. From grand townhouses to modern complexes, there are plenty of mid-range hotels in Madrid found throughout the city too, while there are also apartments which can be let if you’re planning a longer, more self-catering, stay.
Where to stay
The area around Puerta del Sol is at the center of the city, and is not only extremely well-connected by public transport to the rest of Madrid, and at the heart of the action, but also home to many restaurants, tapas bars, and lots of open-air cafes. You’ll be able to walk to the main attractions, soundtracked by live guitar, but it is thronged with tourists. For a more exclusive stay, the Salamanca area to the east is a hang-out for the rich, with the boutiques and luxury eateries to match. A greener neighborhood near the Manzanares River surrounds the Atocha area which is also ideally placed for the city’s main train station and good place to book a Madrid hotel.
How to get to
Your visit to Madrid will usually begin at its Barajas Airport, which is around 12 kilometers to the northeast of the city center. An express bus service runs regularly from the airport into the center of Madrid, usually taking around 40 minutes depending on traffic. An alternative bus service runs to the Avenida de América which is well connected to both the city’s roads and Metro system, and can work out even less expensive than the Línea Exprés. The city has its own bus and tram network, but you’ll be able to walk around much of the center easily.