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City Guide : MadridStanding as the capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid is located at the geographic hearth of the Iberian Peninsula and on the Castilian Plain residing 646 m above sea level. Madrid is the largest city of country with an area of 1020 km² and the 3rd most populous city in the European Union (the others are London and Berlin). As a cardinal place for banking and industrial sectors, Madrid is a business center, the fabric of the network of access (Barajas being the main hub of Iberia Airlines), the home of the Spanish Royal Family, the center of Public Administration, Government and Spanish parliament.
Tourist AttractionsAlthough Madrid is the capital of Spain you will be able to see more tourist attractions in some of the cities of the country than the capital. This condition does not eliminate the reality that Madrid has a fascinating archaeological aspect. There are a great deal of art galleries and museums that you should travel. That is, Madrid is not composed of just sangria, sun and shopping.
Madrid is a mind-blowing and cosmopolitan city with its archaeological appearance and historical monuments. Plaza Mayor is one of these significant artifacts. The square is placed at the hearth of Madrid.
Muralla Arabe (Arab Wall) at the center of the city was constructed by Madrid's early-medieval Muslim rulers. From theatre performances to music shows, different kinds of organizations are held here in summer.
Basilica de San Miguel situated at La Latina is a religious monument including statues of four virtues and of the relieves by Justo and Pastor.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is one of the other famous art galleries of the city. Within that structure, you will be able to find the works of Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Juan Gris and Salvador Dali.
Antigua Estacion de Atocha taking place in Huertas as a relic from the 19th century was transformed into a tropical garden in 1922. The building contains about 500 plant species.
Campo del Moro located in Los Austrias is a historical garden that you should definitely travel.
There are more basilicas, museums and archaeological monuments that you should explore when visiting the city.
Culture & Entertainment
The availability of many theaters, cinemas, music, opera, dance, art and literature study centers reflect the cultural prosperity of Madrid. There are many galleries in the city. Flamenco and jazz are the integral parts of city culture. Also, bullfighting is a cultural tradition of the city.
Every night of Madrid is lived until the sunrise. Every night of the week is a paradise. Most of the night locations are open till the early mornings. It is impossible to line all the nightlife venues in Madrid, besides, if you are telling about Madrid cited as the city of nights.
The Estate Romana (Roman Summer; between June and September) is the period for free concerts, outdoor cinema and more activities. A great deal of outdoor concerts are held over the summer. The atmospheric jazz concerts organized at the Villa Celimontana is just an example.
Also, the city is eligible for a great range of sport and recreation activities. Cycling, jogging, bath houses, swimming and horse riding are several examples.
Food & Drink
Madrid has an international cuisine. The Spanish immigrants (Asturians, Galician, Andalusians and others) enrich the culinary culture of the city. You can find an eatery with a broad menu at every point of the city. The magnificent tapas are the traditional ingredients of both national and local cuisines. Also, sea foods are pretty pervasive in the city restaurants.
Madrid has popular delicacies which are peculiar to its cuisine. Cocido madrileno (chickpeas with vegetables), besugo al horno (baked bream), tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), sopa de ajo (garlic soup) and caracoles (snails) are some examples from the classics of the city cuisine.
Shopping is one of the core specifications of Madrid. You can find everything from craft stores, department stores to old and new fashion shopping centers.
Adolfo Dominguez at the center of the city offers modern designs. You can find dress-suit, classic clothes, tinted and lively designs at this shopping center.
Amore e Psique at Chueca is an outlet offering luxury and fashionable collection of clothes. You will be able to find famous brands such as Dolce&Gabbana and Gaetano Navarro.
Calle Goya, Calle Serrano, Calle Almirante, Calle Ortega y Gasset and Calle Fuencarral are among the famous shopping streets of the city.
Mercado de Monedas y Sellos and Mercado Fuencarral are two of the best markets in the city.
We reach the city center shortly after arriving at Barajas Airport. The first thing that strikes our eye is that this is truly a city with a European air, because there is not a trace of haphazard construction. Soon we come to ‘Puerto del Sol’, the Sun-Gate and heart of the city.
Puerto del Sol is in the quarter known as ‘old’ Madrid. But if you ask me, Plaza Mayor is the city center. All the great public ceremonies (Auto-da-Fé) were held here in the old days when rows of benches were set up specially to enable the populace to follow the proceedings. Today however the Plaza is the first place tourists go to soak up the atmosphere of the city. Everything is alive with color on this square teeming with outdoor cafes.
The uniquely Spanish snacks known as ‘tapas’ are served at every hour of the day but particularly at evening. And when you see the array of seafood, mussels, tiny fish, shrimps and crayfish and the varieties of Spain’s special ham, as well as, in some places, the ‘Paella’s quintessential to Spain, your mouth will immediately start to water.
MUSEO DEL JAMON
Museo del Jamon, in other words, the Museum of Jambon, is the name of a delicatessen that caught my eye. So central is ham in Spanish cuisine that some delicatessens have even been named for it and are jammed with customers at all times of day. Another corner of the Plaza Mayor has been taken over by street painters. It is of course great fun to watch these artists at work, as on London’s Leicester Square or the Montmartre in Paris.
We continue our tour. After Old Madrid, we start from the Plaza del Callao, one of the city’s most important intersections in the Bourbon period (19th century). The traffic congestion and crowds of people leave us in no doubt that we are in the right place. Movie theaters, department stores and brand names line the avenue on both sides. Continuing down the Gran Via, we arrive at the Plaza de Cibeles. This avenue, which connects with the Calle de Alcala, is reminiscent of the broad avenues of Paris. The fascinating architecture of the imposing buildings erected at the beginning of the last century is a treat for the eyes, and the Metropolis building is one of them.
Not out of steam yet, we can head from Cibeles to the Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s most delightful quarter if you ask me. Sometimes it reminds me of Istanbul’s Cumhuriyet Caddesi, except that the trees and buildings are more magnificent and the boulevard itself is much wider.
THE MUSEUM DISTRICT
About a kilometer ahead we are going to see the Prado, perhaps the primary focus of our Madrid tour. A tour of the Prado, one of the largest museums not only in Spain but in the whole world, cannot be squeezed into an hour or two. Seeing the Velasquez and Goya galleries alone takes at least half a day. And believe me, it’s worth it. The Caravaggios, the Raphaels, the Dürers, the Zurbarans, and the Bruegels all await us here. But still it is Velasquez and Goya that make up the Prado’s most prized collections.
For those who like museums, there are two more nearby. One is the Thyssen -Bornemisza Museum, the other the Centre de Arta Reina Sofia, housed in a giant, restored hospital building opposite the Madrid Train Station. Picasso’s most important painting hands down, ‘Guernica’ is on display here in this museum, which will also delight admirers of Miro and Dali.
Why are Madrid nights so famous? The answer is simple: because day and night here are clearly separated by the institution of the ‘Siesta’ or afternoon nap. If you’re dining out, don’t arrive at the restaurant at an hour like seven, which is normal for us but regarded as very early in Madrid, where customers only begin to wander in after ten and restaurants to fill up around eleven.
FLAMENCO, SOUL OF THE CITY
If you go to Madrid and return without seeing a Flamenco exhibition you will have missed something. There is no shortage of Flamenco cafes in the city where you can take in such a show.
Our next stop is the Plaza de España. One of Madrid’s first skyscrapers, the 33-story Torre Madrid, rises here. But it’s the bust of Cervantes in the park, pleasantly reflected in the pool, and immediately below it the equestrian statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza that are the main center of attraction on this sprawling square. While we’re at the Plaza España, we should also see the Cerralbo Museum. The building that houses it is virtually a small palace. And while we’re on the subject of palaces, the Palazio Real or Royal Palace on the Plaza de la Armeria is engrossing for its documents and artifacts that hold up a mirror to Spanish history as well as for its sheer splendor.
Like many people, you may not like bull fighting and regard it as a manifestation of wanton cruelty, but for the curious the Plaza de Torros on the Plaza de las Ventas is the scene of bull fights every Sunday. When your taxi takes you to Las Ventas, don’t object to the surcharge for the bullfight. Taxi drivers are legally entitled to demand the extra fare on bull fight days.
If you have time to venture outside Madrid, there are two important day tours you can take. I recommend that you get away from the tour groups and rent a car. The most popular tours are to the city of Toledo (Escorial Palace - Valle de los Caidos and Sevogia). On my last trip I opted for the Segovia tour. You should set aside at least two hours to tour the Escorial Palace, built in the period of Felipe II (16th century) and located 50 km northwest of Madrid. An extension of the same itinerary, the Valle de los Caidos is shunned by some as a symbol of the Franco dictatorship.
Cutting short the tour of the Valle de los Caidos, we arrive at Segovia, which I dub a museum of the Middle Ages. A virtual film set, the old city is like a museum. We are fortunate too that the weather is lovely. The old streets, the Plaza Mayor, the ancient Roman aqueduct, the cathedral and the old castle, ‘Alcazar’, ensure that we have a day of indescribable beauty redolent of history and tradition.
Finally we conclude our week-long Madrid tour, again with the same feeling it always conjures up inside us: There are many more places to be toured and flavors to be tasted in Madrid. Next time, we console ourselves. And we are left with the wonderful memories, the palate of unusual tastes, and the photographs I’m sharing with you here.
Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul to Madrid 10 times a week, twice on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays.
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Madrid : Airport Information
Address : Madrid Barajas Airport, 28042 Madrid, Spain Phone : +34 902 404 704
Madrid : Airport Map Information
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