The capital of Spain, located in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, has a population of over four million. A cosmopolitan city, Madrid is home to the Spanish Parliament (El Congreso de los Diputados) and the Spanish Royal Family. The capital is characterized by intense cultural and artistic activity and a very lively nightlife. For the last five years, Madrid has been investing a large part of its budget in education and R&D+I and has been making important contributions to scientific and technological advances worldwide.
The grand metropolis of Madrid can trace its origins back to the times of Arab Emir Mohamed I (852-886), who ordered the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares river. Later, it became the subject of a dispute between the Christians and Arabs until it was conquered by Alonso VI, in the 11th century. During the 18th century, under the reign of Carlos III, the great arteries of the city were designed, such as the Paseo del Prado. Today, the legacy of the distant past can mainly be seen in the Baroque and neoclassical structures of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) and the Palacio Real (Royal Palace).
There is plenty to do in Madrid to suit all tastes, whether you prefer culture, arts, music, sports or just a lazy day, wandering through the city and soaking up the atmosphere! Here are a few highlights, but the list is by no means exhaustive.
A 350 acre park in Madrid's city center. The park was originally the site of the Royal Palace, built in 1632 under the reign of King Philip IV. It was opened to the public in 1868.
The fountain of Cibeles depicts the goddess, Cibeles, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. On one side of the fountain of Cibeles, the Paseo de Recoletos starts, heading North to join up with the Paseo de la Castellana. On the other side, the Paseo del Prado begins and heads off South, towards the fountain of Neptune, in the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo, and on until Atocha.
The site of the palace dates from a 10th century fortress, constructed as an outpost by Mohammed I, Emir of Cordoba.
The Santiago Bernabeu Football Stadium is home to the Real Madrid team. Its capacity is 80,400. The Bernabeu is one of the world's most famous football venues. It has the proud record of having hosted the European Cup final (1957, 1969 and 1980), the 1964 European Championship final (1964), and the FIFA World Cup final (1982). Its location, in the heart of Madrid's business district, is quite unusual for a football stadium. Visitors to the stadium can take a tour including the grounds, players' changing rooms, the press release rooms and learn about its history - the highs and the lows of Spanish football!
Francisco de Cubas, the Marquis of Cubas, was the architect of this Gothic revival style Cathedral. Construction began in 1879 but ceased completely during the Spanish Civil War. The project was abandoned until 1950, when Fernando Chueca Goitia adapted the plans of de Cubas to a neoclassical style exterior to match the grey and white facade of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), which stands directly opposite. It was not completed until 1993, when the cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II.
The creation of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Reina Sofía Modern Art Museum), met the need for a museum reflecting contemporary Spanish art in an international context. The Museo Reina Sofia's Collections contains works produced between the end of the 19th century up to the present. Today, the art gallery has approximately 16,200 works of art in every medium: approximately 4,000 paintings, more than 1,400 sculptures, nearly 3,000 drawings, more than 5,000 prints, more than 2,600 photographs, approximately 80 videos, about 30 art installations, a number of video installations, more than 100 decorative art pieces and 30 pieces of architecture.
The Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum) was created with the double aim of showing the works of art that belonged to the Spanish Crown and to demonstrate to the rest of Europe that Spanish art was of equal merit to that of any other national school.
The exceptionally important royal collection forms the nucleus of the present-day Museo del Prado, and has been enriched by some of the masterpieces now displayed in the Prado. These include "The Descent" from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymous Bosch, "Knight with his Hand on his Breast" by El Greco, "The Death of the Virgin" by Mantegna, "The Holy Family" (known as 'La Perla') by Raphael, "Charles V at Mühberg" by Titian, "Christ washing the Disciples' Feet" by Tintoretto, Dürer's Self-portrait, "Las Meninas" by Velazquez, "The Three Graces" by Rubens and "The Family of Charles IV" by Goya.
The collection currently comprises around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 2,400 prints and 6,300 drawings, in addition to a large number of works of art and historic documents.
Movements and moments from the history of painting, mainly related to modern art -19th and 20th century works, with special emphasis on Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, German Expressionism, the early Avant-garde movements as well as the 19th century North American School, practically non-existent in European museums, and complemented by representations of other periods, such as the German School and Dutch painting from the 17th century.
This museum completes the so-called "Art Triangle" or "Walk", in conjunction with the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofía Modern Art Museum.
For information on the best restaurants in Madrid, see our Eating Out section.
Madrid is one of the world's liveliest cities. At weekends, during public holidays and especially in the run-up to Christmas, it really does seem to be the city that never sleeps. It is not unusual to see more people out and about at 5 and 6 in the morning in Madrid than you would see in many other European cities during the day!
Madrid's social scene has something for everybody. It caters for all tastes, ages and cultures. It also has the particular advantage of being a very child-friendly city, and there is no problem taking children to all types of bars, cafeterias and restaurants.
Madrid Nightlife Tours arrange nighttime coach tours around Madrid and cater for all ages. You can see the city from the safety and comfort of your seat and, of course, enter your destination with no queuing or fuss!
Whatever you do, Que lo pases bien! (Have a good time!).
A trip to Madrid wouldn't be complete without experiencing flamenco. Flamenco can be seen in many bars and taverns in Madrid. Alma 100 is a very useful magazine with lots of information on current flamenco (free, with some articles in English and Japanese). Hundreds of dance academies, such as the famous Amor de Dios academy in Fray Luis de Leon street, are to be found all over the capital.
You can book a flamenco show and dinner through Go Madrid.
Or, just visit any of the following bars, taverns and restaurants and ask if there will be any flamenco artists playing:
The area around Callao is full of theatres, cinemas and concert halls. However, it is worth checking when you arrive what else is happening around the city.
If you want up to date information and tickets to theatre, cinema, concerts or musicals these two websites are amongst the most useful (in Spanish only).
Most hotels will also offer you, as part of their services, information, reservations and bookings for shows and events all over Madrid.
If you enjoy shopping, this is a sneak peak at what Madrid has to offer:
The Moda Shopping Centre is close to Madrid's football mecca, Santiago Bernabeu, and has a great variety of shops - from designer boutiques to jewelry and antiques shops. There is an impressive view of the stunning Torre Picasso from inside the center.
The ABC Centre occupies the old head offices of the famous ABC newspaper. It is accesible from the streets Paseo de la Castellana or Calle Serrano. It has a wide selection of shops, with everything from clothing and jewelry to nick-nacks. During the summer its terrace offers fantastic views across the city. It is a favourite amongst children thanks to the Imaginarium children's store, which has a special 'little' door for them to enter through!
Jardin de Serrano, in the nearby street Calle Goya there is a lovely selection of good quality shops and clothes boutiques - women's clothes, jewellery, picture framing shops, handbags, children's clothes and much more.
Calle Serrano is a window shopper's heaven, located in one of Madrid's most affluent neighbourhoods, el Barrio de Salamanca. It is in this street that you will find all the top designers, expensive jewelry shops and some of Madrid's most luxurious buildings. The main shopping area begins at the Puerta de Alcala and runs for around 8-10 blocks. However, there is much more to be seen on Calle Serrano. Further up the street you will pass the Archaelogical Museum (website in Spanish only), Spain's stunning National Library (website in Spanish only) and the beautiful Plaza de Colon.
Another good area, but with a completely different character is Sol, right in the city center, where you will find all the top high street names amidst the hustle and bustle of Madrid.
This ancient city is spectacularly situated along a narrow mountain ridge. It is home to a wealth of treasures and the old city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The aqueduct, widely recognized as Segovia's most famous landmark, was built during the end of 1st and the early 2nd centuries BC by the Romans. Its purpose was to bring water from the Rio Frio (Cold River) to the city, requiring an elevated section in its last 1 kilometer from the Sierra de Guadarrama to the walls of the old town.
The Alcazar, or Castle-Palace, which dates back to the 11th century, is perched on the tip of the promontory and towers over the countryside below. During the Middle Ages, the Alcazar of Segovia was the favourite residence of the Kings of Castile, and almost every king added new parts to the building, transforming the original fortress into a courtier residence. A fire in 1862 destroyed part of the roofs, but they were restored in the very same style as more than 300 years previously.
The Cathedral of Segovia stands in the city's central square. Constructed by architect Juan Gil de Hontanon in the late Gothic style between 1522 and 1577, it is widely considered Europe's last great Gothic cathedral.
The church of Vera Cruz, beyond the Alcazar and the city walls, was founded by the Knights Templar. It is built in the circular style, a common design of the Templars, in recognition of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is currently owned and maintained by the Knights of Malta.
Segovia is a very popular tourist destination, especially as a day-trip from Madrid.
|Toledo is located 70 km south of Madrid. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage. It was once the capital of the Spanish Empire and is famed as a place of coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Moorish cultures.
The old city is located on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River, and contains many historical sites, including the Alcazar (castle-palace), the Cathedral (the primate church of Spain), and the Zocodover, a central market place.
Toledo's Alcazar was, in the 19th and 20th centuries, a renowned military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.
The Cathedral of Toledo was built between 1226-1493 and modeled after the Bourges Cathedral, though it also combines some characteristics of the Mudejar style. It is remarkable for its incorporation of light and features the Baroque altar, El Transparente, which is several stories high, with fantastic figures of stucco, paintings, bronze castings, and multiple colors of marble - a masterpiece of medieval mixed media by Narciso Tome topped by a shaft of light, which shines for just a few minutes a day and which gives the cathedral its name.
Additionally, the city was renowned throughout the Middle Ages as an important center for the production of swords and other bladed instruments, a reputation which it still holds today.
The View of Toledo by El Greco
Aranjuez lies 48 km south of the city of Madrid. It is located at the confluence of the Tagus and Jarama rivers.
Alcala de Henares, is one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites, and one of the first bishoprics to be founded in Spain. Located 35 km northeast of the city of Madrid, at a height of 2000 feet above sea level, it is the second largest city in the region of Madrid, after the Spanish capital itself.
D. Quijote & S. Panza, in front of Cervantes natal house.
El Escorial, the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real, is located about 45 km northwest of Madrid. Overlooking the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains, it comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: El Real Monasterio de El Escorial and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat about five km away. These sites have a dual nature; El Escorial was both a monastery and a Spanish royal palace.
The Madrid Region has a continental climate with temperatures ranging from 0ºC or lower in winter, to 40ºC or more in summer. In the mountainous regions around the capital, the temperature is generally a few degrees lower than in the city centre. Rainfall varies a great deal throughout the year but is generally scarce. You will find few opportunities to use an umbrella.
At the time of the conference, it will be winter in Madrid. Temperatures can fall to just below freezing although the days are usually clear and bright, with little or no rain. For a guide to Madrid's climate please go to this link on the Regional Government of Madrid's website.
Like most capital cities, Madrid is slightly more expensive than the rest of Spain. Here is a rough guide to prices in the capital:
Madrid has an excellent public transport system of buses, metros and trains. Travelling between the airport, city centre and conference venue is quick and easy.
For more information on travelling around Madrid please see our Conference Venue page.
The following is a brief list of some of the most conveniently located tourist infomation offices:
Plaza Mayor, 27
Tel: +34 91 588 16 36 / +34 91 366 54 77
Fax: +34 91 366 54 77
Atocha Renfe Railway Station
Puerta de Atocha (mainline)
Terminal de Cercanias (commuter trains)
Tel: +34 902 100 007
Terminal 4 (T4)
Tel: +34 902 100 007
International Arrivals: Terminal 1 (T1)
Tel: +34 91 305 86 56
Chamartin Railway Station
Calle Agustin de Foxa (no number)
Tel: +34 91 315 99 76
Calle del Duque de Medinaceli, 2
Tel: +34 91 429 49 51 / +34 902 100 007
Fax: +34 91 429 37 05