Your Madrid holiday
Madrid’s population dates back to prehistoric times, based on artefacts found along the Manzanares River. The city’s name Madrid is said to come from the Muslim Matrice, which refers to the water found in the region.
The city’s modern history began in the 10th century, when the Moors occupied a fort along the Manzanares River, from where they controlled the area until Alfonso VI conquered and changed the main mosque into the a Catholic church. Madrid’s first court was established in 1329, and Madrid was later handed over rule to Enrique of Tastamara.
During the 1500s, King Felipe II moved the imperial court to Madrid, and the population of the city increased dramatically. Much of Madrid’s city improvements such as gates, bridges, were built in the 18th century, as well as now-historic buildings like The Royal Palace, the Royal Theatre, the Ministry of Finance, the Natural Science Museum, and the Botanical Gardens.
The 19th century marked the War of Independence commemorating the battles against Emperor Napoleon’s rule. The French left the city after five years. Isabel II became the Queen until the revolt that eventually led to the Spanish Civil War.
Madrid maintained sovereignty from the Spanish Republic until Nationalist troops under Franco entered. Madrid became heavily industrialized, and Franco’s death resulted in the succession of a constitutional monarchy. Today, Madrid is a leader in culture, education, and industry on the peninsula.
As the autumn slowly approaches, there is no better way to kick back and relax than taking your holiday in Madrid.
A city with boundless energy and spirit, visitors can spend a day watching a live football game of Real Madrid, spend hours inside some of the most beautiful art galleries and museums in the world, and walk all around the city’s numerous parks and monuments.
Madrid is also known for its great nightlife of bars, restaurants, and legendary flamenco, so tourists will stay entertained through the wee hours. So what are you waiting for – hop on the next flight to Madrid today!
Best time to take a vacation to Madrid
The most comfortable times to visit Madrid are in the spring and fall, when temperatures average 25Â°C. Summers can be hot and relentlessly sunny, and many days reach 30Â°C and higher in June, July and August. If you are looking for pleasant weather without the crowds, visit Madrid during Easter, when many residents head out of the city for holiday. The winter is the low season, when you will find shorter lines at the city's museums. From late November until February, temperatures can drop to 1 degree Celsius and rain is common around Madrid.
Insider tips for Madrid travel
Instead of catching an early dinner and flamenco show, plan to stay out until after midnight, when the best acts perform.
Take a group of friends and head out for tapas on Sunday afternoons, and don't be afraid to have a few drinks.
Join the locals for food and cinema at Matadero Madrid, which used to be a slaughterhouse.
Spend a sunny afternoon wandering around Retiro Park, or rent a bicycle to explore the leafy paths.
Explore the Botanic Gardens
Just outside the Prado Museum, you can lose yourself in the luscious flowers and plants of Madrid's Botanical Gardens.
Watch a Bullfight
As one of Madrid’s most traditional and controversial sports, bullfights provide a fascinating glimpse into the country’s cultural past. The main bullring in Madrid is La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo.
The arena has a unique style of red brick and ceramic tiles. The construction of the site was finished in 1929, and now services political speeches and rock concerts in addition to bullfights. It is the third largest in the world. Fights are held on Sundays.
Go to a Fútbol Match with Real Madrid
Head to Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to witness Spain’s favourite sporting event. With some of the world’s best players like Ronaldo, Kaka, and Higuain on the field, the atmosphere of a live Real Madrid game is incomparable. Most tickets are held on reserve for club members, but leftover tickets are sold at the stadium days before the match. Visitors can try this option or buy online, although the latter is more expensive.
Listen to and watch some of Spain’s best flamenco
Flamenco artists from around the country have flocked to Madrid since the 1800s, so it is no surprise to find Flamenco music in many different bars and restaurants around the city.
The most famous spot is the Corral de la Moreria. It is the oldest flamenco restaurant in the city, and has some regular notable artists like Antonio Gades, Lucero Tena, and Mario Maya. If travellers want to learn how to dance flamenco, they should take some classes at Amor de Dios Academy, one of the city’s most famous.
Shop at the Rastro Flea Market
The largest market in the city happens every Sunday in the centre from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., catering to shoppers who are looking for products both antique and modern. The name comes from the trail of blood left from cattle that were brought to neighbouring tanneries. The market has over 3,500 different booths that line up and down streets and the Plaza de Cascorro.
Top Madrid attractions
Arguably Madrid's most popular attraction, the Prado Museum is home to countless masterpieces by Goya and VelÃ¡zquez.
One of the largest royal buildings in Europe, Madrid's palace is an architectural masterpiece that makes a perfect way to spend a day.
Enjoy a brief rest in peace and quietness at the Madrid Cathedral, where you can sit and listen to the prayers echoed off from the cavernous ceiling.
Convento de las Carboneras
Visit this quiet convent to buy pastries and cookies from the nuns, who sell their wares each morning.
Hemingway Bar Crawl
Ernest Hemingway was a regular in Madrid, and many tour companies offer pub-crawls to his favourite bars.
Mingle with Madrid's locals in this busy plaza, where you can grab a drink and enjoy a meal at an outdoor cafe.
Plaza de Oriente
Enjoy some of the best people watching in Madrid in this plaza, which is located outside the royal palace.
When you want to party, head to lively Chueca, where you can dance and drink until the wee hours of the morning.
Find a Miracle
Visit the Convento de la EncarnaciÃ³n to watch the crowds heading to pray for a miracle.
Ride the TelÃ©ferico Madrid, the cable car that will take you to above the city and get excellent views.
The Royal Palace
This is one of the first stops guests should check out within the city. The Palacio Real is the largest building in the city, and easily the most beautiful. The neighbouring Plaza de Oriente Square gives the palace a run for its money, however.
The palace was designed for King Felipe V in the 18th century. Originally built for all of the king’s courtiers, today the palace has antique furniture, and artwork by artists such as Goya, Giordano, and Mengs.
The Puerta del Sol
This square is located in the centre of the city, and just a few blocks from Plaza Mayor. It was once the eastern edge of the city, and its gates face the sun (hence its name).
Located in the heart of the city, the square is surrounded by beautiful buildings such as the clock towered Real Casa de Correos, which was part of the post office. On the other side of the square is the city’s official symbol the “Bear and Strawberry Tree” statue.
The Prado Museum
Arguably Madrid’s most famous cultural destination, this museum has one of the most complete art galleries in the world. The museum has historic works from European artists like Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, and Bosch.
The building itself is almost 200 years old, and the name “Prado” comes from the gardens that originally surrounded the area. Notable works include Velazquez’s “Las Meninas”, “The Triumph of Bacchus”, and Rembrandt’s self-portrait, “Artemisia”. Another classic is Goya's once-controversial “The Naked Maja.”
The Santa María de la Real de la Almudena Cathedral
Visitors cannot leave Madrid without visiting at least one historic religious site such as the main cathedral. Construction began 100 years ago, but was not completed until 1993. Pope John Paul II consecrated the church, and its name holds true to Spain’s European and Arabic cultural mix. The architecture has neoclassic and gothic styles, and contains both granite and marble.
Where to stay in Madrid
One of the classiest hotels in all of Madrid, the ME Madrid Reina Victoria Hotel lies in the heart of the city, just blocks from the Prado Museum and Puerto de Sol square. Rooms are comfortable with patios, furniture with 100 thread-count linen, and bathrooms with all of the amenities. High Speed Internet is always available, and spa services provide ultimate relaxation.
For guests who are looking for a modern and stylish hotel, the 30-storey Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel is the place to stay. Three large pillars support the building’s structure and create its unique shape. The 478 guest rooms have LCD televisions, big bathrooms, designer furniture, tapestries, and an incredible view of the city.
If you are interested in affordable yet comfortable lodging, be sure to check out the Alexandra Madrid Hotel for Madrid’s finest budget lodging. This hotel was built in the 20th century and has since been restored. It is located in the centre of the city just minutes from the Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace. Rooms come standard with air conditioning, satellite television, and a nice bathroom.
Guests can get an antique feel in the former 18th century palace, Catalonia Las Cortes Hotel. This hotel is near the Plaza de las Cortes in the bohemian Las Letras neighbourhood. Located close to the main city attractions, the hotel also features original frescos paintings, free wireless Internet, and a restaurant.
Click here for more information about hotels in Madrid so that you can plan your perfect vacation.
How to move around in Madrid
To and from Madrid
Madrid is located in the central region of Spain and for this reason it can be accessed by various means of transportation. The Renfe train system is good for knowing places outside of Madrid as it is used often as a national form of transport to the south, north, east and west.
Madrid’s Barajas Airport is about 15 kilometres from the centre of the city. For this reason there are taxis services, chauffeur specialty vehicles, buses, car hire in Madrid, and metro. A good taxi service is Aerocity, but you may need to reserve in advance. Travellers looking for comfort and reliability can choose Aresmobile. Otherwise there is the 89 bus route that goes to the Plaza Colón, and the Terminal T2 has the Metro which runs every 5 minutes.
Once in the Madrid metro area there are several ways to get from point A to point B. The most common options are taxis, the underground, and buses.
The EMT bus network operates in the city. They operate within designated bus lanes and run almost 24 hours per day. Beware that it is necessary to flag the bus down. The price is 1 euro per ticket.
A single ticket for travel on the Metro is priced at €2 each. A 10-journey pass provides a discount. Trains arrive about every three minutes, but on weekends wait can be up to ten minutes. The Metro runs from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. and is open year round.
Guests looking to taste the finest Spanish and Portuguese cuisine in the most comfortable environment available should check out the Terraza del Casino (Alcalá, 15). This restaurant features spectacular views of the city. Some of chef Ferran Adrià's top dishes include Galician Hake, Creamed Asturian bean soup, and Cured Ham. Wine connoisseurs will enjoy the long lest of Spanish and French vinos.
Those wanting to taste Spanish and Portuguese flavours without having to spend a fortune should go to Casa Lucio (Calle Cava Baja, 35), a favourite hotspot for major players from Spanish royalty to Latin American film stars. The place has a comfortable vibe with antique accessories and cured hams hanging from the roof. The menu includes shrimp in garlic sauce, Hake with sauce, and roasted lamb.
Txirimiri (Humilladero, 6) is an incredible dining destination for budget travellers. Located in the Salamanca district of the city, this restaurant has great tapas and a generous Basque menu. Txirimiri is famous for its quiet and enjoyable atmosphere, along with its signature Pinchos and other plates such as the Grilled steaks.
For more general Mediterranean cuisine, check out Pan de Lujo (Jorge Juan, 20). The restaurant’s design is trendy and contemporary, with a glass wall opening to an illuminated reflecting pool. A great meal might include eggplant, olive oil, and hummus appetizers followed by a fish plate with grilled vegetables.
Health & Safety
There are no necessary vaccinations for a trip to Madrid. Water is potable, however bottled water is recommended for babies.
Madrid’s health infrastructure is very good. It is recommended to have a European Health Insurance Card just in case.
In the case of an emergency, visitors should dial 112 for emergency rescue or 085 for the fire department. Some good clinics include the Ramon y Cajal Hospital in Madrid (91) 336 8000, the Princesa Hospital (91) 520 2200, and the Ciudad Sanitaria La Paz (91) 358 0851.
Unfortunately, criminal acts and assaults have increased in recent years around the city. There are certain neighbourhoods that tourists should try to avoid, such as the areas that surround Retiro Park, the Prado Museum, and Colon Square. Do not walk alone at night and do not walk around with flashy jewellery or electronic gadgets like MP3 players that might attract unwanted attention from strangers.
Do not accept any food or drinks from strangers that you meet in bars or restaurants, and do not walk around with too much cash on hand. It is recommended that you make photocopies of original travel documents like passports and credit cards in the case they become lost or are stolen.
Carry a mobile phone with some emergency numbers stored in the contacts in case of an incident. If assaulted, do not panic and do not resist.
The possession and consumption of drugs is illegal in Spain, and alcohol is only permitted for those older than 18. Prostitution is also outlawed.
Madrid Holiday Packages
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