Madrid experienced significant changes during the 18th century, when city gates, bridges and new buildings served to transform its appearance. During this period, the Royal Palace was constructed on the site of the ruins of an old Moorish Castle which had been destroyed by fire in 1734.
Since then, Madrid's urban progress has accelerated to reach, today, the level of one of Europe's most beautiful capital cities - captivating both for its intense Spanish spirit and its mix of modern and classical architecture.
Indeed, more than anything, Madrid is a city of great monuments. But it is not just a cultural destination. It is also a lively metropolis with many pubs, cafes, discotheques and nightclubs open late into the night.
Madrid is served by Barajas International Airport, located 12 km from the capital. Metro Line 8 connects the airport with the city centre from two subway stations, at Terminal 2 and Terminal 4. Taking the metro to Madrid is comfortable and fast, with a journey time of about 40 minutes.
Chamartín Train Station, located in northern Madrid, has trains leaving for France as well as the north and east of Spain. Chamartín Station is also a Metro station (Metro Chamartín), making it easy to reach from the rest of the city.
Atocha Train Station is located in the southern part of Madrid’s centro area (Glorieta Emperador Carlos V). It has trains to Lisbon in Portugal, as well as the south and east of Spain. Atocha Station is also a Metro and local train station, and is located only four stops from Puerta del Sol (Metro Sol), the main centre of Madrid.
Méndez Álvaro Station is the main bus station in Madrid and most of the buses with international and national destinations depart from here. The station is located in the southern zone of Madrid’s centro, close to the Atocha station.
Madrid during the peak summer months of July and August is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the city becomes eerily empty, giving you the rare chance to enjoy an urban city without its native urbanites. On the other, the reason it’s empty is because all of the Madrileño have left the city to escape the unbearable heat. During this time, many of the smaller bars and shops are shut, but most of the places popular with tourists remain open
In September, the city springs back to life. Temperatures cool down to a tolerable level and everyone has returned from holiday. You can still wander the streets in a T-shirt and eat outside in the evenings, and you’ll get to experience a Madrid that is winding back up to its high-octane best.
Winters in Madrid can be bitterly cold, but like all grand cities, there are benefits to this time of year too. If you’re lucky enough to witness the rare sight of a snow-bound Madrid, you’re in for a treat.
Madrid is one of Europe's most attractive cities for sight-seeing. It boasts several emblematic landmarks including the Palacio Real, the largest Royal Palace in Western Europe, the Plaza Mayor, a spectacular Castilian square which dates back to the 16th century, and the Gran Vía, one of Madrid's main shopping streets connecting the spacious Plaza de España square with the magnificent old city gate of Puerta de Alcalá.
Madrid's art museums are also second to none, with the Museo del Prado internationally recognised as one of the world's premier galleries. The nearby Reina Sofia museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum also house some of the most important private collections in the world, and along with the relatively recent Caixa Forum make up Madrid's unique Avenue of Art.
The less well known Academia de Bellas Artes houses a fabulous collection of paintings from the 15th century to the present day.
A visit to Spain's capital wouldn't be complete without a stroll around its Rastro Flea Market, which is a Sunday morning tradition for thousands of locals and tourists alike. Another sedate way to experience the city is by taking a relaxing walk through one of its large and beautiful parks, such as Retiro Park.
Madrid nightlife is incredibly varied, and can often go on until the sun rises. Locals rarely go out until after 11pm and even then it’s quite normal to eat tapas as you go. Popular spots for bars, pubs and clubs include Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía & Huertas, La Latina, Chueca, Malasana and Salamanca.