Community of Madrid is a triangle situated in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. The uniprovincial region contains the capital of Spain and was created after the arrival of democracy, separating it from the two Castile regions that surround it. Geographically, the mountainous central range occupies the west strip of the region, the rest of the community is plain lands crossed by several rivers. All the region´s territory is located on an enormous plateau that occupies the entire peninsular center and therefore it has a climate with hot summers and cold winters.
Madrid is a cosmopolitan city, famous for its dynamic atmosphere, which offers innumerable activities to undertake. It has more than 50,000 hotel rooms, which is the reason why its tourist industry is booming. It is an important business city as well, the majority of the State Public Administration buildings are located in Madrid, and it is the habitual residence of Spain´s royal family.
It has an impressive monumentality, exemplified in an historical quarter with the name “Madrid of the Austrias”, as well as the unique El Prado Museum, part of a museum area, on the Paseo del Prado, which is a unique itinerary in one of the most emblematic zones of Madrid. It can be crossed easily on foot. The quarter concentrates three of the most important museums in Spain: the El Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofia Art Center. El Prado Museum is one of the greatest art galleries in the world, with more than 8,000 works of, among others, Goya, Velazquez and Rubens. Nearby, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum is located. It is a private art gallery that has an important collection which includes works from the German Renaissance to end of XXth century modern art. Finally, the Reina Sofia National Art Center owns an important collection of modern art among which Picasso´s “Guernica” stands out.
Outstanding monuments in the city are the Royal Palace and Plaza de Oriente, where the Almudena Cathedral is also located; the Puerta del Sol, a commercial square, close to the Plaza Mayor, in the centre of the city, where is located Spain´s kilometre zero, the departure place of the Spanish radial highways. Madrid has many parks and natural areas, places where one can forget his stress and relax: Casa de Campo, Retiro Park and Juan Carlos I, and La Dehesa de la Villa stand out. The most popular of these, is Retiro Park, a quiet place where a calm stroll and a little boat trip can be made.
So this capital deserves a visit for cultural reasons, but Madrid is also one exceptionally entertaining capital, with an exuberant night life. The pubs, bars and discotheques are open until early in the morning. Madrilenian nightlife is well-known world-wide. Santa Barbara, the Plaza de Bilbao, Alonso Martinez, Argüelles, Moncloa and Malasaña are some of the zones to enjoy the Madrilenian ‘movida’.
Another option is to visit El Rastro on a Sunday morning. El Rastro is a very colorful open market outside, on the streets, where antiques and second hand merchandise are sold. Familiar leisure theme parks like Warner Bros Park are located in the Metro Area.
Outside the city other destinations exist with great interest for the visitor. Alcala de Henares, 30 km outside of Madrid, is an old university city with great cultural tradition that reached its maximum splendor in Renaissance times. The university monument, with a plateresque facade, is an architectonic jewel. The prehistoric, Roman and visigothic remains can be visited as well. Aranjuez offers to its visitors a fantastic Royal Palace from the XVI-XVIIth century. The beauty of the “Porcelain Hall” and the “Throne Hall” stand out.
Chinchon is another colorful medieval town with stone paved streets and a beautiful Square, where bullfights take place during local festivities. In San Lorenzo del Escorial, a few kilometres from the capital, is located one of best known monasteries in the world. This gigantic construction was built by order of Spanish King Phillip II to commemorate a triumph over the king of France in the battle of San Quintin, and, since then, has been the kings’ pantheon. Its ground has form of a grill.
Different local and regional celebrations sprinkle Madrid throughout the year. May 2nd marks the official celebration of the Region. On that date, the resistance of the Spanish capital to the arrival of the French Napoleonic armies is commemorated. During these days an important bullfighting fair, named “goyesca”, takes place. It has this name because the bullfighters wear clothes in early XIXth century style, like they are seen in a lot of Goya paintings. May 15th dates the celebration of a local patron saint, San Isidro. In Madrid there is an ancient tradition for this saint, to whom the Madrilenos dedicate dances, ‘romerias’ and the best bullfighting in the world. It is a tradition to buy sweets on this day, like rolled wafers and local doughnuts. Another celebration is the one that lasts from the 6th to 15th of August: “Verbena de la paloma”, a famous ‘zarzuela’ play. It is a celebration of with a very local tradition that presents one of the most typical figures of Madrilenian folklore: chulapa. The men get dressed in gray trousers, vest and a local cap and the women shine with their steering wheel dresses, with a shawl over their head.
Madrilenian gastronomy has gathered influences from all the immigrants from other Spanish zones that have arrived in this region. The dishes more commonly accepted as proper local Madrilenian are Spanish stew, a chick-peas mix, as well as Madrilenian Calluses. Madrid also stands out because of its quality of fish, because the best fish products arrive daily on its markets from all the Spanish coasts.