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Madrid Travel Guide

About Madrid

Energetic, cosmopolitan and creative, Madrid has all the features of a modern European capital. At the same time, the legacy of its rich and complex history (once the centre of the Spanish Empire and dominated by the Catholic monarchs) is visible everywhere. There’s the enormous cathedral, the Royal Palace, and countless historic buildings full of pomp and circumstance.

Apart from being Spain’s financial and political hub, Madrid is an art haven, especially within the city’s Golden Triangle of Art. The Prado features Spanish greats; modern art can be found in Reina Sofía; and the Thyssen-Bornemisza hosts world-class exhibitions.

There are also plenty of contrasts, from the labyrinthine streets of the medieval quarter to the wide boulevards of the 18th and 19th centuries. Meanwhile, downtown barrios have transformed in recent years, with boutiques, bars and galleries popping up. Take a drink here on one of the outdoor terraces and watch the world go by.

Tourists tend to stick to the central area between the Palacio Real and the Puerta del Sol, but each of Madrid’s neighbourhoods is distinctive – Lavapiés, Malasaña and Chueca being the most hip. At the northern end of Paseo de la Castellana are the ‘leaning towers’ of the Puerta de Europa, while down from the Plaza Mayor is the district of La Latina, where hip new cafés sit alongside traditional bars.

When it comes to nightlife, the city boasts the largest number of bars per capita in Europe, with Madrileños known to party ’til dawn. Apart from the superb tapas joints and clubs, there are thrilling flamenco shows to be found in the centre.

When you want to escape the urban bustle, the expansive El Retiro park offers a peaceful retreat with shaded woods and a glassy lake. Otherwise, head to Madrid Río, a 10km-long (6 miles) spread of pedestrian and biking paths complete with an orchard, historical monuments and even its own beach. The project has rejuvenated the riverfront and shown what can be done in spite of Spain’s economic difficulties. Madrid is a city looking forwards, with new ideas and renewed spirit.

Key facts

Population:
3200000
Latitude:
40.418357
Longitude:
-3.706011

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Hotel Unico

Despite the name, this five-star property in the heart of Madrid's most affluent neighbourhood, Salamanca, is not exactly unique – at least in terms of interior design. But based in a 19th-century palace, it is smart and elegant, with numerous luxurious touches such as the coffee machine in the rooms, the ground-floor garden that manages to block out the noise of the city and the staff who deliver complimentary chocolates and water to your room in the afternoon. Breakfast in the aforementioned garden is an extravagant affair, with fresh-baked pastries, Iberico ham, fine cheese and eggs to order.

The Principal

Concealed behind a palatial facade, The Principal is situated on the corner of one of Madrid's most important streets, Gran Vía. The entrance, reception and dining area are handsomely decorated, with portraits of aristocrats and fine wooden furnishings conjuring 19th century grandeur. Rooms are stylish without being ostentatious; expect carpeted floors and elegant but simple furniture. Ask for a room overlooking Gran Vía for terrific views over the city, or you can always pop up to the roof terrace for a drink.

Hesperia Madrid

Looming over the grandest boulevard in Madrid, Hesperia is a haven from the rush and frenzy of the capital city sprawling beyond its doors. The lobby and dining area are enormous, which means finding a quiet corner of your own is easy. The rooms are large too, many of them with separate lounge and sleeping areas, and all furnished with warm tones and classic woodwork. Book a room with a view of Paseo de la Castellana, the noise of which is inaudible thanks to triple-glazed windows.

Hotel AC Santo Mauro

This small luxury Madrid hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, is situated in a leafy corner of the historic Chamberí neighbourhood and is housed in a 19th-century palace that once served as an embassy. It has been reconstructed in a tasteful combination of neoclassical and avant-garde styles. The lounges, ornamented with stucco mouldings, mirrors and fluted pilasters, evoke the refinement of a bygone age and are the perfect setting for entertaining clients. Other facilities include business services, six conference rooms (occupying the former ballrooms), interpreting services, multilingual staff, an indoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

Casual Madrid de Teatro

It’s not just the location that makes this a great value hotel, although being a stone’s throw from Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza del Angel doesn’t hurt. The building is a lovely 1920s throwback, and the rooms are bright and airy, with high ceilings. Many hotels are charging much more for way less. One of the best cheap hotels in Madrid.

Petit Palace Ducal Chueca

Located close to the Gran Via, this Madrid hotel can truly boast 'all mod cons'. Part of the state-of-the-art High Tech hotel chain, its 58 boutique rooms are full of electronic knobs and whistles, including a flat screen TV and a hydro-massage shower. That doesn't impinge on comfort levels, though, and the red and black décor gives it a classy feel.