Explore Madrid

Madrid Travel Guide

Madrid may be lacking in architectural beauty compared with some other major Spanish cities, but it makes up for this with its boundless energy, blue skies, art, culture, and an exhilarating and exhausting nightlife which will delight party animals. The city is compact and easy to navigate on foot; most of the touristic sights of interest are found in the downtown area between the Royal Palace and Parque del Retiro.<br /><br /> The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid sits in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula and has long been an important stop on any art tour through Europe. The famous Museo del Prado on the city's 'Museum Mile' houses important works by Spanish and European masters from the Renaissance onwards, while the Museo Thyssen-Bornemiza houses one of the most extensive private collections in the world. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is devoted to 20th century Spanish art, with works by Miro, Dali and Picasso, and completes the holy trinity of Madrid's art world.<br /><br /> Visitors wishing to take a break from all that art may want to see the Plaza de Toros, Spain's largest bullring, where regular bullfights are still held. Sports fanatics who like something a little less blood-thirsty can watch Real Madrid, or Atletico Madrid, two of Spain's most famous football teams, kick off. Madrid is also home to some gorgeous plazas and parks which are worth exploring.<br /><br />

The Prado

Address: Paseo del Prado. Madrid

Admission: €14 (general); €7 (reduced). Monday to Saturday 10am to 8pm, Sundays and holidays 10am to 7pm.

Telephone: +34 91 330 2800

One of Madrid's most famous attractions is the 19th-century Prado Museum, one of the world's greatest art galleries, with more than 7,000 paintings that include masterpieces by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, El Bosco, Titian, Rembrandt and Velazquez. The museum began as a Royal collection, which succeeding dynasties have added to. The collection naturally focuses on the Spanish masters, particularly Goya, whose exhibited works fascinatingly follow the development of his painting from the sun-soaked early scenes of joyful festivities to the grim madness characterising his 'black period'. The Prado has few equals - and whether you are an art lover or not, you should check out this magnificent Madrid attraction. The collection is vast so cater at least a few hours for the Prado to really be able to appreciate it. There is a cafe and restaurant in the museum, as well as a gift shop and bookshop. Tickets can be booked in advance online, allowing the prepared to skip entrance queues. Guided tours are available, but groups wanting a tour must make reservations at least 24 hours in advance. Audio guides are available for hire in multiple languages. No photography is permitted in the galleries.<br /><br />

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Address: Villahermosa Palace, 8 Paseo del Prado. Madrid

Admission: €9 (general); €6 (reduced). Temporary exhibitions vary in cost. Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 7pm. Free access on Mondays between 12pm and 4pm.

Telephone: +34 91 369 0151

The second gallery in Madrid's 'golden triangle' of art museums is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Housing the former private collection of the Thyssen family, the works were bought by the city of Madrid to enrich its impressive collection of art treasures. The collection, housed in the restored 18th-century Palacio de Villahermosa near the Prado, contains more than 800 paintings, sculptures, carvings and tapestries, ranging from primitive Flemish works to contemporary pieces. Among the highlights are works by Renoir, Durer and Van Eyck, but many masters are represented in the Thyssen, including Claude Monet, John Sargent Singer, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse and Edvard Munch. The collection includes some major American works as well. There is a great gift shop and a cafe at the museum. Guided group tours with experts are available both during opening hours and when the museum is closed, but these must be booked in advance. The museum also hosts lectures, workshops, courses, concerts and all sorts of other events and activities - check the official website for details. For many people, the Thyssen is the favourite of the three famous Madrid galleries due to its compact nature, variety, attractive building, and atmosphere. It is also usually the least crowded of the three major galleries.<br /><br />

Reina Sofia National Art Centre Museum

Address: 52 Calle Santa Isabel Madrid

Admission: €8 (general); €4 (temporary exhibitions); concessions available. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10am to 9pm; Sunday 10am to 2.30pm and limited exhibitions open between 2.30pm and 7pm; closed Tuesdays.

Telephone: 91 774 1000

The third of Madrid's famed art galleries, the Reina Sofia is dedicated to 20th century Spanish art, having been designed to give Spain a museum to equal France's Pompidou Centre and London's Tate Gallery. The museum was opened by Queen Sofia in 1986, and is housed in the former Hospital de San Carlos. The artworks displayed here include those of Spanish masters Juan Gris, Julio Gonzalez, Salvador Dali, Equipo Cronica, Gerardo Rueda, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, among others, and there are also international artists on display. The star attraction of the museum is Picasso's controversial Guernica, depicting the Nazi bombing of the Basque town in 1937 in support of Franco's cause in the Spanish Civil War. Until 1980 this famous painting hung in New York's Museum of Modern Art; for many art lovers this one piece justifies a visit. The top floor of the museum is a library dedicated to art, and there is a bookshop and a cafeteria. There is also outdoor sculpture garden, which is pleasant to stroll through. The museum is immensely popular, especially when there are high-profile temporary exhibits, and the queues can get very long making it well worth booking your tickets in advance online.<br /><br />

Royal Palace

Address: Calle Bailen Madrid

Admission: €11 (basic fee), concessions available. Guided tours and audio guides available for extra cost. Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm, and Sunday from 9am to 2pm (October to March); Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 9am to 3pm (April to September)

Telephone: 91 454 8800

The massive, bright-white Royal Palace (Palacio Real) on the Plaza de Oriente in Madrid dates from 1734, when the 3,000-roomed royal residence was commissioned by Philip V. The imposing palace was built on the site of a Moorish fortress which dated back to the 9th century. It was last called 'home' by the royal family in 1931 - the present king, Juan Carlos, lives in the more subdued Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid - but is still officially a royal residence and is used for some royal events. Most of the rooms are now open to the public, and others are used for state business. English tours are run regularly, lasting about two hours, taking visitors to the reception room and state apartments, the impressive armoury and the royal pharmacy. The grandiose state apartments are filled with art treasures, antiques and opulent Rococo décor that could even rival Versailles. The palace gardens, in their current reincarnation, date from 1890 and contain a number of sculptures. The palace affords visitors great views over the city and there is plenty to explore in the vast palace complex. Apart from the guided tours, visitors can self-guide with a rented audio guide, or simply purchase a brochure in their language of choice.<br /><br />

Plaza Mayor

Address: Madrid

Madrid's famous central arcaded square dates from 1619 and was built by Philip III, whose statue still stands in the centre of the cobbled expanse. In medieval times the Plaza de Arrabal, as it was then known, was the venue for numerous public spectacles, ranging from knights' tournaments and festivals to the burning of heretics at the stake. The buildings surrounding the square, once made out of wood, were burnt completely to the ground three times, in 1631, 1672 and 1790, but always meticulously rebuilt, the final time producing the design we see today. The most famous building on the square is the Casa de la Panaderia, which predates the plaza, but has also been rebuilt several times. The Plaza Mayor was always intended to be a public gathering space, and has been used for bull fights, royal events and military parades. It remains a public gathering place, and is still the epicentre of certain celebrations in Madrid, but the majority of people who congregate in the sidewalk cafes to sip sangria on summer nights are tourists, enjoying impromptu music performances and watching the passing parade. The Plaza Mayor is invariably a stop on sightseeing tours of Madrid and well worth a visit.<br /><br />

San Antonio de la Florida

Address: Glorieta San Antonio de la Florida 5. Madrid

Admission: Open from 9.30am to 8pm, Tuesday to Friday. On weekends the chapel is open from 10am to 2pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.

Telephone: +34 91 542 0722

The Panteon de Goya (Goya's Tomb) is situated in the Glorieta de San Antonio de la Florida, and is known as Goya's Sistine Chapel. The artist decorated the dome and cupola of the little chapel with a fresco depicting the miracles of St Anthony, with the use of sponges, a project that took six weeks to complete. Amazingly, Goya persisted with the project despite the fact that he was struggling with deafness and apparently felt dizzy most of the time he was working on the ceiling. Mirrors have been placed in strategic places to provide better glimpses of the art. The chapel also contains the artist's tomb. Goya died in Bordeaux in 1828 and was buried there, but his remains were brought back to Spain in 1919 and entombed in the chapel. Interestingly, the tomb also contains the remains of a relative of Goya's, alongside whom he was buried in Bordeaux. The art work in his final resting place is more bright and cheerful than is typical of Goya, but his inclusion of ordinary working class people, not to mention prostitutes and beggars, angered the Spanish nobility; luckily his patron, King Carlos IV, approved of the fresco. Next door to the Ermita there is a replica of the chapel, which is used for religious services, so as to preserve the original as a museum.<br /><br />

Parque del Buen Retiro

Address: Madrid

Admission: Daily from 6.30am to 10.30pm

Madrid's lush central park, one of many green spaces in the city, covers 350 acres (142 hectares) and was laid out originally as the private garden of Philip IV. This beautiful, huge park, was opened to the public in 1868 and remains a favourite spot with locals and tourists. The vast park features formal gardens, a statuary, fountains, lakes, exhibition halls, children's playgrounds and outdoor cafes. Visitors can stroll among the trees, admire the rose garden, and take a boat ride on the lake.<br /><br /> Although usually quiet during the week, at weekends the park comes alive with buskers, clowns, fortune-tellers and sidewalk painters. Thanks to its size, even when the park is crowded it is possible to find a quiet nook. There is a lot to see and do in the park, but favourite attractions include the metal and glass Palacio de Cristal, among the trees to the south of the lake, which was once a greenhouse but is now used as a space for temporary exhibitions; and the Bosque del Recuerdo (Memorial Forest), in the southwest of the park, which is a simple memorial to the 191 victims of the 2004 train bombings. For people-watching, exercise, relaxation on the lawns, and picnics, the Parque del Buen Retiro is ideal.<br /><br />

Toledo

Address: Madrid

The magnificent hilltop city of Toledo, about 43 miles (70km) southwest of Madrid, was immortalised by Spain's renowned artistic genius El Greco in a cityscape that currently hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The city has changed little since El Greco captured it on canvas in 1597, with its golden spires and Gothic buildings spreading across the Tagus River Gorge, overlooking the plains of New Castille. Toledo was established by the Romans in about 192 BC and some Roman ruins are still visible outside the city walls. The ancient city was later the capital of Visigoth Spain in the 5th and 6th centuries and as time passed Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities all left their mark on the city's rich architectural heritage, from the Moorish gate (Puerta de Bisagrai), to the Gothic convent of San Juan de los Reyes. Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of all these wonderful cultural attractions throughout the city. Pride of place is held by El Greco's 'Burial of the Count of Orgaz', painted on the wall of the Santo Tome. The town's attractions and main street are packed with tourists throughout the summer, but it is easy to escape into one of the enchanting side streets, which wind up and down the hillside.<br /><br />

Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Address: Calle Juan de Borbon y Battemberg Madrid

Admission: €10 (unguided). Guided tours and audio guides available for extra cost. Concessions available. Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm (until 5pm between October and March)

Telephone: 91 890 5903, or 91 890 5313

The huge granite rectangular edifice, topped with four spiral towers, is a foreboding sight in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 30 miles (50km) northwest of Madrid. El Escorial was a marriage of the power of the Roman Catholic Church and Spanish royalty in the 16th and 17th centuries, at once a monastery and a royal palace. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was completed in 1584 and took almost 21 years to build. The monastery/church/palace complex was built by Philip II as a memorial to his father, Charles V, as a summer residence, and as a final resting place for Spanish royalty. The complex is similar to the Alcazar of Seville and the Alhambra of Granada in layout, but the architectural style and decor is far more austere. Apart from the fascinating history, the complex is a vast storehouse for art, containing works by El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Titian and Tintoretto, among many others. A magnificent vaulted library, covered in frescoes, contains a priceless collection of more than 60,000 ancient manuscripts. The monastery itself houses a wealth of paintings and tapestries, and the Royal Pantheon beneath the royal chapel is the tomb of almost all Spanish royalty since Philip II. No photography is permitted in the complex. El Escorial is best explored on a guided tour or with the audio guide as the basic ticket doesn't grant access to as many areas and the majority of textual explanations are in Spanish.<br /><br />

Segovia

Address: Madrid

The ancient town of Segovia, lying on a slope of the Guadarrama Mountains with the confluence of the Eresma and Clamores Rivers below, is a delightful taste of the glorious past of the area known as Castile in central Spain. Segovia is 54 miles (91km) northwest of Madrid and is well worth visiting for its reputation as being the most beautiful city in Spain; the journey only takes about an hour by bus (and only 30 minutes by high speed train), making it the perfect excursion. The ancient town has been awarded a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list and is a joy for photographers, with its historic pedigree proudly displayed.<br /><br /> The ancient Romans turned the town into a military base, leaving behind Segovia's famous aqueduct, which begins nine miles from the city and until fairly recently still supplied the town with water. The other main attraction in Segovia is the fairytale Alcazar, a massive fortified citadel, built in the 11th century, perched on the edge of town. It is said to be the fortress that the Walt Disney castle is modelled on. The town overflows with Romanesque churches, 15th-century palaces, narrow streets, and small fountain-splashed plazas, and is best explored on foot.<br /><br />

Flamenco at Corral de la Moreria

Address: 17 Calle Moreria Madrid

Admission: €38 to €40 per show, not including dinner and drinks. Open daily from 8.30pm to 2am

Telephone: +34 91 365 8446 and +34 91 365 1137

Listed as one of Madrid's top ten sights, the tablao flamenco (flamenco show restaurant) is renowned as the oldest and most famous flamenco show in the world. The multi-award winning establishment draws kings and queens, international presidents, film stars, and well-known artists and writers who come to witness the nightly performances of top flamenco stars while receiving excellent service and dining on exquisite meals prepared by some of the best chefs in Madrid. The Corral de la Moreria was opened in 1956 and is widely lauded as the best flamenco venue in the world. It has hosted some of the finest professionals of the flamenco discipline, as well as world-class singers and musicians. Shows last for about an hour and 15 minutes and feature about 10 artists. Prices vary slightly depending on the time and day. The restaurant is also superb, serving up some exciting interpretations of traditional Spanish and international fare, but visitors should note that food is not included in ticket prices. Check who is performing and buy tickets online via the official website listed below. You can find the venue right in the centre of Madrid, next to the Royal Palace.<br /><br />

Puerta del Sol

Address: Madrid

One of the most well-known plazas in the country, Puerta del Sol is the historical and geographical heart of the city. Named after Madrid's eastern city gate of the same location; the 15th-century entryway earned its name by being bathed in the rays of the rising sun due its eastern position. Littered with famous landmarks, Puerta del Sol is home to the famous Spanish clock tower whose bell marks the beginning of the New Year. The official symbol of Madrid, the El Oso y El Madroño, a 20-ton statue of a bear eating fruits off a Madrono tree, as well as a large equestrian statue of King Carlos III are also on display. Unmistakable is the luminous Tio Pepe sign, a longstanding hallmark of Puerta del Sol, and more discreet is the marker on the pavement, which signals the official starting point of six of Spain's major highways and symbolically places Puerta del Sol at the centre of Spain. This geographical importance is mirrored politically and socially: the plaza is a popular site for rallies and protests, and remains an important venue for social gatherings, festivals and events. Madrid's most famous plaza is well worth a visit and the area is popular with tourists, with many hotels nearby.<br /><br />

Royal Botanic Garden

Address: Plaza de Murillo Madrid

Admission: €3 adults; concessions available. Children under ten are free. Daily from 10am to 6pm (November to February), 7pm (March), 8pm (April and September) and 9pm (May to August)

Telephone: 91 420 3017

Located nearby the Prado Museum, the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid is one of the oldest botanic gardens in Europe. With the foundation of the garden ordered by King Ferdinand VI in 1755, the Royal Botanic Garden has been cataloguing and nurturing rare species of flora for over 200 years. A welcome break after hours of art, architecture, and frenetic streets, the garden is a small haven of natural splendour. Divided into three terraces and extending only eight hectares, the garden boasts an array of 30,000 plants and flowers and 1,500 trees. Not only interested in exhibiting plants, the gardens' initial aim was to teach botany, and to promote expeditions to discover new plant species and classification. Nowadays the Royal Botanic Garden houses a cutting edge research centre, an extensive herbarium and a large library. Visit the Classical Romantic Garden, Villanueva Pavilion, the Graells Greenhouse and the Exhibition Greenhouse. Guided tours can be arranged (best to book in advance via the website), but there is also a series of self-guided tours set out on the website, suggesting what to see on a number of trips to the garden arranged by themes like 'the evolution of the plant kingdom', 'aromatic plants' and 'outstanding trees'.<br /><br />

National Archaeological Museum of Spain

Address: 13 Serrano Madrid

Admission: Free Tuesday to Saturday from 9.30am to 8pm; Sundays and Festivals from 9.30am to 3pm

Telephone: 91 577 7912

A worthwhile visit in a country known for its rich history, the National Archaeological Museum was founded in 1867 with the purpose of being a depository for the collection of numismatic, archaeological, ethnographical and decorative art collections compiled by the Spanish monarchs. Situated in a stately neoclassical mansion alongside the National Library, the museum's collection ranges from prehistoric times to the 19th century. One of the major exhibits is the famous Iberian statue, , a carving from the 4th century BC found on the southeastern coast of Spain. Other intriguing exhibits are the Islamic collection, outlining the long and influential history of the Moors in Spain, and the replica of Altamira Cave, inhabited over 18,000 years ago, with rock paintings depicting bison, horses, boars and human handprints. The replica of the cave can be found in the garden and is particularly notable because the original has been closed to the public to prevent deterioration. The museum also holds interesting collections of Visigoth, Roman and Greek artefacts. With three floors of exhibition space, this museum is a treasure trove for those interested in the archaeological history of Spain.<br /><br />

Sorolla Museum

Address: 37 General Martinez Campos Madrid

Admission: €3 (general); €1.50 (reduced). Free admission Saturdays between 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays. Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am to 8pm; Sunday 10am to 3pm; closed Mondays.

Telephone: +34 91 310 1584

A hidden gem, the Sorolla Museum was the home of renowned Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla and his family. Donated to the government in 1929 by Sorolla's widow, the house now operates as a memorial and museum, displaying a large collection of Sorolla's glowing works and other contemporary collections including sculpture, ceramics, furniture and jewellery. A fine example of a bourgeois Madrid home from the early 20th century, the attractive museum has an intrinsically Spanish style with brightly painted walls and dark furniture. The little garden is also lovely. Much of the house remains as Sorolla left it, right down to his stained paintbrushes and pipes. Although known for his portraits of aristocrats, Sorolla's passion lay in depicting the everyday lives of Spanish people, with many paintings depicting Spaniards in their native dress, going to the beach and engaging in work or leisure activities. Informative audio guides are available for an extra €2. Afternoon visits are recommended for those wanting to avoid crowds, as school and tour groups usually come in the morning. The museum is delightful, but small, and won't require much time to explore.<br /><br />

Safari Park

Address: Carretera de Cadalso de los Vidrios, Navalcarnero, Aldea del Fresno (50km from Madrid) Madrid

Admission: €16 (adults); €12 (children). Daily from 10.30am to sunset

Telephone: 91 862 2314

A great day out for the kids is a trip to the Safari Park, set in an African-style savannah landscape and home to giraffe, camels, zebras, elephants, hippos, bison, bears, baboons and rhino, as well as some entertaining monkeys, among other things. The main wildlife attraction of the park are the big cats, including lions, tigers and cougers. Many of the animals are allowed to roam free, simulating an African safari experience that lets visitors game view from their vehicles. Those who have been on real safaris will find the park a disappointing experience, however. There is a reptile collection, including a number of exotic snakes, and some interesting birds. There are daily lion-taming shows and bird shows, as well as activities like camel rides. Small kids will be delighted with the selection of meek, cuddly animals that they are allowed to interact with. There are two picnic areas in the park and a swimming pool and slide that offer a welcome respite after a day of game viewing. There is even a go-karting track and some paddle boats to play on. It is recommended that visitors bring their own food and also something to feed the animals. Animal food is on sale at the park but it is far cheaper to bring your own.<br /><br />

Madrid Zoo and Aquarium

Address: Casa de Campo, s/n 28011. Madrid

Admission: €22.90 (adults); €18.55 (children). Concessions available. Hours change according to season and there is a detailed calendar on the official website, but the zoo is usually open between 11am and 6pm.

Telephone: 91 512 3770

Home to nearly 3,000 animals from all over the world, as well as an impressive aquarium, the Madrid Zoo is a great attraction for kids on holiday in the city. Highlights of the zoo include koala bears, pandas, zebras, raccoons, bears, reindeers, rhinos, otters, lions, chimpanzees, hippos, lemurs, lynx, buffalo, elephants, wolves, orangutans, baboons, gorillas, giraffes and tigers. The zoo also boasts a good variety of reptiles and birds. Marine animals include the ever-popular dolphins, seals, penguins and sharks. There are dolphin and sea lion shows. The queues can get long at the entrance, and there are discounts for booking online, so it is worth booking your tickets in advance via the official website. Luckily once inside the zoo is so vast that it seldom feels too crowded. Those who have trouble walking or are in a bit of a lazy mood can rent golf carts to get them around. There are plenty of snack kiosks and eateries spread throughout the grounds, but it is also possible to bring your own picnic. It's a good idea to travel to the zoo on the metro, because parking can be a problem on a busy day. The Madrid Zoo can easily keep the family occupied and entertained for a full day.<br /><br />

Parque de Atracciones

Address: Casa de Campo Madrid

Admission: €28,90 (adults); €11,95 (children). Concessions available. Discounts for online booking and family groups. Opening times vary according to season and day - check the official website for a calendar.

Telephone: 91 463 2900

Parque de Atracciones is a fantastic amusement park in Madrid, and a particularly good option for those travelling with kids. The park is big and modern and offers a number of rides and attractions for all ages. There is plenty for the thrill-seekers to enjoy, but also some more relaxed rides. The park is divided into five large sections: Maquinismo (machinery), where many large rides can be found; the Gran Avenida (main avenue), which boasts shops, restaurants, shows and street performers; Naturaleza (nature); Tranquilidad (relaxation); and Infantile, an area designed for young kids. There are a number of shows, games and spectacles to keep everybody entertained. The Virtual Cinema is a simulator with moving chairs that kids will love, and the Spectacle of Sound, Light and Water show has fireworks and lasers that are also a favourite. There are about 15 food outlets in the park, including restaurants, fast food joints and snack kiosks. Booking tickets online (at least three days in advance) allows you to skip queues at the entrance and earns you substantial discounts. It is best to arrive early as queues can get long in the park.<br /><br />

Cuenca

Address: Madrid

Just two hours southeast of Madrid lies Cuenca, one of the most charming small towns you'll find anywhere on the Iberian peninsula. Located on a steep spur, above the confluence of two deep river gorges, Cuenca's magnificent geography is matched only by the architectural wonders contained within its medieval city walls. In fact, the entire town centre of Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and has been since 1996), and visitors to Spain who are looking for a romantic town to wander around in for a few days are strongly encouraged to give Cuenca a try. Cuenca is full of Moorish fortresses, Gothic cathedrals with 'unum ex septem' signs outside (if you pray while looking at one of them, you'll get five years' worth of forgiveness for your sins), rococo-style convents, museums and parks. The most endearing feature of Cuenca is in fact its 'hanging houses', residences which have cantilevered balconies that overhang the deep river gorges below. The strange angularity of these buildings is said to have inspired the artistic movement known as Cubism. A wonderful place to ramble around for a couple of days, Cuenca is an ideal stop for those travelling to Barcelona from Madrid.<br /><br />

Madrid Carnaval

Where: ,Madrid

When: 8 - 14 March 2017

Madrid's traditional medieval carnival was revived in 1976 after being squashed for 40 years under Franco's regime. Revellers now exult in this plethora of partying and parades every year, with the action centred in venues like the Casino and the Circulo de Bellas Artes. Carnaval opens with a huge parade along the Paseo de la Castellana, and there are fancy dress competitions and an evening concert in the Plaza Mayor. The end of Carnaval, on Ash Wednesday, brings on the bizarre traditional 'Burial of the Sardine' parade, with the participants all dressed in black carrying a cardboard sardine in a coffin to be mournfully buried at the Fuente de los Pajaritos. This strange tradition is apparently symbolic of burying the past and starting anew. Although those is search of sin will find raucous parties aplenty, many of the events at Madrid's Carnival are family-friendly and those travelling with kids will be able to enjoy lots of innocent fun. Dressing up and donning a mask is recommended - the anonymity can be liberating, and being in costume naturally draws one into the celebrations. For more information contact the Madrid Tourist Office on 91 588 1636 or 91 366 5477.<br /><br />

Fiesta de San Isidro

Where: Plaza Mayor, Plaza de las Vistillas, Plaza de las Comendadoras, Plaza de Felipe II, Parque del Retiro and the Centro Cultural de la Villa in the Jardines del Descubrimiento,Madrid

When: 11 - 15 May 2017 TBC

Madrid goes wild each May in honour of the city's patron saint, San Isidro, with a traditional round of partying, feasting and dancing in the streets that goes on for about 10 days around the designated saint's day, 15 May. The city's streets are dominated by music, and each neighbourhood (barrio) chimes in with their own street party or traditional celebration. The city's squares become centres for performances of everything from flamenco to rock 'n roll, while spectators feast on traditional ice cream and doughnuts. Traditional costume is the order of the day and the emphasis in all things is on tradition, with folk dancing and music dominating. Most of the festivities and events are public and free and can be enjoyed just by roaming the right streets. The locals make pilgrimages to the Pradera of San Isidro on the saint's day, where everybody is supposed to drink at the spring. The Pradera is the entertainment hub on 15 May, with people gathering for picnics and lots of food stalls popping up. San Isidro's fiesta also signals the start of the city's bullfighting season at the Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas. For more information dial the Tourist Information line on 010 (Madrid) or +34 (0)91 540 40404010.<br /><br />

The nightlife in Madrid is varied and exciting with many pubs, tascas (cheap bars), theatres, movie houses and nightclubs to keep visitors entertained. El terraceo (terrace-hopping) is a way of life in Madrid. Most people only start partying at around 11pm and few locals enter a nightclub before 1am. Many places stay open past dawn. Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía and Chueca are some of the trendiest nightlife areas.<br /><br /> Viva Madrid and Los Gabrieles are two of the most popular bars, but there are also many old tavernas around Los Austrias to explore. Plaza Santa Ana and the surrounding streets have a few good spots and the seven-floor Kapital has a great rooftop bar. For clubbing, the Room is fantastic but only open Fridays, Joy Eslava Disco comes highly recommended, and Lavapiés is popular with the bohemian crowd. There are wonderful flamenco performances at Casa Patas, and the Lope de Vega theatre has excellent shows. Tapas and coffee bars are also very popular in Madrid.<br /><br /> There are various Madrid nightlife coach tours offered, a good way to avoid queues and entrance fees at certain venues. Children are admitted in many bars, cafeterias and restaurants, as well as some pubs. There are flyers available from most hotels which list bar, club and concert information and discounts, as does the Guía del Ocio (available at news stands).<br /><br />
Madrid offers arguably some of the best shopping in not only Spain but also Europe, and with so many shopping districts all touting their own specialities, visitors can find just about anything and everything! With small, specialised stores, boutiques and antique shops as well as the slightly bigger department stores and bustling food markets, Madrid is a shopper's paradise.<br /><br /> The city's answer to Bond Street, dubbed 'the golden mile', Salamanca is one of Madrid's most glamorous places to indulge yourself and stretch your credit card's legs, while Chueca is filled with trendy fashion stores. El Corte Ingles at Sol is by far the most convenient place for shopaholics to get their fix, selling all kinds of goods from high fashion to regional foods like Chorizo (spicy sausage) and Turron (a kind of nougat). One of the most popular markets is Rastro, attracting Madrileños and tourists alike. It has become famous for its antique stalls, second hand goods, jewellery and unreliable electrical goods and is held every Sunday from morning until mid-afternoon.<br /><br /> Most shops close on Saturday afternoons and in July and August some small shops close completely. On Sunday, a handful of shops open their doors as well as some of the larger stores and small cake shops. Practically everything in Spain closes for siesta for at least two hours during the hottest part of the day and the usual reopening hours are from around 4.30pm to 8pm.<br /><br /> Tourists from outside the EU can apply for a tax refund on goods bought within Spain. A sales tax (VAT) of 16 percent is levied on most goods and services in the country and the specified minimum amount spent before claiming a refund is €90.16 in Spain. Shoppers can also purchase goods from shops participating in the 'Europe Tax-free Shopping' programme and they should look out for the ETS logo displayed in shops' windows.<br /><br />
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Average High51°54°60°63°71°82°90°90°82°68°58°52°
Average Low 32°35°38°42°48°56°61°61°55°47°39°35°
Toggle Electricity of Madrid
Round pins. Description
Round pins.
Voltage
230 V
Frequency
50 Hz
Type
C
"Schuko" plug and receptable with side grounding contacts. Description
"Schuko" plug and receptable with side grounding contacts.
Voltage
230 V
Frequency
50 Hz
Type
F
Toggle Dialing Codes of Madrid
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