The illustrious city of Madrid is Spain’s capital. It rests at an altitude 650 meters over sea level and can be considered a cosmopolitan version of New York, with a population of 6 million people. It is the financial and industrial hub of the country and the site where many of the world’s most prestigious companies hold base. The city is also widely known for its vibrant nightlife, arguably the best in the world, with more bars in the country than in fifteen European Union countries combined! It features museums (the world famous Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofia Art Center) lined along the Boulevard of Art and breathtaking neighborhoods with cultural flavor, like the Cuatro Caminos section of the city with its strong Ecuadorian and Dominican populations to the rich enclave known as Serrano, Madrid’s equivalent of New York’s Upper West Side and home to some of the wealthiest Spanish residents. It’s airport is also a technological masterpiece, with a brand new Terminal 4 wing that has catapulted the airport to the top of the charts as Europe’s No. 4 largest.
Sights you can’t miss:
- Prado Museum – Considered one of the finest art galleries in the world, this museum holds an impressive collection of Spanish, Flemish, and Italian paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries. With 8,600 paintings, museum honchos are adding new wings as we speak to accommodate new displays and exhibitions. Additional works of art to be seen here include pieces from the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman periods and precious stones.
- Retiro Park – Madrid’s version of New York City’s Central Park, this park is a national masterpiece, holding one of the largest iron and glass buildings in the world in the Palacio de Cristal and a huge lake where activity in the park revolves around. This big lake was the scene of mock battles and has become a place for tourists and city slickers alike to row small canoes. For 4.20 euro, you can rent a canoe for up to 45 minutes or take a once-around-the lake trip on a small passenger boat for no more than 2 euro.
- Salamanca – Unquestionably Madrid’s richest section, Salamanca is the commercial hub of the city with tons of luxury shopping options. If you want fashion, footwear, and jewelry shopping, you can’t get any better than Calle de Serrano with its dazzling array of Spanish designers along with Gucci, Prada, etc.
- Gran Via – the “Times Square” and “Broadway” area of Madrid, Gran Via comes complete with cinemas, theaters, cafes hotels, office buildings, and every shop from Quiksilver to Mango.
Things to Do:
- Palacio de Gaviria – The Palacio de Gaviria is one of Madrid’s hottest night spots. Recently opened as a disco, it has high ceilings and beautiful wooden floors. Thursdays is International night where tons of foreign students go to have a good time. Madrid is also a hub for foreign student activity with thousands of students engaging in cultural and professional programs year after year. It costs 9 euros to get in on weekdays and 15 euros on weekends. Definitely a must go!
- Islas Galapagos Bar, Calle Engracia, Cuatro Caminos – Venture off the beaten tourist path and head to this predominantly Ecuadorian and Dominican neighborhood rich with immigrants. It is popular hot spot for the immigrant crowd, especially on Friday nights. This bar has three floors and serves all of the customary dishes, a throwback and a refuge for Madrid’s working class citizens looking to capture their national flavor for the night.
All in all, Madrid’s combination of a vibrant nightlife and a world class atmosphere makes it one of the premier travel destinations in the world.