Madrid, located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula on the Castilian plain 2120 ft. (646 meters) above sea level, traces its origins to the era of Arab Emir Mohammed I (852-886) who ordered the construction of a fortress on the left bank of the Manzanares River. Soon it became a flash point during the interminal war between the Christians and Arabs until it was conquered by Alonso VI in the 11th century.
By the end of the 17th century an excellent network of roads to Segovia, Toledo and Valencia were constructed. During the 18th century, under the reign of Carlos III, the great arteries of the city, such as the Paseo del Prado and Paseo las Acacias were designed and constructed. At the beginning of the 19th century, Joseph Bonaparte undertook the reform of the Puerta del Sol and vicinity. The commercial street known as the Gran Vía was built as an east-west avenue at the start of the 20th century. In the 1950's the north-south boulevard called Paseo de la Castellana was extended; modern buildings (a menage of Deco and other popular styles), housing major financial institutions, now boarder this boulevard.
Today cosmopolitan modern Madrid is the business center of Spain plus the seat of the Spanish Parliament and the home to the Spanish Royal Family. Most of its industry is located in the Southern fringe of the city. However most tourist and many Spaniards prefer the Baroque and neoclassical structures of the 17th and 18th centuries such as the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) in city center.
Madrid is characterized by intense cultural and artistic activity and a very lively nightlife. No other European capital pulsates so late into the night; those not attuned to life in this city are mystified as to when its citizens sleep. To experience Madrid is to explore its restaurants (ready to serve an complete dinner at midnight), tapas bars, music scene and night clubs.
Population: city, 2.906.600; Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 or Central European Time.
Flight times: Paris-2 hrs., London-2.5 hrs., Los Angeles-12 hrs. NYC-7.5 hrs., Rome-2 hrs.
Average temperature: 79°F (26° C) in summer and 40°F (4° C) in winter. The average annual temperature in the shade is 55ºF (13ºC). In the colder seasons, the minimum temperatures often fall below freezing although in the city it rarely snows. During the peak summer months the temperature can easily reach 104ºF (40ºC), but this is made slightly more bearable by the low humidity.
Average Daily High/Low Temperature:
• March - May: 64°f / 45°f, 18°c / 7°c
• June - Aug.: 86°f / 63°f, 30 °c / 17°f
• Sept. - Nov.: 67°f / 51°f, 19°c / 10°c
• Dec. - Feb.: 48° f/ 31°f, 9°c / -1°c
Madrid Barajas Airport
Located 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the center of Madrid, the airport currently handles more than 25 million passengers a year. The Metro (public transit) connection is excellent: take line 8 from the airport to Nuevos Ministerios (12 minutes) and connect or take a taxi to your final destination.
Metro Rapid Transit
Public transit system serving greater Madrid.
Connects to Plaza de Colón in the city center, but traffic can be a problem. AeroCITY minibus door-to-door (from the city center) services another alternative.
Atocha (south Madrid) is the city's largest train station; Chamartín (north Madrid) is the other. Atocha services mostly Spanish cities; Chamartín serves international destinations. With cheap competitive fares offered by discount airlines, it is often better to fly.
City Buses are often crowded and most tourist walk or take a cab. Telephone: 913 936 000 or 913 058 345/342 or 902 353 570.
Inexpensive (within the center city) and well regulated.
Note: As with most major European cities there are more museums than you could or would want to see during one vacation, therefore below are some of the more prominent museums.
The Prado National Museum
World's best collection of Spanish painting, see masterpieces by El Greco, Velázquez, Goya. plus the art of Siglo de Oro; Ribera, Zurbarán and Murillo and many more. You will also find great Flemish paintings by Van der Weyden and Hieronymous Bosch, as well as an good collection of Italian art by Titian and other painters of the Venice School. Smaller collections of German, French and English art, are first-rate.
Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays and holidays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014 Madrid
This new museum complements the Prado. What is not in the Prado, can be seen at the Thyssen. This museum offers excellent samples of the German Renaissance and Duch painting of the 17th century, plus a collection of 19th century American art, that exist no where else in Spain. Impressionism, German expressionism, Russian Constructivism, modern Geometric Abstraction and Pop Art.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. closed Mondays.
Paseo del Prado, 8, Palacio de Villahermosa 28014 Madrid
Telephone: (91)3690151 (Museum)
Centro de Arte Reina Sofía National Museum
The collection is made up primarily of Spanish painting and sculpture; Picasso, Juan Gris, Mir, Dal, Chillida and Tapies as well as more recent artists. The Reina Sofía is home to the masterpiece of our century: Picasso's Guernica.
Monday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid
Telephone: (91) 4675062
National Library and Archaeological Museum
Calles Jorge Juan, Serrano, Villanueva.
The National Library in Madrid, founded in 1712 as the Royal Library, is the largest in Spain; it contains more than 4 million bound volumes. Rare books, maps, prints, and the magnificent Sala de Cervantes, devoted to the writings of the great Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, are among the special collections of the library. The Library of the Royal Palace (1760) in Madrid has many rare editions from the 16th century as well as fine collections of manuscripts, engravings, and music. One of the most complete libraries in Spain is the Complutense University of Madrid Library, which was founded in 1341; it contains nearly 1.7 million bound volumes and more than 270,000 pamphlets. The Escorial Library near Madrid is known for its collection of rare books. The Archives and Library of the Cathedral Chapter in Toledo is famous for its collection of some 3,000 manuscripts from the 8th and 9th centuries and more than 10,000 documents of the 11th century.
Calle de Bailénll - Palacio Real
Madrid's Royal Palace is an impressive example of classical Italian baroque style. Construction was begun under Philip V by the architects Juvara, Sabatini and Sachetti. Charles III was, in 1714, the first king to have his residence here. In the interior of the palace we find numerous elegant rooms, specially unique is the Throne Hall. Worth visiting are as well the gardens, Jardines de Sabatini and Campo del Moro.
The following are the most famous of Madrid’s grand fountains:
Fountain of Apollo, Paseo de la Castellana
Fountain of Neptune. Designed by Ventura Rodriguez.
Fountain of Cibeles, Paseo del Prado. The best example of Madrid’s grand fountains.
Parque del Retiro
Once the private playground of royalty, this glorious park is an expanse of green lawns that encompass formal gardens, fountains, lakes, exhibition halls, children's play areas and outdoor cafes.
Philip III built this impressive square between 1617 and 1619. The buildings are Renaissance style, in the center there is a statue of the king by Juan de Bolonia and Pietro Tacca. During 17th century this square was the scene of bullfights and was used as a stage for theater performances.
Plaza de Oriente
This stunning square in the east of the Royal Palace..
Teatro Real (Opera House)
Plaza de Oriente, Plaza de Isabel II. Madrid's opera house built in 1818.
Zoo-Aquarium de la Casa de Campo