The very best of... MadridWednesday 05 August 2015 by Leila Wright Spain's fabulous capital city has more than enough to keep you entertained whether you're visiting for a weekend break or longer.
The best things to see and do
Madrid is a wonderful city to explore, with some of the best museums, markets and squares in the world. To get an instant feel for the vibe and culture of this bustling city, head to Puerta del Sol square, where street entertainers, dancers and musicians create a colourful spectacle for visitors and locals alike. Many visitors take time to explore the Prado museum, one of the world’s finest art galleries, which showcases 1500 of Spain’s finest masterpieces from artists like Goya and Velazquez. To escape the crowds, head to the beautiful gardens of El Retiro, which offer sweeping lawns, shady trees and lots of quirky buildings and monuments – it gets busy on sunny weekends, but there are plenty of quiet corners where you can enjoy a little peace and tranquillity.
The best food and drink
Madrid has nine Michelin-starred restaurants, so it’s no surprise that the quality of the food here is outstanding from start to finish. If your budget won’t quite stretch to Spanish haute cuisine, you definitely won’t go hungry – Madrid is famous for its tapas bars and restaurants, serving up wonderful local seafood, meat and vegetables, with plenty of Spanish passion and flair for flavour. La Latina is the best area for a night out, with thousands of people wandering the streets in the evenings and on Sundays. Join the crowds, stop for some tapas or a glass of Spanish wine wherever takes your fancy, and you’re sure to make plenty of new friends!
The best way to get around
Madrid’s metro is one of the best in the world, with 11 lines covering the entire city, and metro stations within easy reach of all the main attractions. If you’d rather travel overground, Madrid’s bus network is equally extensive, and uses the same ticketing system so you can mix and match. The city centre is easy to explore on food, and cycling is increasingly popular, although Spanish drivers are a force to be reckoned with! If you’re looking for an easy way home after a night out, hail a taxi – the city has plenty, and they’re relatively cheap too.
The best events and festivals
Madrid’s vibrant Carnival takes place in February and March, marking the end of winter with colourful parades and costume parties. The city is also famous for its New Year's Eve celebrations in the Puerta del Sol, where huge crowds gather at midnight for the tolling of the bells on the main government building, followed by a lively street party. San Isidro is the world’s biggest bullfighting festival, honouring the patron saint of Madrid with a month of events in May and June. Whilst many locals leave the city heat in August, visitors to Madrid will be treated to a fantastic programme of neighbourhood festivals offering live music, outdoor bars and street food – head to San Cayetano in El Rastro if you fancy partying with the locals!