Madrid is a charming and authentic city with such an infectious passion for life that finds its outlet in the friendly and open character of its inhabitants. It has one of the most important historic centres of all the great European cities, which merges seamlessly with the city’s modern and convenient infrastructures, a wide-ranging offer of accommodation and services, and all the latest state-of-the-art technologies in audiovisual and communications media. These conditions, together with all the drive of a dynamic and open society have made this metropolis one of the great capitals of the Western world.
It has been populated since the Lower Palaeolithic era, although it was not until 1561 that King Philip II made Madrid the capital city of his vast empire. The historic centre, also known as the Madrid de Los Austrias (in reference to the Hapsburg monarchs), and the spectacular Plaza Mayor square –inaugurated in 1620 and one of the most popular and typical sites in Spain– are a living example of the nascent splendour of the city in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Near Plaza Mayor is the area known as the “aristocratic centre” where the jewel in the crown is the Royal Palace, an imposing building dating from the 17th century featuring a mixture of Baroque and classicist styles. Beside it is the Plaza de Oriente square, the Teatro Real opera house, and La Almudena Cathedral which was consecrated in 1993 by Pope John Paul II.
Art and culture play a key role in Madrid’s cultural life. The capital has over 60 museums which cover every field of human knowledge. Highlights include the Prado Museum, one of the world’s most important art galleries; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with over 800 paintings ranging from primitive Flemish artists through to the avant-garde movements. And the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary Spanish art and containing works by Picasso, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, among others.
The opportunity to enjoy a wide range of the best Spanish and international gastronomy, to savour the charms of its bars and taverns… all these are just a few of the leisure options on offer in Madrid. Its lively nightlife is another key attraction of Spain’s capital, due to its variety and the exciting atmosphere to be found in its bars, pubs, clubs and flamenco halls. Other daytime entertainment options include traditional outdoor dances, popular festivities and the San Isidro bullfighting festival, regarded as being the most important in the world.
Madrid has an extensive, modern public transport system, with trains, buses and other means of transport that are wheelchair accessible. Nearly 60% of Madrid underground network stations are step-free as are the carriages. The main concern you will have while moving from A to B around the centre of Madrid, is the sheer volume of people. However, the streets are fairly level, and ramps are situated at most crossings.
Prado Museum: It is the main national art museum, located in the Spanish capital. The Prado Museum features one of the world’s finest collections of European art, back from the 12th century until the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best collection of Spanish art. The Museum possesses one of the most important Art libraries in Spain. The library contains around 75.000 monographs and 1.500 periodicals as well as audiovisual material and specialized digital resources. It also has an interesting collection of antique books. The Museum has remodeled its spaces in order to eliminate architectural barriers making them accessible, with the exception of some zones in the Villanueva Building where specific architectural factors make this difficult.
Royal Palace of Madrid: It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at Madrid, but is now only used for state ceremonies. Otherwise known in Spanish as the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, and is a monumental building. The restorations made during the 20th century repaired damage suffered during the Civil Wars in Spain by reinstalling decoration and replacing damaged walls with faithful reproductions of the original. For the interior decoration, rich materials were used: spanish marble, stucco, mahogany doors and windows and important works of art, particularly frescoes by leading artists of the time such as Giaquinto, Tiepolo and Mengs. The Royal Palace of Madrid is fully accessible. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are welcome.
Buen Retiro Park: Buen Retiro Park is one of the largest parks in the city of Madrid. The park was born in 1630-1640, when Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, gave the king Philip IV several tracts of land in the vicinity for the Court’s recreational use. It belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became public. This green oasis is filled with beautiful sculpture and monuments, galleries, a peaceful lake and also offers cultural, leisure, and sport activities to all people, standing among Madrid’s premier attractions. Among its architectural, historical, and popular elements are the lake, and the Velázquez and Glass palaces, both used today as exhibition halls.
Plaza Mayor: The Plaza Mayor, a grand arcaded square in the center of Madrid is very popular to tourists and locals alike. The Plaza is rectangular in shape and is surrounded by three-story residential buildings having 237 balconies facing the Plaza. Over the years, the square has had many different names. It was originally located near the “Plaza del Arrabal” market and thus took this name before later becoming the Plaza Mayor. There is a bronze statue of King Philip III at the center of the square, created in 1616 by Jean Boulogne and Pietro Tacca. Located at the north side of the square resides the four-storey Casa de la Panadería building, supposedly named after the bakery it replaced.