Madrid offers an almost unrivalled blend of arts and cultural attractions, great food and wine, a truly vibrant nightlife and a shopper's paradise. Whatever you're looking for in a city break, Madrid has it in spades together with a rich architectural heritage and lots of open space.
You'll be pushed to see all that Madrid has to offer in one visit but an itinerary could include the sumptuous 18th-century Royal Palace, the largest in Western Europe, with its impressive armoury. Other popular sites include the grandiose Almudena Cathedral – which took 110 years to complete and was only finished in 1993 – and the Basilica de Francisco el Grande. The Baroque church has what is said to be the largest church dome (56m high) in Spain and fourth largest in the world.
But Madrid is also a destination that lends itself to the flaneur, or idler. Enjoy a pricey cup of coffee, glass of wine or some tapas in the Plaza Mayor, Madrid's main square, and relax and watch the world go by. Or explore the vast expanse of parks. Head to Casa de Campo, five times bigger than Central Park in New York. Hire a boat, watch the animals at the zoo, ride on the funfair, see a concert at Madrid Arena, or simply wander along tree-lined walks with fountains and monuments.
Art enthusiasts will be in seventh heaven in a city that is home to the Prado and a collection that includes many masterpieces by the likes of Goya, Velásquez and Manet. Nearby is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia whose main attraction is Picasso's Guernica and Thyssen-Bornemisza museum. The gallery includes work by El Greco, Gaugin, Caravaggio and Matisse.
Although Gran Via, once nicknamed the Broadway of Madrid, is no longer the force it was, it's still the place to head to for live entertainment. Check out Teatro de Lope de Vega for hit musicals.
Madrid is a gourmet's paradise and is packed with restaurants, bars and cafés to suit every taste and pocket. Tapas bars offer the cheapest eats. Try Biotza for a Basque take on tapas. Head to the Restaurante Sobrino de Botin for a truly memorable meal. This restaurant, which is officially the oldest in the world, opening in 1725, has featured in many novels including The Sun also Rises.
Make sure you don't miss a drink at the Museo Chicote, best sampled after dark, which invented more than 100 cocktails as sampled by the likes of Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren.
Madrid doesn't properly come alive until night falls and the Malasana neighbourhood is the place to which many people head with bars like Tupperware and El Punto. Try Kapital, seven storeys of fun which has karaoke, cocktail and R&B and hip-hop music bars, a main dancefloor and a cinema.
Madrid is also a shopper's paradise. For designer-label clothes head to the Salamanca neighbourhood and Velásquez, Serrano and Goya streets.
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|Food and beverages||Prices average|
|Beer (0.5 liter)||£1.00|
|Meal at McDonald's||£6.00|
|Water (0.33 liter)||£1.00|
|Taxi starting price (normal tariff)||£3.00|
|1 summer dress in a chain store (Zara, H&M,...)||£27.00|
|1 pair of jeans (Levi's 501 or similar)||£71.00|
|Average monthly disposable salary (net)||£1,273.00|