Madrid, Spain

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyEuro
Local languageSpanish
Country Spain

Introduction

Madrid is Spain’s financial and political capital, it is home to the Parliament and the Royal Family as well as boasting the extraordinary cultural riches of the so called ‘Golden Triangle’; the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums. Situated at the very center of Spain it has a population of over three million, making it Europe’s fourth largest city. Madrid is located three hundred km (two hundred miles) from the sea on a six hundred and fifty-meter high plateau. In the winter temperatures can therefore drop quite low whereas in the summer it gets very hot,

One of the city’s main attraction are its inhabitants with an infectious thirst for street fiestas and not forgetting the thousands of bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and chiringuitos, which transform the streets into hubs of buzzing activity throughout the night. However Madrid is a capital city and as such looks like any other modern capital with vast expanses of high rise buildings and sprawling suburbs. Nevertheless, the city center and most of the key attractions including some large parks are easily explored on foot.

Madrid’s location at the very heard of Spain makes it a convenient base to explore the country further. Within a relatively small radius of the city lie such national treasures as Toledo, El Escorial and Segovia offering some breathtaking attractions and sights.

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Things to do

At the very heart of Madrid (and therefore Spain) lies the Puerta del Sol the fifteenth century eastern gate of the city, which is surrounded by the oldest parts of Madrid. From here modern Madrid spans out northwards along the Paseo de la Castellana. South of the Puerta del Sol lie the city’s key historical attractions such as the Plaza Mayor.

Above all Madrid is known for the three museums collectively known as the Golden Triangle, located closely together to the east of Madrid they form the Paseo del Arte (Art Promenade). Prado is over two hundred and ten years old and with a four thousand strong collection including such names as Botticelli, El Bosco, Velazquez and Goya among Europe’s greatest galleries. Meanwhile in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza highlights include works by Renoir and Van Eyck. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia completes the triangle. Here mainly twentieth century Spanish art including Picasso’s controversial Guernica are on display.

The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) offers guided tours taking about two hours, though an alternative is simply to enjoy spectacular views over Madrid from the Palaces’ surrounding gardens. Take the Metro to the stop entitled ‘Opera’. Plaza Mayor (the Main Square) is a beautiful cobble courtyard attracting many tourists (metro stop ‘Sol’ ). Parque del Buen Retiro is a lush one hundred and forty hectare (three hundred and fifty acre) park in the heart of Madrid where you can wander through the rose garden or take a boat ride at your leisure. This rounds off a hectic day nicely with a bit of early-evening tranquility.

Local transport

A dense network of bus, metro and local trains serves central Madrid. The main hub is the Puerta del Sol. The metro system comprising 11 lines is very quick and efficient but as in all capital cities very crowded during rush hour. Single tickets or 10-journey tickets can be bought at newspaper stands, tobacco stores (estancos) and the main bus stops

Day trips

If at all possible a day trip to Toledo is not to be missed. Take the train at Atocha station and within one hour and fiteen minutes you will arrive at this UNESCO Heritage of Mankind city. Often described as the ‘soul of Spain’; it lies seventy km (forty miles) south of Madrid. There is much to see such as the el Greco museum and the thirteenth-century Alcazar fortress.

Another option is El Escorial, taking only one hour to reach from Atocha or Chamartin stations. El Escorial lies just fifty km (thirty miles) northwest of Madrid and is the name of the village as well as the vast palace monastery which comprises eight acres, nine towers sixteen courtyards!

Recommended places and events to visit in Madrid

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