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Madrid doesn't follow the rules; however, ever since Philip II made it his capital in 1561, it has evolved its unique character as a city that represents Spain at its best: vibrant, humane and down to earth, where people enjoy life with an intensity that is contagious. Just being there makes you feel better.
The city is full of trees and royal parks as well as city squares and can boast being one of Europe's art cities. In the Triangulo del Arte you will find a trio of art galleries - the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
Galleries and sights aside, you soon realise that it's the inhabitants - the Madrilenos - that are the capitals key attraction; they don't believe the night was made for sleep. Picturesque bars overflow with revelling insomniacs, particularly in the now ultra-hip barrios of La Latina and Chueca. Come prepared: the weekend starts on Thursdays - people dine at 11 p.m. and clubs close only for breakfast.
• Zalacain, Calle Alvarez de Baena 4, 28006 Madrid – to begin with, a suit and tie is required if you want to dine at Zalacain; for decades this has been the ultimate restaurant for Spanish cuisine and class. Bookings are essential and you can call them at 00 34 91 561 4840; currently they don’t accept bookings by email!
• Al Norte, Calle San Nicholas 8, Madrid – for something a bit more ‘mille-of-the-road’ you can’t go wrong with the Al Norte. Again, bookings are essential and ask for a table on the terrace. If you’re calling from Ireland it’s 00 34 91 547 2222.
• La Musa, Calle Manuela Malasana 18, Madrid – this is where the young and trendy hang out and graze on salads and tapas; it’s not expensive and if there are no tables available, you’ll just have to queue.
Unlike the Irish, Spaniards can sit over a beer for many hours. That’s not to say that they don’t know how to party – nightlife starts late and goes on until well into the morning and Madrid has a well-earned reputation as a city that knows how to party.
• Del Diego, Calle de la Reina 12, Madrid – a fun-loving bar, where the young hang out, this is a bright and breezy oasis.
• El Parnasillo, Calle San Andres 33, Madrid – a landmark café in the Malasana area of the city, El Parnasillo is frequented by the cool, artsy crowd.
• Fortuny, 34 Fortuny, Alonso Martinez, Madrid – class, style, great food, a cocktail bar and a cutting edge club all rolled into one. This converted mansion is well worth a visit.
There are two other clubs that we’d also recommend, both of which are on Calle del Arenal – Palacio Gaviria, a 19th Century Palace and Joy Eslava, housed in a former theatre.
There are distinct shopping areas in Madrid – in Centro head for Plaza de Callao and Puerto del Sol; if you’re in Salamanca the streets between Calle de Juan Bravo and Calle de Goya are where you’ll find the best shops.
If You Do One Thing in Madrid......
Museum – Prado
Church – Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida
Flamenco Dancing - Casa Patas, Calle de Canizares
Park – Parque del Retiro
Airport to City Information
Barajas Airport is 16km outside Madrid. It is connected with the city centre by bus every 15 mins and takes approximately a half hour.
Taxis are available for hire at the airport for transfer to your hotel.