Country: Spain
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Peak Season: April-June, September-October
Shoulder Season: July-August
Median Temperature: 13.50 C / 56.3 F
Main Languages: Spanish, Italian, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, metro, taxi, car rental
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $180.00/day
Tourist Passes: Madrid Tourist Travel Pass
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Wish to visit a large city where you can literally “seize the day”? Then Madrid, Spain’s capital and largest city is the right place to begin your exploration of Spain. Madrid is hounded by tourists year-round for its countless historic landmarks, museums galore, café culture, and of course—the insurmountable nightlife. Its population of roughly 6 million—in the urban area alone—makes it one of the most densely-populated tourist destinations, leagued with New York, Japan and Hong Kong.

Expatriation is fairly common in Madrid due to its world-renowned universities that employ unbridled teaching methods and state-of-the-art facilities, ever-reminiscent of how the city was destined to be the capital of the then-superpower Spain which, in the 17th century, was at an arms race with Portugal over who had the most chartered colonies. Madrid is infamous for its high standards of education and exuberant way of enjoying life’s pleasures. The city also has the distinction of being one of Europe’s key centers of finance and technology, owing much of the success to its bright minds and well-endowed researchers and scientists.

The city is also famous for its museums; it is home to a triumvirate or the “Golden Triangle” of world-renowned art galleries: Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and El Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza, which are all connected by the Paseo del Arte (or “art walk”), with each gallery being only a ten-minute walk from one another. These galleries hold many of the country’s countless and not to mention priceless paintings and sculptures.

Packing List

  • Chic clothing for ladies and gallant attire for men; nothing impresses the locals more than foreigners dressing best in Madrid; smart, utilitarian clothing for long walks is advised
  • Essential medication and toiletries, including sunscreen and stress relief medicine for day-long walks and outskirt excursions; pharmacies and groceries are aplenty and extensively shelve items
  • A decent camera and (optional) zoom lenses for the panoramas; bring navigational/leisure gadgets, but remember to bring only portable ones—a portion of the crowds account for pickpockets
  • Extra storage (luggage bags/trolleys/suitcases) for clothing splurges; credit cards are honored at most boutiques, while ATM kiosks are widely propagated throughout the city
  • Some good reading materials to pass the time; many things in Madrid take time—a restaurant order may set you back thirty minutes, so keep yourself preoccupied with books or magazines

Things to Do

  • Appreciating Goya and Rubens’ masterpieces at the Museo del Prado; El Prado houses the largest collection of Spanish artworks, not to mention an extensive collection of ancient world artifacts
  • Witnessing unrestrained opulence at the Palacio Real de Madrid, the largest palace in the world; the baroque palace was completed in 1755, and is now used as a private gala and public art venue
  • Enjoying walks around Plaza Mayor, an arcaded square measuring 423 by 308 feet; the palace is cloistered by residential-commercial buildings, with a bronze statue of King Philip III at the center
  • Basking in the tranquility of Buen Retiro Park, famous for its spaciously landscaped walkways, artificial lake and suite of monuments and statues, that of Satan being banished from heaven
  • Visiting Almudena Cathedral, Madrid’s first and largest cathedral, commissioned to be built after the capital was moved from Toledo to Madrid; it is an icon of Spain’s continental conquests

DON'T

  • Go inside churches and historic venues wearing otherwise “distasteful” clothing; the city does not compel one to dress standards, but do observe proper decorum at all times to avoid looks
  • Expect neither sarcasm nor overly gross behavior to be appreciated by the locals; additionally, Spaniards enjoy the company foreigners exhibiting persistence to learn the Spanish language
  • Be exceedingly punctual and assuming of scheduled meetings; in Madrid, everything takes time: attraction queues, arrival of guests, afternoon naps, and not to mention the preparation of food
  • Be surprised to see the locals intolerant of their own rules—it’s more like “joi de vivre” here; you may come into a restaurant where a majority of patrons are all smoking with shallow concern
  • Consider talking about in-depth politics, religion and war, unless your field of specialty lies on these harrowing matters; bullfighting, for one, is considered a sign of machismo, so don’t make fun of it