Madrid city breaks 2014Explore one of Europe's most popular city break destinations
There's no doubt that most people will visit Spain to soak up the sun and top up the tan. However, there can be another reason, with Madrid proving popular with those who are looking to escape to the country for a few days and take in the history and charm that flushes through the capital. Whether it is the various open parks that are dotted around the city or the buildings that have been around for centuries, Madrid offers a hugely cultural, and perhaps educational, experience that will prove intriguing to all.
Fortunately, Madrid is completely open to the tourist industry and while there will be times that visitors fall into the typical tourist traps, most of the locals know that visitors are one of the main things that keeps the city going. Bearing this in mind, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options for one to take advantage of. Moreover, many of these hotel and travel companies know full well that Madrid mainly capitalizes on the short city breaks, meaning it is easy to find a tailored package for your short stay in the city.
Andy Jarosz's verdict on Madrid
Royal Palace. For 18th century opulence head to the grand residence of the King of Spain. Visit the Throne Room, Royal Pharmacy, Royal Armoury and wander through the magnificent gardens. Free entry for EU citizens on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons (hours vary).
Dining out Spanish style. Eat in the world’s oldest restaurant (Botin started business in 1725) or munch your way from bar to bar on a tapas crawl around Plaza Santa Ana. Eat fashionably late – most Madrileños wouldn’t dream of starting dinner before 10pm.
Prado Museum. Madrid’s no.1 attraction and one of the world’s great art collections. Permanent exhibitions include celebrated works by Velázquez, Goya, Raphael and Rubens. Buy your ticket online to avoid long queues, or visit after 6pm (5pm Sundays) when entry is free.
Andy Jarosz is the HomeAway travel expert on Spain city breaks. He can also be found on his site 501places.com.
Places to visit in Madrid
The Prado Museum is one of Madrid's most popular attractions and boasts one of the largest collections of artwork in the world. At the time of writing, approximately 9,000 paintings are based at the museum, while visitors will also see around 5,000 drawings and 2,000 prints. As well as all of the artwork in the museum, the exterior of the building is highly spectacular. Having been built in the 1700s, and then renovated around two hundred years later, the Prado Museum boasts fantastic architectural features that make a visit to the attraction even more appealing.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is another historic building that should definitely be visited. Boasting over 2,000 different rooms, the Palace is classed as one of the largest of its kind in Europe. Even though only 50 of these rooms can be visited through official tours, that is certainly more than enough and it's easy for tourists to immerse themselves in the luxurious decorations that drown the building. As well as the tour of the Palace, visitors will also be able to see the Arméria Real - a museum housing some of the classic pieces of Spanish armoury.
The Metropolis Building
For those tourists who are desperate to take some holiday snaps, a trip to the Metropolis Building should definitely be in order. Regarded as one of the most famous buildings in the city, the Metropolis is emblazoned with countless sculptures - each with a depth of history. Most people take to the building at night and make the most of the illuminations that line the exterior – with visitors able to take that perfect photo with the dominating Metropolis in the background.
Another one of Madrid's popular attractions is the Plaza Mayor. Fortunately, this is one that requires absolutely no expense, with the area situated in the central part of the city. Previously a market place, King Philip II asked his architects to convert the area into a decorated square. Nowadays, it is viewed as architectural genius, with the square being symmetrical on all four sides. It is commonly regarded as a meeting place for locals, while there are also various festivities that can capture tens of thousands of spectators. Those armed with a camera should also try and locate the statue of King Philips III, which was constructed in 1616 and sits right in the middle of the square.
Mercado de San Miguel
Mercado de San Miguel, or San Miguel Market to you and me, is an early 20th century market that sits right in the centre of the city. It is regarded as one of the most cultural markets in Madrid and is now the only iron market to stand in the city. Visitors are able to barter for bargains or simply browse for classic Spanish goods that line the stores. Moreover, with the market being completely redeveloped in 2009, there are now many more stores available and tourists can even make the most of some recently-opened bars that line the attraction.