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COMPARE MADRID HOTELS

Madrid Spain

Madrid is the capital of Spain, as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the same name (Comunidad de Madrid). It is Spain's largest city, with a population (city) of 3.228 million (July 2005) and 5.843 million (metropolitan area). Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage, a good example of which is the El Prado museum. Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world.

Location

Madrid is located a little north east from the geographical center of the Iberian Peninsula, in the middle of the Spanish central Castillian plateau (Meseta central), at an average altitude of 650m. Nearly all of the most famous tourist areas are located in the historical center of Madrid, middle south of the city: Puerta del Sol in the middle, Plaza Mayor a bit to the south, Palacio Real to the west, and Plaza de Colón to the north-east. Some of those hot spots spread up past the Gran Via, which is one of the main streets in Madrid (the largest one being Alcalá Street, followed by the Paseo de la Castellana).

Climate

The climate of Madrid is continental; mainly dry and quite extreme at times, with frequent rain in winter. Madrid sees perpetual sunshine and a characteristically hot temperature in the summer, but with a fairly cold temperature in the winter. Spring and autumn are fairly temperate with most rainfall concentrated in these seasons, together with winter. Spring is definitely the best time to visit, especially the months of April and May. Rainfall occurs sporadically, and snowfall is not something that happens every year in the city, but there is abundant snowfall in the adjacent mountain ranges nearby.

Culture

The culture of Madrid was dominated by its religious and Royal history. Enormous, monolithic cathedrals and churches are plentiful in Madrid, as well as medieval architecture, although nowadays Madrid is just as much a cosmopolitan city as Berlin or London, full of new architecture, life style and culture.

The citizens of Madrid, who refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term "gatos" (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the climate. Due to the typically extreme midday heat, a "siesta" is observed during which some citizens take a break to cool off, though Madrileños can usually only afford this 'luxury' during holidays and weekends. Most stores are open during all the day, just small stores are often closed during this time. Workers and those more afflicted by Western lifestyles choose not to observe this long break and work traditional business hours, which are usually between 9AM and 6-7PM. During summer many offices, however, will have a summer schedule requiring workers to start at 8am and finish at 3pm (most commonly without the standard 1-2 hour break for lunch). Offices usually close during the weekend but businesses are often open Saturday morning (downtown stays open until afternoon). Most grocers are closed on Sundays, but some major chain and department stores linked to "culture" (books, music, etc.) will be open throughout the day as it is allowed by law.

Madrid possibly has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city and a very active nightlife; Madrileños are known to stay up until as late as 5AM-7AM. It is quite common to see a crowded Gran Via on weekend nights. It is important to note that, due to this lifestyle, lodging located near the fun areas may end up a nightmare for light sleepers if your window matches the street.

Madrid has a very modernized and elaborate transportation network of buses and Metro. The city contrasts with some large European cities in that it is extremely clean, and city employees in bright yellow vests can almost always be seen cleaning the streets and sidewalks. Like most large cities, however, there is a substantial population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.

Madrid is one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Communities of West Africans, North Africans, Latin Americans, other Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis are prominent.

Some popular districts are:

Malasaña— Alternative area, full of all kind of people hanging out at pubs, bars, cafes, squares and small shops. Mainly rock and punk music, some of them still open from "La movida madrileña" (beginning of 80's).

Chueca— By Malasaña and Gran Via, it is the gay district with a very strong personality. New design, trendy shops, cool cafes. Pop and electronic music.

Lavapies— Lavapies is maybe the most cosmopolitan and hippy area at the same time in Madrid. Indian restaurants, alternative coffees, African music and South American shops. Walking around for a coffee is well worth it.

La Latina— By Lavapies, it is the place to go for tapas and full of bohemian young people looking for stylish bars. It hosts the most popular flea market in Madrid, every Sunday morning.

Salamanca— Plenty of expensive boutiques, uniques shops with impossible prices and department stores.

Moncloa— Due to proximity to the main University in Madrid (Universidad Complutense), Moncloa is associated with students and a student lifestyle.

Barrio de las Letras / Huertas— Many of Spains most famous writers lived there (Cervantes, Quevedo, etc.). It is among Lavapies, Puerta del Sol and Paseo del Pradas. It is an area full of history and interesting buildings and is also well-known because of its concentration of bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels. As it is centred on tourism, it is not visited as often as other areas in Madrid by the locals.

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