Madrid - stay in the city that has gone from being the centre of a global Empire to football superpower

Madrid was catapulted from relative insignificance into global prominence when it was chosen as the site of Spain's new capital in 1561. The city prospered during the Spanish Empire's Golden Age, growing into the regal-looking place it is now.

With some three million inhabitants, Madrid is one of the largest cities in the Eurozone and the biggest population centre in Spain. Reached by a flight that can take as little as 14 hours from Cape Town or Johannesburg , the city is served by Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport , which is just a short journey away from the city centre by train, bus or underground.

Known for its very hot Summers and often quite cold Winters, late Spring and early Autumn are probably the most pleasant periods for a stay in the city and may also be the times when you are most likely to find good-value deals on airplane tickets.

Any holiday to Madrid has to start at the Puerta del Sol.This square is one of the city's key focal points and in some ways, the geographical hub of Spain itself, as the location for the country's 'Kilometre Zero', the centre of Spain's road network. Even more iconic is the bronze statue of a bear and a strawberry tree, the symbol of Madrid. Just a short distance away lies the Plaza Mayor, which in its time has been the scene of executions, bullfights and trials held by the Spanish Inquisition. Now rather more peaceful, the Plaza Mayor hosts shops and restaurants beneath its elegant arcades. Old Madrid's other main sights include the enormous Palacio Real, which is open to the public but still used for state occasions, Gran vía one of the city's main commercial streets, mixing Art Nouveau and 1920s skyscrapers and the Catedral de la Almudena.

Travel to Madrid and see amazing artistry, both on and off the football pitch!

Madrid has always been a high temple of art, with three of the best galleries in the world gathered together in a relatively small area around the Paseo del Prado. The Prado Museum is a treasure trove of Spanish, Flemish and Italian paintings, with pride of place going to artists like Goya, El Greco and Velázquez. The Thyssen-Bornemisza spans the history of Western Art, from early Italian to Pop Art, while the Reina Sofia is synonymous with Picasso's gigantic 'Guernica'.
The art of football is no less celebrated in this city, which boasts two of the most famous clubs in the history of the game - Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. Tours of both the Santiago Bernabeu stadium (Real) and the Vicente Calderón stadium (Atlético) will give you the inside track on the remarkable history of these sporting titans.
Many people also travel to the Spanish capital for its lively nightlife. The typically Spanish ambience of tapas bars and flamenco clubs will draw some, others will prefer the more sedate charms of the Madrid literary café of which the Café Gijón is the best-known. If you need re-energizing, follow the crowds to the Chocolatería San Ginés, which serves up that oh-so Spanish of treats, chocolate con churros (thick hot chocolate with deep-fried batter pastries) - enjoy!
There are a number of sights well worth visiting within relatively easy reach of the capital, including the Escorial Palace. Some attractions are served by public transport, others are more easily reached by car .

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