Madrid may be lacking in architectural beauty compared withother major Spanish cities, but it makes up for this with itsboundless energy, blue skies, art, culture and some of the mostexhilarating and exhausting nightlife in Europe. The city iscompact and easy to navigate on foot - most of the sights ofinterest are found in the downtown area between the Royal Palaceand Parque del Retiro.
The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid sits in the geographiccentre of the Iberian Peninsula and has long been an important stopon any art tour through Europe. The famous Museo del Prado on thecity's 'Museum Mile' houses important works by Spanish and Europeanmasters from the Renaissance onwards, while the MuseoThyssen-Bornemiza houses one of the most extensive privatecollections in the world. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte ReinaSofia is devoted to 20th century Spanish art, with works by Miro,Dali and Picasso.
Visitors wishing to take a break from all that art may want tosee the Plaza de Toros, Spain's largest bullring, where regularbullfights are still held. Sports fanatics who like something alittle less blood-thirsty can watch Real Madrid, or Atletico deMadrid, Spain's most famous football teams kick off.
The city sits atop a plateau and is the highest capital inEurope, making its climate somewhat extreme with steaming hotsummers and bitterly cold winters. Spring is the best time to visitand explore the squares and alleyways in the heart of this crowdedcity.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the lastSunday in October); The Canary Islands: GMT (GMT +1 in summer). Electricity: Electrical current is 220 or 225 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard. Money: Spain's official currency is the Euro (EUR). One Euro is dividedinto 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at bureaux de change andmajor hotels, but banks give the best rates. All major credit cardsand travellers cheques are widely accepted at most hotels,restaurants, and shops. ATMs are widespread and are generally thecheapest and most convenient method of obtaining money.
Language: Spanish is the officiallanguage, but English is widely understood in areas frequented bytourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas. Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens require a passport valid for period ofintended stay and a return ticket or proof of onward travel. Novisa is required for a stay of up to three months. Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must hold a passport (can be expired for up toone year), but no visa is required for a maximum stay of threemonths for those holding a passport endorsed British Citizen,British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizenor British Subject. Other UK passport holders require a visa and apassport valid at least three months beyond visa expiry date. Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians require a passport valid for period of intended stayand a return ticket or proof of onward travel. No visa is requiredfor a stay of up to three months. Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens require a passport valid for at least periodof intended stay. No visa is required for stays of up to threemonths. Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans should apply in advance for a Schengen visa toenter Spain. Passports should be valid for at least three monthsbeyond expiry date of visa. Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport, but a visa is notnecessary for a stay of up to three months. Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for the period ofintended stay, but no visa is necessary for a stay of up to threemonths. Passport/Visa Note: The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes thefollowing countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France,Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands,Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue astandard Schengen visa that allows the holder, in principal, totravel freely within the borders of all. Non-EU nationals must holda return or onward ticket. All visitors may be asked for proof offinancial means for their stay in Spain. Embassy or Consulate in US: Spanish Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 452 0100. Embassy or Consulate in UK: Spanish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 75898989. Embassy or Consulate in Canada: Spanish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 747 2252 Embassy or Consulate in Australia: Spanish Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6273 3555. Embassy or Consulate in South Africa: Spanish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3443875/6/7. US Embassy or Consulate: United States Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 587 2240. UK Embassy or Consulate: British Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 700 8200. Canadian Embassy or Consulate: Canadian Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 423 3250. Australian Embassy or Consulate: Australian Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 353 6600. South African Embassy or Consulate: South African Embassy, Madrid: +34 91 436 3780. Health: There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, andno vaccination certificates are required for entry. Bird flu wasdetected in a dead bird in July 2006, and although there is littlerisk to travellers, close contact with live birds should be avoidedand all poultry products well cooked as a precaution. No humandeaths or infections have been reported. Spain has a reciprocalhealth agreement with most EU countries, including the UK,providing free emergency health care at State run hospitals. UKtravellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).Note that private clinics are not covered, and the scheme gives noentitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it coverongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travelinsurance is advised. Tipping: Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, butadditional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In restaurantstips of about 15% are expected. In Mallorca value-added-tax isusually included in restaurant bills, designated 'I.V.A', and maybe mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expecttips of 10-15%. It is customary to tip small amounts, usually 5-10%for most services, including guides. Safety: The ceasefire declared on 24 March 2006 was to be the first steptowards peace between the Spanish government and the ETA; howevertalks of peace were shattered on 30 December 2006 when the ETAdetonated a car bomb in the T4 parking lot of Madrid's BarajasAirport, injuring 24 people. The group has been responsible fornumerous bomb explosions across Spain, and is blamed for the deathsof over 800 people in its fight for independence, which has lastedfor four decades. There is still a potential risk of internationalterrorism, as in other countries, although the risk to tourists isconsidered to be low. However most visits to Spain aretrouble-free, except for street crime, which is common in the bigcities, and travellers are advised to take precautions to avoidtheft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Bewary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it isoften a distraction for accomplices. There are scams involvingletters sent, either stating that the visitor has outstandingtraffic fines from their stay, which must be paid into the givenbank account before a certain date, or notifying the visitor thatthey have won the Spanish lottery and are required to deposit anamount of money into a bank account to secure their winnings. Customs: Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will beimposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areaswhere food is prepared and sold, public transport, designated areasof bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children.Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid, and in the Canary andBalearic Islands is illegal. Business: Spain is one of the most conservative countries in Europe and itis important to dress accordingly at all business engagements;formal suits are appropriate. Punctuality is expected of visitors,however, may not necessarily be reciprocated. People should beaddressed as Seor (Mr), Seora (Mrs) andSeorita (Miss) unless otherwise specified. Shaking hands isusual with introductions. Business cards are common and like alldocuments it is recommended that they are printed in both Spanishand English. Gift-giving is not common and not expected. Meetingsoften occur over lunches and dinners and may be characterised byseveral speakers. A hierarchy is generally observed with respect.Business hours vary: working hours are generally 8am to 5pm, buttrading hours are roughly 9.30 to 2pm and 4.30pm to 8pm Monday toFriday. Communications: The international access code for Spain is +34. The outgoingcode is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for theUnited Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)93 forBarcelona and (0)91 for Madrid. Pay phones are either blue or greenand accept either coins or phone cards, which are sold at postoffices, tobacco shops, and newsagents. Three mobile phoneoperators provide thorough GSM 900/1800 coverage throughout thecountry and the Balaeric and Canary Islands. Email and Internetaccess is available at Internet cafes in most towns andresorts. Duty free: Travellers over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries do notpay duty on 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250gsmoking tobacco; 1 litre spirits with alcohol content higher than22%, or 2 litres dessert wine not exceeding 22% and sparkling wine,and 2 litres still wine; perfume up to 50g and 250ml eau detoilette. Travellers over 15 years do not pay duty on 500g coffeeor 200g coffee extract; 100g tea or 40g tea extract; medicine forpersonal consumption; and goods to the value of 175 peradult or 90 for children under 15 if arriving from non-EUcountries. Strictly prohibited are poultry products from Asia.
Message Edited by LL_Editor on 05-30-2007 04:31 PM
Madrid is a wonderful city. The museums (Prado, Thyssen Bornemiza and the Reina Sofia Contemporary Art Museum) , the Retiro Park, and the many restaurants make this a city worth seeing. My husband and I stayed at the Villa Real in Madrid, through the Luxury Link website. This is a Hotel registered with the The Small Luxury Hotels of The World and is aptly named. Our room, (which was a duplex suite), with a jacuzzi and separate bathroom (an additional bathroom and living room downstairs). The Eurpoa Restaurant was a Gourmet's delight with Mediterranean cuisine included a dinner in the package that was absolutely delicious! Please check out this Hotel before making reservations anywhere else in Madrid - it is a real deal.
The capital of Spain boasts to be one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. Great nightlife, excellent options for fine dining and a peculiar way of life of the Madrileos make it an excellent destination. Try some tapas by La Latina district, or go fine dining at Santi Santamarias great restaurant; dance and have a drink till dawn at some of the best clubs in Spain and dont go to bed without enjoying an early morning chocolate and churros. My favorite hotels: Hesperia, Urban, Puerta de America...
Madrid is basically safe, but there are a few new crimes cropping up that police and newspapers have been reporting and various Embassies are informing their employees and citizens about. One is the "bump and snatch", where a pickpocket in a crowded area, such as a bus stop, will bump you, causing you to lose your balance, and pick your pocket or purse as you try to keep from falling. The other, more insidious, is practiced by groups against lone males. They come up behind their victim without warning. One puts a headlock on the victim and strangles him into unconsciousness while the others laugh and crowd around pretending to be just young men in horseplay. When the victim loses consciousness, the others quickly pick his pockets and run away before witnesses realize that this is a crime. This happens in broad daylight and in areas that feel "safe." Beware. The scariest crime yet, and one that happened in my very nice neighborhood at 2 pm, is also a gang crime. One member is positioned in a bank or by an ATM machine watching for someone making a large withdrawal. He phones his compatriots a distance away, and they attack the victim as he walks away. A 55-year-old man on his lunch hour was stabbed to death and robbed this way a few months ago, in full view of startled lunch-hour strollers. Again, this happens so fast that bystanders can't even act. My advice to anyone coming to Madrid? Get one of those wallets that hangs over your belt and down inside your trousers. It saved a friend from being robbed recently in a "bump and snatch" - he was only knocked down and injured. Women - get the type of travel purse that goes across your body and is worn on the front. Keep your hand on it at all times.
I would say this is very true and Madrid is my favorite city. The Hostel Bruna, across from the Prado has been renovated and is less than 50 euros a night. Also, don't miss El Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world! The Cochinio is excellent! Right next to the Plaza Major.All the area between the Plaza Major and the Prada is well worht exploring- small shops and El Corte Ingles, too.