The capital city of Spain, Madrid manages to blend together a modern European edge with a rich historical charm, making it a city quite unlike any other. With this exciting mix of old and new, Madrid is packed with fascinating contrasts, giving the city a vibrant energy that feels almost tangible.
The Madrid Rio is the perfect example of a successful regeneration scheme, and is a part of the city that is always bursting with life. Stretching out for over 6 miles long along the banks of the Manzanares River, this area used to be severely neglected, featuring nothing but a drab motorway, but is now home to a colorful orchard with over 800 fruit trees, historic monuments, walking and cycle paths, a city beach, and play areas for children. This cultural hotspot is still quite new to the city, having been officially established in 2011, but is the perfect place to soak up Madrid’s pulsating atmosphere.
Puerta de Alcala
Not only the longest street in Madrid but also the most important, Puerta de Alcala is home to a number of significant buildings. From the Church of the Calatravas to the Fine Arts Museum, this is a street worth taking a walk down for a taste of culture in Madrid.
Otherwise known as the Main Square, Plaza Mayor dates all the way back to 1619 and has always been the chosen spot in the city for public spectacles. While bull fights and pageants may not be seen on the cobblestones today, the shops and cafés that line the square still provide the area with a constant buzz, especially on a Sunday when the weekly stamp and coin fair is held here.
Tapas culture can only truly be experienced in Spain, and, while in Madrid, it only makes sense to take a few hours to tapeo, which is the verb for going for tapas. Madrid is packed with many different tapas bars, and it is customary in Spain to visit several of them in one afternoon, usually only sampling a couple of dishes at each venue. From La Ardosa to El Tempranillo to Casa Gonzalez, some of the finest tapas bars in Spain can be found in Madrid.
Many cities around the world seem to exude even more of an exuberant energy after dark, and this is most certainly true of Madrid. The city was at the forefront of the flamenco revolution, and Casa Patas is a great venue to head to if you want to experience this. The city is also filled with funky jazz bars, from Café Central to Clamores, which turns into a disco later on in the night. For those who want to go on a tapas crawl, the best streets for this are Cava de San Miguel, Cava Baja and Cava Alta, as these have a high density of tapas bars just a few steps away from each other.
Madrid’s unique energy and charm is abundant just about everywhere in the city, and is a true joy to experience. From the history of Plaza Mayor to the activity that fills the Madrid Rio, this city has a vibrancy that nowhere else can compete with.