Madrid was once dwarfed by cities such as Rome, Paris and London, but after the death in 1975 of Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator, it began growing one of the most culturally vibrant, round-the-clock cities on earth. If you take a Madrid weekend break or plan to stay for a while you will find that Madrid now has a mix of world-renowned artwork, busy public plazas, great cuisine and nightlife. Madrid has three reference points: The Puerta del Sol, the city’s absolute centre; the Plaza Mayor, The Golden Age core; and The glorious Plaza de Cibeles, with the most extravagant architecture. The oldest part of the city is commonly known as ‘Los Austrias’ after the Hapsburg dynasty. The Plaza Mayor is one of few parts for which the Habsburgs can really claim credit. An elegant arcaded square with some lurid murals added in the 1990s, this was where the greatest festivals and ceremonies of imperial Madrid were held, as well as bullfights and carnivals. It now has coin and stamp collectors markets on Sundays and lively dance bands during fiestas. Sol is Madrid’s most photographed square, home to the bear and strawberry tree statue. You will also find that much of the Madrid accommodation is part of the stunning architecture. Huertas & Santa Ana remains an important theatre district and for those art lovers planning a Madrid holiday, a visit to its three museums on ‘The Avenue of Art’ offers the chance to view countless famous works by notable masters. Among more than 7000 paintings in the Museo del Prado are pieces by Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, Rubens and Bosch. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, there are modern masters such as Dali, Miro and Picasso, including his masterpiece, Guernica. And the Museo de la Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza holds works by Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Goya.
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There are a wide range of cheap hotels in Madrid to suit families, couples, groups and singles. Combine cheap Madrid hotels and cheap flights to Madrid to create outstanding value Madrid holidays.
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CHEAP FLIGHTS TO MADRID
Even if you are only planning a Madrid weekend, make sure you leave just a little bit of time for shopping. Fashion for men, women and children from Spanish and international designers can be found around the streets of Almirante and Conde de Xiquena, as well as in the district of Salamanca which concentrates the best shops for jewelry, shoes, leather goods, furniture and gifts. Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are plenty of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, fabrics, ropes, hats and religious articles. Large department stores are located in the vicinity of the Puerta del Sol, and on the streets of Princesa, Goya and Castellana. Open-air markets such as the Rastro which is the most famous of the flea markets, opens on Saturdays and Sundays between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores. Everything can be found here from valuable antiques to used clothing, including collector cards, books, records and paintings.
Madrid is one of the world’s liveliest cities, never sleeps and during weekends or before public holidays, and on the days running up to Christmas, it is not unusual to see more people out and about at 4, 5 or 6am in the morning than in many other cities during the day. Nightlife can be divided into the following areas – between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Santa Ana, especially in a street called Calle Huertas is a great area if on foot as the many pubs, taverns, theatre-cafes and fashionable bars here are pretty close one to each other. Alonso Martinez and Bilbao are the names of two subway-stations, both of them in the heart of very lively areas. From the first one, try the locals around Plaza de Santa Barbara. Close to the other you will find, among others, Madrid’s most famous discoteque, Pacha, Argelles and Moncloa – Ciudad Universitaria are two more subway-stations where you may enjoy the ambience of Madrid’s university quarter. There are numerous traditional cafes to enjoy on a Madrid holiday, many of them decorated in the style of La “Belle Epoque”. On hot summer nights have a drink in one of the many beautiful terraces, where you will find large amounts of people until late in the night, mainly in Paseo de la Castellana especially between Cuzco and Paseo del Prado.