Madrid Travel Guide
Madrid is the most Spanish of Spain's cities, and one of the great capitals of the world. Politically, culturally and geographically, it is the heart of Spain. It is a city of both tradition and modernity, unmistakably Castilian but with the verve and pace of a 21st-century metropolis. It is a city of glorious old palaces and soaring cathedrals, yet with an eye-popping profusion of audacious, striking modern architecture. It is a city of museums crammed with the world's greatest works of art, and imposing monuments, respected universities, and the richest libraries in the land. It is a city of neighborhoods steeped in history and atmosphere, a city of resplendent parks and gardens. It is a city, too, of the good life, filled with tapas bars, fine restaurants, delightful little cafés, and edgy clubs, where a supremely frenzied, rollicking nightlife fairly rocks the city. It is, ultimately, a city that lives in the moment, with the common Madrileño refrain, "En Madrid, no vivimos para trabajar, trabajamos para vivir!" – "In Madrid, we don't live to work, we work to live!"
Madrid is the capital of both Spain and the central Spanish region of Communidad de Madrid, situated on the Manzanares River in the central plains of Spain. It is by far the largest city in Spain, and the third largest city by area in Europe, after London and Berlin.
Madrid's tourist appeal is huge and varied. Still, if one must be selective, the priorities are the Neoclassical Palacio Real, a 2,000-room palace that is the grandest in all of Europe; Plaza Mayor, a thoroughly atmospheric square that reigns supreme in the center of the city; the 350-acre (1.4-square-kilometer) Buen Retiro Park, richly endowed with sculptures and monuments; the regal, mid-19th-century Opera House; the National Library, a mind-boggling repository of over 25 million items, including more than 15 million books, the richest in Spain; and a host of astonishing museums, led by El Museo del Prado, among the largest and most prestigious art galleries in the world. Of the modern architectural draws, the inclined landmark twin towers of Puerta de Europa ("Gate of Europe") and the skyscraping Cuatro Torres in Madrid's business district are the pick of the bunch.
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