A lively, sexy city which beguiles visitors as much with its vibrant soul as its many cultural treasures, Madrid is unquestionably one of Europe's great urban destinations:
The glorious art scene and nightlife are the two main reasons to choose a holiday in Madrid, Spain's energetic capital city. Madrid's many art galleries contain such a wealth of great artworks that anyone would be hard put to see them all, while the legendary bars and nightclubs rock till the small hours. Art lovers are naturally enthralled by Madrid's Golden Triangle of world-class art museums: The Reina Sofia, The Prado, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. However, the city has something to offer anyone who enjoys exploring the world's great capitals, with many lovely parks, sprawling flea markets, fascinating museums, grand palaces, historical monuments and a renowned restaurant scene.
Best time to visit Madrid
The sky above Madrid is usually blue, brushed with puffy white clouds, and the city enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Hordes of tourists descend on Spain for the hot summer months of June, July and August and Madrid is no exception; however, the city is perhaps at its best in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, in May or October, when it is less crowded and not as scorchingly hot.
GMT +1, and GMT +2 during DST.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Medical facilities are good in Spain, but comprehensive travel insurance is always advised. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency health care for EU travellers on the same terms as Spanish nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Note that the scheme gives no entitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it cover ongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travel insurance is still advised. Travellers should take any medication they require along with them, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants, tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca, value added tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated IVA, and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.
Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid and the streets of the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.
Steeped in history, Madrid is a sightseeing paradise with the arts taking centre stage. It will take visitors several days to explore Spain's energetic capital and see all the historical landmarks, museums, art galleries, and parks the city has to offer.
The Paseo del Arte (Art Walk) links the three art museums that make up Madrid's famous 'Golden Triangle', namely Prado, Reina Sofía, and Thyssen-Bornomisza, where the works of Spanish masters like Picasso can be viewed.
The Times Square of Spain, Puerta del Sol is the official centre of Madrid and a must see, where visitors can take in such famous landmarks as the El Oso y El Madroño, a 20-ton statue of a bear eating fruits off a Madrono tree, and a large equestrian statue of King Carlos III. Take a stroll through Calle and Plaza Mayor (medieval Madrid), lined with beautiful old buildings and impressively ornate churches, and visit Goya's tomb at the Panteon de Goya.
The best, and most old-fashioned way to see the city is by foot as there are so many tucked away places to explore as well as many to appreciate en route to the next attraction, and with plenty of green lungs dotted throughout Madrid, exhausted sightseers can relax and rest their legs on a park bench.
Visitors to Madrid are advised to purchase the Madrid Card which offers free entry to more than 40 museums, and discounts in many shops and restaurants, as well as free public transport. It is available from tourist offices.
The nightlife in Madrid is varied and exciting with many pubs, tascas (cheap bars), theatres, movie houses and nightclubs to keep visitors entertained. El terraceo (terrace-hopping) is a way of life in Madrid. Most people only start partying at around 11pm and few locals enter a nightclub before 1am. Many places stay open past dawn. Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Gran Vía and Chueca are some of the trendiest nightlife areas.
Viva Madrid and Los Gabrieles are two of the most popular bars, but there are also many old tavernas around Los Austrias to explore. Plaza Santa Ana and the surrounding streets have a few good spots and the seven-floor Kapital has a great rooftop bar. For clubbing, the Room is fantastic but only open Fridays, Joy Eslava Disco comes highly recommended, and Lavapiés is popular with the bohemian crowd. There are wonderful flamenco performances at Casa Patas, and the Lope de Vega theatre has excellent shows. Tapas and coffee bars are also very popular in Madrid.
There are various Madrid nightlife coach tours offered, a good way to avoid queues and entrance fees at certain venues. Children are admitted in many bars, cafeterias and restaurants, as well as some pubs. There are flyers available from most hotels which list bar, club and concert information and discounts, as does the Guía del Ocio (available at news stands).
Madrid has a Mediterranean climate, with dry, warm and pleasant weather most of the year; winters are cold, but not as chilly as winters in many other European cities, and summers are hot. The city's high altitude and proximity to mountains causes some steep variations in winter and summer temperatures. In summer, between June and August, average temperatures range between 65°F (18°C) and 88°F (31°C) and the heat at midday can be intense, though evenings are often pleasantly cool. Summer temperatures can rise above 95°F (35°C) during occasional heat waves. Winters, between December and February, bring temperatures dropping to just below freezing, averaging between 36°F (2°C) and 50°F (10°C). Rain in Madrid is a rarity and no season is marred by heavy rain, but what rain the city does receive falls mostly in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The wettest months are April, May, November and December.
The most popular time to visit Madrid is in the summer months between June and August, as this is the peak tourist season in the whole country, but the best time to visit is just before or after summer, in May or October.
Spain is a tolerant and progressive place for LGBTI travellers. There are active LGBTI communities and social venues, particularly in big cities. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. As of 17 March 2007, the law allows a transgender person to register under their preferred sex in public documents such as birth certificates, identity cards and passports without undergoing prior gender reassignment surgery. Spain does not recognise a third gender.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.
Country specific diphtheria recommendations are not provided here. Diphtheria tetanus and polio are combined in a single vaccine in the UK. Therefore, when a tetanus booster is recommended for travellers, diphtheria vaccine is also given. Should there be an outbreak of diphtheria in a country, diphtheria vaccination guidance will be provided.
Those who may be at increased risk of an infectious disease due to their work, lifestyle choice, or certain underlying health problems should be up to date with additional recommended vaccines. See the individual chapters of the ‘Green Book’ Immunisation against infectious disease for further details.
There are no certificate requirements under International Health Regulations.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for most travellers visiting this country. Information on these vaccines can be found by clicking on the blue arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for some travellers visiting this country. Information on when these vaccines should be considered can be found by clicking on the arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.
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