The capital city and epicenter of everything Spanish, Madrid is a city that never sleeps. Regular sightseeing is passe in Madrid if you are not an avid art lover. They showcase some of the best European art in their hosts of museums. But, more than that, Madrid is a party city, a place with a passionate nightlife where no one seems to sleep before dawn.
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In fact, many people consider Madrid not one but two cities, one in day and another in the night and perhaps you will have enough time to enjoy both. Don't forget to savor the world famous Spanish delicacies in some of the finest restaurants in Europe.
Madrid is a city of captivating back streets, beautiful parks, atmospheric cafes and lively nightlife. Begin your explorations in the old part of the city – the area between Paseo del Prado and Palacio Real. Stroll through the Puerta del Sol – the old city gate – to the impressive Plaza Mayor, the real heart of Madrid. The surrounding streets play host to a lively mix of restaurants, cafes and bars. Don’t miss the Museo del Prado -one of the world’s greatest art galleries. It features some of the best Spanish, Flemish and Italian art of the 15th to 19th centuries with Goya, Velazquez and El Greco well represented. Check out the Museo de la Escultura Abstracta for a good collection of abstracts by Miro and Chillida and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia for an excellent collection of 20th century art, which includes Picasso’s Guernica.
If you plan on doing any traveling, some of the most exclusive tourist beaches in the world are straight east, the islands in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain's Eastern shore. The five islands are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Carbrera. Due to their climate, beaches and tourist installations, they are some of the most prestigious and attractive places to “get away from it all” in the entire Mediterranean.
South of here is the Canary Islands, volcanic in origin, are situated over 1,000 kilometers from the Iberian Peninsula, off the coast of North Africa. They have an exceptional year-round climate with superb beaches where you can enjoy the sun, sea and beaches at any time of the year. Popular resorts include the town of Puerto de la Cruz, in the south of Tenerife and Puerto Del Carmen in Lanzarote. The spectacular, rolling sand dunes of Maspalomas in Gran Canaria are a must see for any beach lover. For your Spain vacation, we recommend two cities; first visit Madrid, and then fly to Malaga, a beautiful fishing town on the southwest Mediterranean water. Keep in mind, some of the most famous islands and resort areas arc an hour east of you. (see above).
The best time for travel to Madrid is from June to September, Madrid has extreme summer temperatures (100+), while winter months are below freezing and bitter, with February being the coldest. It stays in the 80’s thru most of October.
A valid passport is required for entry. Barajas International Airport is situated at a distance of 13 km northeast of the city center and connected to almost all the major destinations in Europe and North America. Regular buses would shuttle you to the city center from the airport.
The currency in Spain is the peseta (pta). Coins are available in values of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 500 ptas. The one pta. Coin, worth less than 1 US cent, comes in three sizes. While any of the others (5, 25, 50 and 200ptas) come in two sizes. This can be rather confusing, particularly as many vending machines only accept the older (larger) version of the coins. Notes come in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10 000 ptas; these are colored green, red, purple and blue respectively.
There should be no problem finding a place to change money in Madrid, in almost all banks, ‘cajas' or in the many exchange houses in the tourist areas, which have the advantage of longer opening hours (some are open 24 hours a day). Credit cards are widely accepted in Madrid, except in tapas bars, cheap restaurants and low-budget hotels. VISA is the most widely accepted card, but AMEX and Master Card (Access) are also accepted.
American Express Plaza de las Cortes, 2 Tel: 91/322-5500
For today’s exchange rate, go to here: (http://www.oanda. Com)