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WHY VISIT MADRID
The inhabitants of Madrid are called Gatos, “Cats”. Many think that the nickname is due to the fact that they like to go late; they do not have dinner before 10 pm, then they go out, they meet with friends at midnight and they go around, simply talking or jumping from one place to another until dawn. In fact, the nickname is ideal, but it is not due to the lifestyle of the Madrilenos. You will immediately become acquainted with this way of life, even if you are in Madrid for only a few hours and you only have time to discover the things to see absolutely.
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The explanation of this nickname is historical. Madrid was founded by Muhammad I, son of Abderramán, in 852 under the name of Magerit. The city was defended by high walls that had only three gateways: de la Vega, Arco Santa María, and de La Sagra. The attempts of Christians to conquer Madrid were successful only under Alfonso VI. During the final assault on the city, a young soldier climbed bare hands on the high walls with the same skill as a cat, replacing the Moresca flag with the Christian flag. Since then, this boy and his whole family have been called Gatos, a nickname that has spread to all Madrilenians. A street, the Callejón del Gato, is also dedicated to this family. As we said, the historical origin of the name is well suited even to modern Madrilenians. More than the rival Barcelona, it has a very intense nightlife. For a madrideno out at midnight, dancing all night and then going to work is no exception. This desire to have fun has made Madrid’s nightlife famous all over the world.
Before venturing into night-time entertainment, it is mandatory to discover daytime Madrid. It is a cosmopolitan city, with three million inhabitants open and hospitable towards those who come from outside.
There is the Madrid of great spaces and great architecture, the Habsburg Madrid that joins the medieval Madrid, both to be discovered. Madrid referred to as “Bourbon” is grown in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It has a less uniform style than the other parts of the city and has at its center the Royal Palace, which stands in the place where there was the Arab Kasbah. In this area, there are today large green areas that cover the two shores of Manzanares and the most important amusement parks of the city. The modern Madrid has grown, in a disorderly way, during the Francoism, the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco lasted 35 years, up to 1975. Franco made Madrid the place where to centralize all the powers, the showcase of the regime. With his death, the Madrilenians began to live again, turning the gray and gloomy Madrid into a city that is always cheerful, with a cultural life surpassed only by night one. In modern Madrid, there are the most important arteries of commerce, such as the Gran Via, with an intense commercial and nightlife, equal to that of the Parisian Champs-Elisée. Here are concentrated hotels, department stores, central banks, and multiplex cinemas.
In spite of its urban structure of 6 million inhabitants, it is enough to do a few kilometers to get out of the center and find yourself in the uncontaminated nature. Madrid has a green belt where peasant cultures survive and rural tourism is developing. In winter, just take a few more miles to go on the snow-covered slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama. This relationship between Madrid and the luxuriant nature that surrounds it is also found in the symbol of the city, a bear standing on its hind legs eating the fruits of a madrono, the Irish strawberry tree. Although the origin of the emblem is uncertain, it is believed to be linked to the presence, in the lush forests around Madrid, of numerous bears. The statue of the Oso Y el Madrono is located in Piazza Puerta del Sol.
The city is large but has an exceptional transport network. The 12 metro lines connect all the most important points of the capital. Where the trains do not arrive there are buses, which circulate regularly even at night.
WHAT TO SEE IN MADRID
Top attractions not to be missed are:
- Plaza Mayor
- Royal Palace of Madrid
- Prado National Museum
- Gran Via
- Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
- Templo de Debod
- Iglesia de San Antonio de Los Alemanes
- Real Basilica de San Francisco el Grande
- Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro)
- Barrio de Las Letras
- Paseo del Prado
- Barrio de Salamanca
- Puente de Toledo
- Ermita De San Antonio De La Florida
- Metropolis building
- Almudena Crypt
- Plaza de Cibeles & Palacio de Cibeles
- Plaza de Oriente
- Plaza de Toros las Ventas & Las Ventas Bullfighter Ring
- Estacion de Atocha
- Palacio Real de El Pardo
- Casa de la Panaderia
Following instead some hidden spots of the city that only locals know!
- rooftop terrace of the Círculo de Bellas Artes
- Palacio de Cristal
- Rastro de Madrid flea market
- view on the city from Cerro del Tío Pío
- Literary Quartet (an area between Paseo del Prado and Plaza de Santa Ana)
- Museo Reina Sofía
WHEN TO GO TO MADRID
The best period to visit Madrid is from April to October.
Following a list of main events and typical festivals and celebrations of Madrid.
- San Isidro
- Festival de Otoño
- San Cayetano
- La Paloma
HOW TO REACH AND MOVE IN MADRID
The main airport is the Madrid International Airport
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WHAT TO DO IN MADRID
typical dishes in Madrid are:
- Paella: saffron rice combined with white fish, shrimps, squids, and clams.
- Arròs Negre: similar to Paella, with cephalopod ink, cuttlefish or squid, rice, garlic, green cubanelle peppers, sweet paprika, olive oil, and seafood broth.
- Croquetas: breaded and fried ham (Croquetas de Jamon), chicken (Croquetas de Pollo), tuna (Croquetas de Atun), rice (Croquetas de Arroz) or potatoes (Croquetas de Papas) croquettes.
- Patatas Bravas: potatoes in a cheese gravy.
- Gazpacho: cold soup made with raw tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion, and some garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water, and salt.
- Empanada: meat or vegetables filled pastry.
- Jamón Ibérico: cured ham served raw in thin slices.
- Crema Catalana: a crème caramel-like dessert. A custard base with a hard caramel top.
- Tortilla Española: thick omelet made with eggs and potato, fried in oil.
- Albondigas: meat-balls served as an appetizer or main course, usually in a tomato sauce.
- Bocadillos: a sandwich made with Spanish bread cut lengthwise and filled with an omelette, cheese, salami, or ham.
- Chorizo: cured, spicy pork sausage made of chopped pork and pork fat, seasoned with pimentón (smoked paprika) and salt. Can be served raw or cooked.
- San Jacobos: ham wrapped around cheese (or with cheese filling), then breaded and pan-fried or deep-fried.
- Polbo á Feira: crunchy boiled octopus seasoned with salt, paprika, and olive oil. Served with sliced boiled potatoes and bread.
- Pan con Tomate: toasted bread, with rubbed tomato, seasoned with olive oil and salt and sometimes, garlic.
- Fabada: rich bean stew made of dried large white beans, pork shoulder (Lacón Gallego) or bacon (tocino), black pudding (morcilla), chorizo.
- Mallorcan Tumbet: layers of sliced potatoes, aubergines and red bell peppers previously fried in olive oil, topped with tomato fried with garlic and parsley.
- Tigres: mussels stuffed with different fillings, breaded and lightly fried.
- Churros: sweet fried pastry-dough snacks
typical souvenirs of Madrid are:
- Flamenco Dress
- Bull-fighter attire
- Toledo sword
- Bota wineskin
- Bottle of red wine
The main theatre in Madrid is the Teatro Real.
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