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Madrid is surely one of the liveliest, most happening cities in Europe, if not the world.
Famous for its "Movida", or groove scene which mixes counter culture with good food, and simply just having a good time, it comes alive just most other cities are going to bed. And its energy is infectious.
Cuisine Madrid is a melting pot for the cuisines from all over the peninsula. A good number of dishes, however, are typical. Among them, the cocido madrileño; a stew combining chickpeas with vegetables (cabbage, celery, carrots, turnips and potatoes) and chicken, beef and pork, which is turned into a huge succulent meal. Madrid's sweet tradition can be seen in its desserts; from torrijas (a type of French toast), typical in the springtime and linked to Holy Week, to the barquillos (rolled wafers) and bartolillos con crema (a type of small pie with custard).
In Madrid, as well as in the rest of Spain, the tapa (savoury morsels of a variety of dishes served as appetizers) is an old gastronomic tradition. You can find numerous establishments specialized in serving these tapas. "Ir de tapeo" (going out for tapas) is a tradition; hundreds of bars scattered throughout the streets of Madrid serve a tapa accompanied by a small glass of wine or beer.
History Madrid was founded by the Moslems in mid-century IX, under the name of Magerit (or as some say: Mayrit). In 1083 Alfonso VI united it to the Christian reign and in 1202, Alfonso VIII established the jurisdiction of Madrid, which slowly became the preferred place for royalty.
In 1521 Phillip II moved the royal residence into Madrid converting it into the capital of his empire. The “villa” (city) grew and achieved its greatest splendour when Carlos III, during mid XVIII century, urbanised it, building libraries, museums and beautiful gardens. In May 2nd, 1808, the people of Madrid began their insurrection against French troops and the war of Independence. Goya painted the executions that occurred every day.
The city continued to develop after Napoleon’s victory and throughout the Twentieth century, the only interruption being the Spanish civil war.
Fiestas Madrid has many fiestas, some of which take a the whole city and others that are just for individual neighbourhoods. May marks the start of the celebrations surrounding the month-long Fiestas de San lsidro honouring the patron saint of Madrid. They are the liveliest popular festivities in Madrid. This time of year also ushers in the famous Feria Taurina, (bullfighting fair) and lasts from the middle of May to the middle of June. On the 13th of June, the day of San Antonio, young girls have a date at the hermitage of Son Antonio de la Florida. According to dressmakers' tradition, a single girl must place 13 pins in the baptismal font, and if one of the pins sticks to her finger, she will marry during the year. Many typical districts of Madrid celebrate from the 6th to the 15th of August: the Fiestas de San Lorenzo, San Cayetano and the Virgen de la Paloma are commemorated with processions, open-air dances, and sidewalk concerts in the park of the Vistillas and vicinity.
Handicrafts Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are an assortment of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, fabrics, ropes, hats and religious articles. Monuments Madrid has not shortage of impressive buildings and monuments, such as the Palacio Real, the Casa de la Panadería (the most striking building in the impressive Plaza Mayor) or the Palacio de Santa Cruz. Others include the Casa de Cisneros, a reconstruction undertaken at the beginning of the 20th century of the 16th century Plateresque palace, the Palacio & Torre de Lujanes built in the 15th century, to name just a few. The whole region, however, has many more monumental gems to offer. Arranjuez is famous for having been chosen as a Royal Residence, one of several residences that royalty had at their disposal in the vicinity of Madrid. The town boasts an interesting palace surrounded by lovely, extensive gardens. The town is laid down geometrically, a popular style in the 18th century. The long, wide streets are typical of 18th century urbanism.
Activities A trip to the northwest of Madrid takes the traveller to one of the most famous monuments in the whole of Spain – El Escorial. The monastery, church and palace melt in a framework of courtyards, corridors and rooms forming a rectangular block crowned by four towers with pointed spires on each one of the corners, offsetting the horizontal lines. Another interesting excursion is to Alcalá de Henares, an old city only a short distance from Madrid, the site of the famous University founded in 1498 by Cardenal Cisneros.
The University building, at Plaza de San Diego, boasts a splendid Plateresque façade, whilst the interior courtyards are also worth visiting, especially the most famous one called the "patio trilingüe" where classes of Hebrew, Greek and Latin were taught. As far as sport is concerned, the region is home to one of the world’s most famous football teams - Real Madrid. Being in the interior water based sports are more difficult to come by, though sports such as golf and tennis are well catered for.
Boutique Hotels and Places to Stay in Madrid
- Apartamentos Blume
- Hesperia Hermosilla Madrid
- Hotel Abalu
- Hotel Room Mate Alicia
- Hotel Room Mate Mario
- Hotel Santo Mauro
- La Pepa Chic Bed & Breakfast
- Room Mate Laura
Romantic & boutique hotels by city in Madrid
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