Madrid Travel Tips and Insider's GuidesExplore Madrid: Read our expert advice and book travel to Madrid.
The large city of Madrid is located close to the center of Spain, which extends southwest from the rest of Europe as the Iberian Peninsula. Also, because Spain extends from the high Pyrenees and the Sierra de Gredos mountains, the country averages an altitude of 2,100 feet above sea level. The highest mainland peak is Mulhacen at 11,424 feet, in the Sierra Nevada. Portugal lies along the western edge of the peninsula adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
Visitors to Madrid find a large, energetic, and cosmopolitan city which retains much of its traditional Spanish character and Spanish roots. Visitors also find not only a noisy, vibrant, and chaotic city of great wealth and grueling poverty but also encounter here a flourishing political, cultural and artistic life. In 1992 Madrid was named the cultural capital of Europe, the same year that Barcelona, located northeast of Madrid on the Mediterranean coast, hosted the ’92 Olympic Games and Seville, in the far southwest corner of the peninsula, hosted the ’92 World’s Fair.
Three interesting historical areas are easily accessed from Madrid’s main plaza, Puerta del Sol (Sun’s Gate): Viejo Madrid (Old Madrid) on the Plaza Mayor; Barrio de Oriente (the Eastern Quarter) by the Palacio Real; and Bourbon Madrid, which offers busy boulevards and sparkling fountains around the Prado Museum. Regional restaurants feature traditional dishes from all over Spain including Galicia and also the Basque area in the north. Visitors find a plethora of fast food outlets with hamburgers, tortillas and even paella, the tasty fish stew, to go. Summertime visitors need to be prepared for late night dining, much of it at hundreds of outdoor terrazas crowded and going strong until 4 or 5 in the morning.
Although English is not widely spoken anywhere in Spain most Spaniards are courteous and helpful to visitors. It is advised that beachwear, shorts and revealing necklines are not acceptable away from coastal resorts. The tradition of the bull fight is also changing and is no longer available in certain parts of the country.