Madrid is the third largest city in Europe and is the capital city of Spain. It became the capital in 1561 when King Philip II wanted to create a central base as part of his unification of Spain after the bitter rivalries between its regions such as Aragaon and Castille. Its is built on a high plain with mountains to the North and although it is founded on a river, it is a long way from the sea which must have made it quite impractical in the days when sea travel was the easiest way to transport goods.

As a capital city Madrid has an array of impressive buildings including the Royal Palace, also known as Palacio de Oriente which is the official home of the King and it is used for state ceremonies. North of the palace is the modern business district which has the tallest buildings of the city. The old parts of Madrid are divide from the new by the Gran Via which is the main street that is always bustling with people shopping and sightseeing. The street has a number of Art Deco and Art Noveau facades.

Other fine buildings include the Teatro Real, Royal Theate which is the Opera House.
Puerta del Sol is the centre for which all distances in Spain are measured.

The most famous art gallery is the world renowned Museo del Prado which opened in 1819. It displays 300 paintings including collections by Goya, El Greco, Velazquez and Bosch. It also has a number of works by the Flemish masters including Reubens.

The Centro de Arte Reine Sofia is another art centre of note, housed in a building that was formerly a convent. This museum houses a variety of arts including photographs, art and design, music in a way reminiscent of the Pompidou centre in Paris. The main attraction is the magnificent Guernica painting by Picasso, as influenced by the civil war.

If all of this exporing is making you tired, the Parque del Buen Retiro that is located near the Predo gallery offers a tranquil setting to relax and recuperate. The park is a mixture of formal gardens and open space with a boating lake.

Madrid has an abundance of tapas and other restaurants. Some of the best areas to eat include the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Santa. It also has a vibrant night life that starts and ends late compared to the UK.