Why I Love Madrid
More than a decade after I fell for Madrid and decided to call it home, the life that courses relentlessly through the streets here still excites me. Here is a place where the passions of Europe’s most passionate country are the fabric of daily life, a city with music in its soul and an unshakeable spring in its step. But Madrid is also one of the most open cities on earth and it doesn’t matter where you’re from for the oft-heard phrase to ring true: ‘If you’re in Madrid, you’re from Madrid’.
Madrid may lack the cachet of Paris, the monumental history of Rome, or Barcelona’s reputation for Modernista masterpieces. And no, there is no equivalent of the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum or La Sagrada Família that you can point to and say ‘this is Madrid’. But Madrid has nothing to be envious of. Spain's broad sweep of architectural history provides a glorious backdrop to city life, from medieval mansions and royal palaces to the unimagined angles of Spanish contemporary architecture, from the sober brickwork and slate spires of Madrid baroque to the extravagant confections of the belle époque. Put simply, this is one beautiful city.
An Artistic City
Few cities boast an artistic pedigree quite as pure as Madrid’s: many art lovers return here again and again. For centuries, Spanish royals showered praise and riches upon the finest artists of the day, from home-grown talents such as Goya and Velázquez to Flemish and Italian greats. Masterpieces by these and other Spanish painters such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró now adorn the walls of the city’s world-class galleries. Three in particular are giants – the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – but in Madrid these are merely good places to start.
A Culinary Capital
Rising above the humble claims of its local cuisine, Madrid has evolved into one of the richest culinary capitals of Europe. The city has wholeheartedly embraced all the creativity and innovation of Spain’s gastronomic revolution. But this acceptance of the new is wedded to a passion for the enduring traditions of Spanish cooking, for the conviviality of the eating experience and for showcasing the infinite variety of food from every Spanish region. From tapas in sleek temples to all that’s new to sit-down meals beneath centuries-old vaulted ceilings, eating in Madrid is a genuine pleasure.
Killing the Night
Madrid nights are the stuff of legend, and the perfect complement to the more sedate charms of fine arts and fine dining. The city may have more bars than any other city on earth – a collection of storied cocktail bars and nightclubs that combine a hint of glamour with non-stop marcha (action). But that only goes some way to explaining the appeal of after-dark Madrid. Step out into the night-time streets of many Madrid neighbourhoods and you’ll find yourself swept along on a tide of people, accompanied by a happy crowd intent on dancing until dawn.
In and around Madrid
is the capital city of the Kingdom of Spain and the largest municipality in both the Community of Madrid and Spain as a whole. The city has a population of almost 3.2 million with a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.5 million. It is the third-largest city in the European Union (EU) after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-largest in the EU after those of London and Paris. The municipality itself covers an area of 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi).
Madrid lies on the River Manzanares in the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The current mayor is Manuela Carmena from Ahora Madrid.
The Madrid urban agglomeration has the third-largest GDP in the European Union and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, environment, media, fashion, science, culture, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. Madrid is home to two world-famous football clubs, Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid. Due to its economic output, high standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial centre of Southern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of major Spanish companies, such as Telefónica, Iberia, and Repsol. Madrid is the 17th most liveable city in the world according to Monocle magazine, in its 2014 index.
Madrid houses the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), belonging to the United Nations Organization (UN), the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), and the Public Interest Oversight Board (PIOB). It also hosts major international regulators and promoters of the Spanish language: the Standing Committee of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, headquarters of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the Cervantes Institute and the Foundation of Urgent Spanish (Fundéu BBVA). Madrid organises fairs such as FITUR, ARCO, SIMO TCI and the Cibeles Madrid Fashion Week.
While Madrid possesses modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; a large number of national museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which completes the shortcomings of the other two museums. Cibeles Palace and Fountain have become one of the monument symbols of the city.
The Madrid region has an inland Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) bordering on a semi-arid climate (BSk), with cool winters due to its altitude of 667 m (2,188 ft) above sea level, including sporadic snowfalls and minimum temperatures sometimes below freezing.
Summers are hot, in the warmest month – July -average temperatures during the day ranging from 32 to 33 °C (90 to 91 °F) depending on location, with maximums commonly climbing over 35 °C (95 °F) during heat waves. Due to Madrid's altitude and dry climate, diurnal ranges are often significant during the summer.
The highest recorded temperature was on 24 July 1995 with 42.2 °C (108.0 °F), and the lowest recorded temperature was on 16 January 1945 with −10.1 °C (13.8 °F). Although these records were registered at the airport, not at the city.
Precipitation is concentrated in the autumn and spring, and, together with Athens which has similar annual precipitation, is the driest capital in Europe. It is particularly sparse during the summer, taking the form of about two showers and/or thunderstorms a month.
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