Infectious energy, artistic riches and gastronomic innovation – the sweeping brush strokes that texture Madrid’s city canvas are broad indeed. And, fanning out from Spanish capital, a spectacular swathe of countryside is punctuated by tantalising array of historic towns and lovingly converted parador hotels, perfect for exploring by on a self-drive.
A city of art
Art plays a central part in any visit to Madrid, with three world-leading art galleries – the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – featuring the works of such homegrown talents as Picasso, Dalí and Miró. But, the city’s creative swagger isn’t confined to the walls of its museums.
Wander through Madrid's central bustle to find masterpiece statues and monuments such as the renowned La Fuente de Cibeles and Puerta de Alcalá. Or, enjoy a different form of artistry with a visit to the Bernabéu, home to the ‘galacticos’ of the city’s much-vaunted football team. Whatever you choose, there’s a certain glamour, extravagance even, to Spain’s beguiling capital.
La Fuente de Cibeles, Madrid
Madrid's Gastronomic delights
Matching Madrid’s artistic flourishes is a gastronomic scene revolutionised through a flair for innovation paired with the homely flavours of traditional Spanish cookery. It’s a fusion that has brought Madrid to the forefront of Europe’s great culinary destinations, showcased in everything from Michelin–starred restaurants to lively tapas bars.
Abundant architectural riches
It’s all framed by a dizzying array of architectural styles that chart the city’s evolution from medieval town to modern capital; compare grand royal palaces with the clean lines and striking angles of their Spanish-contemporary counterparts.
Santa Maria la Real de La Almudena Cathedral
And, while a sprinkling of the Gothic and Renaissance remains, it’s the austere brickwork façades and extravagant interior contrasts of Madrid’s Habsburg-era buildings that are arguably its defining feature, a style best seen at the central Plaza Mayor.
Beyond Madrid: Toledo, Segovia & Salamanca
With so much to see in the city itself, it’s perhaps easy to forget what lies just a short drive beyond Madrid’s urban borders. Indeed, the rural sweeps of central Spain’s Extremadura, La Mancha and Castilla y León provinces are easily reached by car from the capital.
And, each one showcases its very own collection of rare cultural treasures, from Toledo’s laneway labyrinth to Salamanca’s Romanesque churches and Segovia’s 11th-century fortress walls. Explore it all on independent self-drives, staying at historic parador hotels, lovingly converted from medieval castles, palaces and convents.
Toledo, central Spain