Guide to Madrid
Madrid became Spain's capital simply through its geographical position at the centre of Iberia. Lying on a vast open plateau its climates are extreme, offering very hot summers and very cold winters. Felipe II moved the seat of government here in 1561 and with the determination of successive rulers to promote a strong central capital, they ensured Madrid's survival and development.
The newest of the great Spanish cities, it lacks the traditions of the ancient Castilian and Andalusian towns. However since its inauguration Madrid has played a heroic role. In the Spanish civil war, it resisted 29 months of siege suffering several bombardments and air attacks and it is this spirit that contributes to the atmosphere found in Madrid today.
The life in this one-province region revolves around the city of Madrid. Madrid is synonymous with art galleries, bullfights, bar culture and alfresco dining. Visitors can choose from a range of activities; watching Real Madrid in their famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium, see live flamenco dancing, experience a bullfight, visit one of the capital's stunning monuments or simply take a stroll in one of its beautiful parks.
Places to see in Madrid
Alcala de Henares
A village with lots of ancestry that has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This is where Cervantes was born and was an important University in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its Old Quarter has preserved some interesting architectural gems; the old University Building; the House of Cervantes, built on a plot where they say that the parents of Cervantes lived; and the Archbishop's Palace. Nearby you will find La Cabrera village that has a church dug out of the rock.
Aranjuez is a Historic-Artistic site, made up of royal palaces,and gardens on the banks of the Tagus. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001. It was a village that sprung up to serve the splendid royal holiday residence of that era. The monuments most appreciated there are the Royal Palace (Right), built of brick and white rock, the Casa del Labrador and small neo-classical palace. The gardens are French style, full of avenues, flower gardens, sculptures, fountains and rare species of trees brought in by the express desire of Carlos IV. The Strawberry Train and the festival to commemorate the Revolt of Aranjuez are of National Tourist Interest and are some of the cultural musts awaiting the visitor to this town.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, located in the heart of the Guadarrama mountain range, is one of the major tourist draws for the Community of Madrid due to its richness in monuments as well as its tradition as a summer place. The Monastery of El Escorial is world-renowned and took twenty-one years to build.
Other momuments that may interest you are the Casas de Oficios y Casas de Infantes, Casita Del Infante o de Arriba, Casita Del Principe o de Abajo, Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia and Real Colegio Universitario 'Escorial-Maria Cristina'. From here you can continue on to the Valley of the Fallen.
Many years ago this place was the plaza that was converted into an arena with wagons and sand for the celebration of amateur bullfights. Now it boasts the privilege of opening up the Spanish bullfighting season with a fair organized every year at the beginning of February.
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