Bang in the centre of Madrid is Puerta del Sol, the hub of the city’s famous nightlife. Three metro lines converge here and it’s around 30 minutes to Barajas airport. Plaza Mayor’s arcades lie a few steps west and a short walk south-east is lively Plaza de Santa Ana. North of Sol is Gran Via, Madrid’s main thoroughfare, lined with restaurants, shops, cinemas and grand buildings converted into Madrid hotels. Northwards is shopping street Fuencarral, very close to trendy Chueca’s square.
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West of Sol is the historical area of Opera, home to elegant Plaza Isabel II and Madrid’s grand opera house, Teatro Real. A short distance away is the expansive Royal Palace and Plaza de Oriente, dotted with royal statues. A compact city, Madrid hotels in this area are easily accessible from spots like Plaza Mayor. North of Opera, at one end of Gran Via, is Plaza de Espana. Look up to see two of Madrid’s tallest buildings, the Torre de Madrid and Edificio de España where the top-storey bar opens on to sky-high views.
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East of Madrid’s city centre from Calle de Alcala are the wide boulevards around Madrid’s ‘Art Triangle’. Madrid’s trio of museums includes the Museo del Prado and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Just north is the tree-lined avenue of Paseo de Recoletos, full of cafes. Behind the Prado is verdant Retiro Park stretching south for 330 acres. A lake, rose garden and street entertainers are among its attractions.
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North of Retiro Park is the exclusive Salamanca barrio (neighbourhood). At its heart is the Plaza de Colón square and main thoroughfare of Calle Serrano. Designer shops line the grid of streets between Calle Goya and Calle José Oretga y Gassett, showcasing everything from Gucci emporia to Spanish designers like Adolfo Domínguez. Further north along Paseo de la Castellana is Real Madrid’s Bernabéu football stadium, an impressive sight regardless of sporting loyalties.
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North-west of Gran Via and three metro stops from Plaza de España is the affluent enclave of Moncloa. Its most famous resident is the prime minster of Spain. Adjacent is the equally prosperous Argüelles district. Cafes and bars fill Paseo del Pintor Rosales promenade which borders the picturesque green spaces of Parque del Oeste (West Park). Take the teleférico cable car to Casa del Campo, Madrid’s 4,255-acre woodland wilderness, and enjoy city views en route.
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