Madrid Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips
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Madrid Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips
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Spain's capital may lack the glamour and beauty of Barcelona and the historical richness of so many other Spanish cities (it was insignificant until Felipe II made it his capital in 1561), but it more than makes up for this with a remarkable collection of museums and galleries, some lovely parks and gardens, and a wild nightlife. Give it a few days, and Madrid is sure to grow on you.


The area of most interest to visitors lies between Parque del Buen Retiro in the east and Campo del Moro in the west. These two parks are more or less connected by Calle del Alcala and Calle Mayor, which meet in the middle at Puerta del Sol. Calle Mayor passes the main square, Plaza Mayor.

The main north-south thoroughfare is Paseo de la Castellana, which runs (changing names to Paseo de los Recoletos and finally Paseo del Prado) all the way from Chamartin train station in the north to Madrid's other big station, Atocha.


Puerta del Sol & Around

The most fitting place to begin exploring Madrid is the Puerta del Sol, the official centre of Madrid. Walk up Calle de Preciados and take the second street on the left, which will bring you out to Plaza de las Descalzas and the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales.

South down Calle de San Martin is the Iglesia de San Gines, one of Madrid's oldest churches. Behind it is the wonderful Chocolateria de San Gines, generally open 7 to 10 am and 1 to 7 pm.

Continue down to and cross Calle Mayor, and then into Madrid's most famous square, Plaza Mayor. West along Calle Mayor is the historic Plaza de la Villa, with Madrid's 17th-century ayuntamiento (town hall). On the same square stand the 16th-century Casa de Cisneros and the Gothic-Mudejar Torre de los Lujanes, one of the city's oldest buildings.

Take the street down the left side of the Casa de Cisneros, cross the road at the end, then go down the stairs and follow the cobbled Calle del Cordon out onto Calle de Segovia. Almost directly in front of you is the Mudejar tower of the Iglesia de San Pedro. Farther down Costanilla de San Pedro is the Iglesia de San Andres.

From here you can cross Plaza de la Puerta de Moros and head east past the market along Plaza de la Cebad to the massive Sunday morning flea market of El Rastro, spread along and between Calle de Ribera de Curtidores and Calle de los Embajadores (metro: Latina). It's said to be the place to go if you want to buy your car stereo back - watch your pockets and bags.

Plaza de Espana & Around

At its northern end, Calle de Bailen runs into Plaza de Espana. The nearby Ermita de San Antonio de Florida, also called the Panteon de Goya, contains one of the artist's masterpieces. The eastern flank of Plaza de Espana marks the beginning of Gran Via. This Haussmann-esque boulevard was slammed through the tumbledown slums north of Sol in 1911.

At the east end of Gran Via, note the superb dome of the Edificio Metropolis. Continue east along Calle de Alcala until you reach Plaza de la Cibeles, Madrid's favourite roundabout. Head north (left) up the tree-lined promenade of Paseo de los Recoletos. On the left you'll pass some of the city's best-known cafes, including Gran Cafe de Gijon, El Espejo and El Gran Pabellon del Espejo.




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