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If you're looking for a holiday destination with a strong cultural and artistic heritage then look no further than Madrid, the capital city of Spain. The prospect of a traditional Flamenco dance class, an elite level of shopping and a world-class football heritage should tempt even the most sceptical of holidaymakers while the sunny climate makes Madrid perfect for a summer getaway.
Where to start in Madrid?
After touching down in Madrid-Barajas Airport, the Puerta del Sol is a great place to start your Spanish adventure. Known as the city's most famous and most central square, the area plays host to a beautiful clock tower which forms part of a building known as the Real Cada de Correos. Millions of Spaniards turn up to the Square to see the clock on New Year's Eve as it ticks and tocks until 12:00, where the Square is then lit with fireworks and celebrations.
Directly opposite the clock is the El Oso y El Madrono, or 'the Bear and Strawberry Tree'. It is a world-famous statue of a bear standing against a tree, based on Madrid's coat of arms. Other statues in the square include a reproduction of the Mariblanda statue and a statue of King Carlos III.
Aside from history and culture, the square is full of bars, restaurants and outlets - featuring large department stores like Zara and H&M - alongside old and historic shops selling traditional goods.
Of course, any trip to Spain is incomplete without a trip to a bullring to see a bullfight. The bullfight season usually goes from March to October and Madrid is known for having some of the best bullfights in Spain. Madrid has two bullrings - Vista Alegre and La Ventas - and there are ticket centres dotted around the city. If football is more to your taste then the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is home to Real Madrid Club de Futbol, an elite football club featuring world-class players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Isco, Iker Casillas and many more.
Outside of sport, the Gran Via is an essential visit if you're a fan of architecture. Many different styles of buildings can be seen on this street and the street is always buzzing with people day and night. If you're looking for a more cosmopolitan area of Madrid then the Tribunal / Malasana has a number of rock and pop clubs and it is a great place for a bite to eat and a drink.
Outside of the capital
There are a handful of major cities and towns around Madrid so those with car rentals only have a short drive to explore some of the other regions of Spain. A two-hour drive north-west will take holidaymakers to Valladolid, home to the Museo Nacional de Escultura and San Pablo church, while a two-hour drive east brings you to Salamanca, one of the most spectacular Renaissance cities in Europe. The Old City of Salamanca is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it essential for any travellers looking to experience some of Spain's history.
A two-and-a-half hour drive south-east will take travellers to Albacete, a traditional Spanish city not normally known as a tourist area. As a result, Albacete gives holidaymakers a real insight into traditional Spanish culture and is known as the most important town in the Castile-la Mancha region. It has a booming student area, with 10,000 students studying at the city's University, while the Museo de Albacete and the city's cathedral offer interesting stops for passers-by.
Overall, Madrid is an essential visit for any tourists thinking of heading to Spain. A rich and varied culture awaits any holidaymakers while the sheer amount of things to see and do should keep many occupied during their stay. However, the city's central location means it is close to a number of cities should travellers get the urge to explore elsewhere.