Madrid (including rainfall and temperature averages)
Some people don’t get the point of Madrid. They tend to be the ones who haven’t visited the city. It may not be as beautiful as Barcelona, or as sensual as Seville, but Spain’s capital has an earthy appeal that aficionados find impossible to beat. Established by the Romans in the second century, it was for a long time a backwater, only reaching prominence when King Philip II moved the court there in 1561, thereby making it the capital. His reasons were eccentric – it is in the centre of Spain – and greatly bemoaned by courtiers, who complained bitterly about the freezing winters and burning summers. They were ignored, however, and other than a five-year period at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the capital was moved to Valladolid, Madrid’s fortunes have echoed those of Spain. After flourishing for centuries, much of the city was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, when it was besieged by General Franco’s troops. It was the first city to be bombed by airplanes targeting civilians but this did not break the husky spirit of Madrileňos, who held out for three years. Since 1939, it has become an industrial centre and it is now one of the richest – and most expensive – cities in Europe.
Despite the somewhat blasted look of the suburbs, there are plenty of beautiful places to wander in central Madrid. The obvious place to start is Puerta del Sol, the cobbled square at the geographical centre of Spain. The fountain is a favourite meeting point, as is the statue of a bear clawing a bush – the city’s emblem. Heading west, arcaded Plaza Mayor is grand and shady, designed as a public stage and lined with hundreds of balconies. Nearby, San Gines is an ancient church built under Moorish rule. Beside it stand Joy Eslava, a venerable disco, and Chocolateria San Gines, where clubbers dunk churros (a kind of doughnut) in their hot chocolate from dawn onwards. Further west again, the Royal Palace is extraordinarily opulent. True royalists will want to leave the city altogether to head to El Escorial, Philip II’s vast monastery-palace, with its extensive gardens and stunning art collections.
Art lovers will also delight in the “Golden Triangle” along Paseo del Prado: the world-famous Museo del Prado houses an astonishing collection of early modern art including a number of paintings by El Greco, Goya and Velazquez. Opposite, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is home to Picasso’s Guernica along with a number of Dalis and Miros, while the Mueso Thyssen-Bornemisza houses one of the world’s great private collections, ranging from Raphael to Mondrian. By Atocha Station to the south, the Royal Botanical Gardens house 30,000 plant species. Outdoor lovers will prefer the Parque del Retiro, once the playground of the aristocracy but now more democratically open to the world at large. From the glass palace hidden in the southern woods to the great lake which used to be the site of mock naval battles, there’s nowhere better to spend a lazy Sunday.
Modern Madrid, however, is most famous for its nightlife – or marcha, as the locals call it. It starts with a good feed at around nine or ten – whether you prefer spicy patatas bravas in a tapas bar or perfectly roasted suckling lamb in one of the many haute cuisine restaurants, you will be satisfied. Then it’s on to one of thousands of terraza bars, to drink and chat till after midnight. Most people don’t get to the clubs till one at the earliest – and if you’re in bed before seven, it’s an early night. Viva la marcha!
Monthly temperature and rainfall averages for Madrid
Average minimum temperature
Average maximum temperature
Absolute minimum temperature
Absolute maximum temperature
Average daily rain
Avg monthly rain
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