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Madrid is one of Europe’s most dynamic cities. Lively, cosmopolitan and buzzing, it has all the trappings of an attractive, modern capital. But at the same time, the legacy of its rich and complex history, dominated by Royals and once the centre of the Spanish Empire, is visible everywhere. The Royal Palace, grand places and buildings, enormous cathedrals and churches are bountiful in Madrid.

The financial and political core of Spain, Madrid is still home to the Royal Family as well as the extraordinary cultural riches of the Golden Triangle - the Prado housing the likes of all of the great Spanish artists such as Goya, Ribera, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Raphael, Rubens, Titian, and Van Dyck; Reina Sofía, housing modern art, and Thyssen-Bornemisza, a first class gallery of classical art are amongst the best museums of their kind in the world.

The labyrinthine streets of the medieval quarter contrast with the grand boulevards, laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries when Madrid began to take on the trappings of a modern capital. Meanwhile, in recent years, the downtown barrios have been transformed – shops and galleries have popped up on the ground floors of numerous buildings.

Each of Madrid’s neighbourhood is distinctive - Lavapiés, Malasaña and Chueca being the oldest. Many visitors get to know the central area, between the Palacio Real and the Puerta del Sol, Madrid's 'Mile Zero'. It’s only a short walk from here to Madrid’s main street, the Gran Vía. At the northern end of the Paseo de la Castellana are the 'Leaning Towers' of the Puerta de Europa (Gateway of Europe). It’s worth walking down from the Plaza Mayor lined with arcaded shops through Los Austrias – also known these days as La Latina. The area has become fashionable in recent years, so there are plenty of trendy cafés.

When you want to escape the urban bustle, head to El Retiro Park where you can take a rowing boat out on a peaceful, glassy lake or enjoy a picnic in the extensive shaded woods. Alternatively, head to the newly rejuvenated riverfront known as the Madrid Río, a tranquil 10km-long thread of pedestrian and biking paths complete with a beach, orchard, playgrounds, viewpoints, bridges and historical monuments.