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Thursday 16 April 2009

Madrid - the Sights of the City

I’m still running a bit late on the travel front: it was last month that I spent a most agreeable few days in Madrid, a city which gives every sign that it could stage the Olympics tomorrow, if recently completed infrastructure projects are anything to go by.

Once again, there is no need for an exchange rate health warning: if you really have to spend lots of money, you can, but evening eats for under ten Euro are easy to find, and B&B in a suitably grand Edificio on the Gran Via can be had for fifty Euro a night.

And when it comes to sightseeing, you can cover the city without having to expend more than a little shoe leather. True, there are the Thyssen, Prado and Reina Sofia galleries, and very fine their collections are, but these are optional stops on the tourist circuit.

Here is a personal tour of the city in pictures; and a few tips and warnings follow.

Most folks will arrive at Barajas airport. It’s a big airport: there is a lot of walking to do, whatever the mode of onward travel.

If you must use taxis, remember that the driver will more than likely make an additional charge for luggage, and if your case is in the boot, it may be locked in until you pay up.

The Metro is safe, modern and clean. The airport line (8) uses modern space train sets. There is a one Euro supplement for the two airport stations, which makes the cost of a journey downtown a whole two Euro (bit cheaper than London, then).

There are city tour buses – at a suitable premium – but most of the sights are within walking distance from one another. Get a map and use the ordinary city transport.

Some sights demand that bit more time. Allocate half a day for the Retiro Park, and do it during the week.

Transport anoraks can check out new projects like the Parla Tram and regret that, not even in London, can the UK manage anything similar nowadays.

And finally – the flip side of the UK versus USA rule applies: just because they don’t speak English as their first language doesn’t mean they aren’t our friends. Enjoy!

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