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Your guide to Madrid, the Spanish capital that's a riot of colour and creativity

Mirror logo Mirror 9/05/2017 Sam Rkaina

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Madrid is one of Europe’s great cities; a vibrant and ever-changing metropolis with surprises on every corner.

The Spanish capital is colourful, creative and stunning to look at.

Incredible food, a fascinating history and some of the greatest art galleries in the world make this a destination you can come back to time and time again.

Whether you’re luxuriating in five-star hotels like Barceló Torre de Madrid or scouring the country’s largest flea market, there’s something for everyone.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty What to see

Plaza Mayor is arguably Madrid’s most iconic destination, a 17th century square now used for everything from special events to a meeting place for locals.

The 16th century Palacio Real de Madrid is the largest royal palace in Europe with a staggering 3,418 rooms and is well worth a visit.

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It hosts state ceremonies and boasts an impressive art collection with pieces by the likes of Caravaggio and Goya.

Art is one of Madrid’s great selling points as it’s home to three of the world’s best galleries. More than two million people visit Museo del Prado each year, and its collection of more than 8,000 drawings, 7,000 paintings and 4,000 prints.

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Nearby are another 1,000 great paintings at the fabulous Thyssen museum and, for those who prefer modern art, there’s the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a stylised and striking sight that is home to some of Picasso and Dali’s most famous works.

If you love art but want to save a bit of money you could also simply wander the streets of areas like Malasaña, as there’s plenty of impressive graffiti on display.

What to eat

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You really can’t go wrong with food here as Spain has some of the best to offer in Europe – relatively cheap, hearty and always inventive.

If you’ve only ever had tapas at some chain restaurant in the UK, welcome to the real deal.

Star of the show is jamon iberico, widely considered the best ham in the world. Get used to seeing plates of it everywhere, accompanied by large glasses of red wine.

You are spoilt for choice with good food options, and the best approach is simply to pick somewhere small and packed at random.

The food is even good in galleries – as exemplified by the Nubel restaurant at Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which is a stylish venue well worth a visit.

Cheap things to do

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Held every Sunday and public holiday near La Latina metro station, El Rastro is the largest flea market in Spain. What starts out looking like any other street market takes over a whole neighbourhood.

Every time you think you’ve seen everything, you turn another corner and there’s more to see.

The quality of goods ranges from utter tat to genuine antiques,

But half the fun is witnessing the wide range of items on sale.

You’ll find everything here from clothes and food to art and trinkets.

For more details on the market, click here.

What's happening

With a city as lively as Madrid, there's always something on.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Plaza Mayor, Madrid's iconic square, and there's a series of special events planned throughout 2017 including theatre and concerts.

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On May 15 there’s the Feast of Saint Isidore the Farmer, the patron saint of the city who was said to have carried out more than a hundred miracles.

The festival takes place in Pradera de San Isidro park, and involves drinking local lemonade and doughnuts.

But the big event of the year is the five-day Madrid carnival at the end of February, which sees Madrileños wear fancy dress, a grand ball, concerts, themed parties and plenty of children’s activities.

Further afield

The Tren de la Fresa, or Strawberry train, is a rather unusual excursion when you fancy a break from the city.

With 19th century wooden carriages, it runs in spring and autumn to the city of Aranjuez roughly an hour from Madrid.

During the trip, hostesses in period costume hand out strawberries.

Where to stay

Credits: Barcelà Torre de Madrid © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Barcelà Torre de Madrid

The recently opened Barceló Torre de Madrid in Plaza de España is in one of the capital’s most iconic buildings.

Built in the 1950s, the 36-floor Torre was once the tallest concrete building in the world.

Now it’s a five-star hotel with 258 rooms, friendly staff, a stylish downstairs bar and spa facilities.

The first thing you notice in the lobby is a giant sculpture, based on the Madrid coat of arms, of a bear reaching up to a strawberry tree.

But its real strength is its location - next to Gran Vía and a 15-minute walk from the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor.

You really couldn’t ask for a better spot.

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