Geographically, Madrid lies right in the heart of Spain and is one of the most lively cities in the country. It is overflowing with life and activity, like milk that has begun to boil up in a pot. Madrid is the city of Pedro Almodóvar's cinema. It is worldly and cosmopolitan, yet has retained its Spanish identity. No doubt that is why Ernest Hemingway once deemed Madrid to be the most Spanish of all the cities in Spain.
Madrid is one of the main centres of Spanish cusine and culture. It is a city that never seems to sleep. Real activity begins only in the evening and the bars are often full until dawn. Madrid is a large city, but simultaneously compact. All three of Madrid's most notable museums, the so-called Golden Triangle of Art - the Museo Nacional del Prado (Prado Museum), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza - are located barely 200 metres from each other.
During the past few years, Madrid has experienced a genuine expansion in such diverse fields as architecture, design hotels, glassware shops and experimental cuisine. The city has managed to maintain a surprising balance between time-honoured practices and ultra-modernism, for example, between contemporary art and traditional bullfighting.
Or between contemporary architecture and flamenco. Among the most outstanding examples of Madrid's contemporary architecture are the 114-metre tall Puerta de Europa (Gate of Europe) office towers, which are inclined towards each other at a 15-degree angle; the Barajas Airport Terminal 4 building, which opened in 2006 and was designed by Richard Rogers; the new extension of the Prado Museum; the CaixaForum art space designed by Herzog& de Meuron.
Or between the charming Retiro Park, where even the trees have a history, and a lively night life. According to legend, the park's cypresses are descended from Mexican trees brought back to Spain by conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Or between the elite, Salamanca luxury shopping district and the alternative shops, second-hand stores and trendy bars of Chueca. Formerly known as a gay district, Chueca is now a mecca for stylish people of all orientations.
Madrid is the proud home of El Rastro - one of the largest (and also one of the least expensive) flea markets in Europe. The history of this flea market goes back to the Middle Ages, and one can buy practically anything there. El Rastro's historical epicentre is the Plaza de Cascorro, which is a true spectacle to behold on Sunday mornings. El Rastro was also featured in one of Almodóvar first films, Labyrinth of Passion (Laberinto de pasiones).
Madrid is a colourful city that captivates with its diverse architecture, intense cultural activity and very lively nightlife.
Reviewed by Una Meistere, Andrejs Žagars