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Europe's third largest city may not have a beach like Barcelona, but if you come on a city break to Madrid sunbathing is the last thing that'll be on your mind.  Spain's capital is one bursting with culture and activities for tourists at every turn, with museums, art galleries and night after night of sexy flamenco.

Madrid's tourism board will proudly inform you that the city has more bars per square metre than anywhere else in Europe.  When it comes to appearances Madrid is hard to beat too, having retained much of its historic and regal flair seen in its wide boulevards, elegant fountains and royal parks. And for those of you who are bad with your bearings, don't worry, despite the size of this metropolis, Madrid's centre is surprisingly small. It has one of Europe's best metros too. 

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Shopping


The Madrid Carnival festivities take place from 12-18 February. Check out the posters around the city and watch the processions, join in the parties and don't forget to wear a costume!


Raid your dressing-up box, put on your dancing shoes, and see how long it is before you stop finding random pieces of glitter on your person. Madrid Gay Pride, on 2-6 July, is an unforgettable experience.


Torrijas is the popular dessert eaten during the Easter festivities. Thick slices of bread soaked in milk or wine are dipped in egg, fried and then drenched in spiced honey or cinnamon. Get yours at La Casa de las Torrijas (4 Calle de la Paz).

Sightseeing


The 10th edition of FotoPres at La Caixa Forum brings together 10 top-class international photojournalism projects showcasing the most innovative techniques and surprising images from around the world. All month (36 Paseo del Prado, obrasocial.lacaixa.es).


Don't miss the Spanish version of the musical drag queen extravaganza Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Nuevo Teatro Alcala, from 3 October till 30 November. Tickets from €20 (62 Calle de Jorge Juan, teatroalcalamadrid.com).


Madrid will come alive on 13-20 April with Easter celebrations. Don't miss the Procesión del Santísimo Cristo de los Alabarderos, on Friday 18 April. Starting at 7pm at Puerta del Príncipe del Palacio Real, the colourful procession winds its way through the historical centre.

Key Areas



Former royal park the Parque del Buen Retiro is the most popular green space in Madrid, and the perfect place for some people-watching on a sunny day. Stroll around the lake, take in the stunning rose garden, catch up on some reading or enjoy an indulgent ice cream. Metro: Retiro, Linha 2 (Plaza de la Independencia s/n).

Day Trips


Don't miss the World Heritage Site of Aranjuez. Hourly trains from Atocha take 30 minutes. Visit the 17th-century palace and other historical buildings then stroll around the spectacular parks and gardens and eat at one of the traditional restaurants in the Old Quarters. whc.unesco.org


Get away to Segovia for the day. The AVE train from Chamartin takes about 30 minutes. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985, the Old Town and its Roman aqueduct are spectacular. Plenty of top-class restaurants and bars, too. visitsegovia.turismodesegovia.com


Enjoy a day trip to nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site Toledo. The city has many cultural and historic highlights, including an 11th-century mosque and a 13th-century cathedral. Don't miss the works by El Greco. Buses from Plaza Eliptica and trains from Atocha. unesco.org

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*Prices shown are per person based on two people flying on the same booking. Fees & charges may apply. Min 4 seats available per flight, one way inc. taxes.