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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. 



The heat gets cranked up all the way come July in Madrid, so the only place to head is a terrace. Atenas is one of the city's best, located in a park just a stone's throw from the Manzanares River. Expect chilled-out tunes, live music and respite from the soaring temperatures (Calle Segovia/Calle Cuesta de la Vega, terrazaatenas.com).

As the suffocating heat of the Madrid summer begins to ramp up in June, the covers are pulled off the public swimming pools. For those in the city centre, the best option to cool off is the complex at Casa de Campo, which has plenty of space for sunbathers, picnickers and the serious swimmer (7 Paseo Puerta del Angel, Metro: Lago).

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!


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).

Key Areas

If the limited pools in the city centre aren't enough to cool you down, then catch a bus from Avenida de America and head to the brilliantly named Aquopolis water park, where you can enjoy the flume rides, slides and dolphin shows. villanueva.aquopolis.es

Gadget lovers from the world over will find plenty to enjoy at Madrid's Robot Museum, which features R2D2, Asimo and Robonova, among others. Once your appetite is whetted you can pick up your own new toy at the Juguetrónica store next door (1 Calle de Alberto Aguilera, therobotmuseum.eu, juguetronica.com).

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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