Seated over 2,100 feet above sea level, Madrid is the highest capital in all of Europe. In 1561, King Fillipe II chose the small village of Madrid to house the Royal Court because of its central location. Today, all distances in Spain are still measured from this sprawling metropolis of over 5 million people.
Madrid is said to be one of Europe's livliest capitols. It's a very social city filled with a vigorous, joyful, food-loving people who never seem to sleep. Whether they are enjoying the Sunday bullfights, sidewalk cafes or antique markets, the Madrilenos love to live life outdoors.
Here, the old and the new seem to meet on every street corner. The original Dry Martini, first introduced by Ernest Hemingway, is still proudly served in restaurants and bars. Beautifully hand-painted fans (a fashion accessory long popular in Madrid) are not just sold as nifty souveniers. The women of Madrid still use them everyday! Tall, modern buildings find themselves built around a network of open medeaval squares. Among them, Plaza de Espana boasts a monument honoring literary genious, Miguel de Cervantes. Surrounded by tall trees and antique rose bushes, the author's stone likeness sits elevated above of his two most beloved characters. Crafted in bronze, Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza ride out to meet onlookers for a photo-op.
The city's central location and excellent rail service make any day trip by car or train convenient. Madrid's railway station was originally built in the 1880s. Later renovations in 1992 made room for a beautiful tropical garden and earned the station consideration as an architectural marvel. An AVE "bullet train" to Sevilla (about 300 miles away) only takes about two and a half hours. Forty-five minutes outside of Madrid is the city of Toledo, home to El Greco and a richly diverse religious history. The city of Segovia is less than an hour's drive from the capitol. It is home to a most fairytale looking alcazar and the Roman Aqueduct, built around 50 B.C.