Madrid is the capital of Spain, as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the same name (Comunidad de Madrid). It is Spain's largest city, with a population (city) of 3.228 million (July 2005) and 5.843 million (metropolitan area). Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage, a good example of which is the El Prado museum. Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world.
Nowadays Madrid is just as much a cosmopolitan city as Berlin or London, full of new architecture, life style and culture. Madrid was also the capital of the Franquist dictatorship (1939-1975) and the city still seems to represent a conservative part of Spain to many Spaniards. However, the city is also the epicentre of the famous Movida, Spain's 80s punk movement that bred personalities such as the director Pedro Almodóvar. The heritage of this era is indeed still visible in the city centre, where a party can be found at all times and one of the most liberal and colourful environments of Spain can be seen.
The citizens of Madrid, who refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term "gatos" (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the climate. Due to the typically extreme midday heat, a "siesta" is observed during which some citizens take a break to cool off, though Madrileños can usually only afford this 'luxury' during holidays and weekends. Most stores are open during all the day, just small stores are often closed during this time. Workers and those more afflicted by Western lifestyles choose not to observe this long break and work traditional business hours, which are usually between 9AM and 6-7PM. During summer many offices, however, will have a summer schedule requiring workers to start at 8am and finish at 3pm (most commonly without the standard 1-2 hour break for lunch). Offices usually close during the weekend but businesses are often open Saturday morning (downtown stays open until afternoon). Most grocers are closed on Sundays, but some major chain and department stores linked to "culture" (books, music, etc.) will be open throughout the day as it is allowed by law. Madrid possibly has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city and a very active nightlife; Madrileños are known to stay up until as late as 5AM-7AM. It is quite common to see a crowded Gran Via on weekend nights. It is important to note that, due to this lifestyle, lodging located near the fun areas may end up a nightmare for light sleepers if your window matches the street.
Madrid has a very modernized and elaborate transportation network of buses and Metro. The city contrasts with some large European cities in that it is extremely clean, and city employees in bright yellow vests can almost always be seen cleaning the streets and sidewalks. Like most large cities, however, there is a substantial population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.
Madrid is one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Communities of West Africans, North Africans, other Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Pakistanis and (especially) Latin Americans are prominent.
- Climate The climate of Madrid is continental; mainly dry and quite extreme at times, with frequent rain in winter. Madrid sees perpetual sunshine and a characteristically hot temperature in the summer, but with a fairly cold temperature in the winter. Spring and autumn are fairly temperate with most rainfall concentrated in these seasons, together with winter. Spring is definitely the best time to visit, especially the months of April and May. Rainfall occurs sporadically, and snowfall is not something that happens every year in the city, but there is abundant snowfall in the adjacent mountain ranges nearby.
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