Old World Charm Meets 21st Century Fun in Madrid

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Friends vacationing in Spain have often asked me whether they should visit Madrid or Barcelona. Truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. Even Spaniards are divided on the topic. Here are a few impressions and images from my visit to Madrid.

Madrid, Spain

Much as Californians will debate the merits of San Francisco over L.A. and visa-versa, Spaniards have strong opinions about the relative charms of Madrid and Barcelona. And, because different aspects appeal to different people, the debate is likely to rage on hundreds of years from now because each of these cities is seductive in its own particular way.

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is one of the oldest cultural centers in Western Europe, and has long been renowned for having one foot in the present and another firmly rooted in the past.

When I talk about Madrid among my friends, I often try to paint a picture that helps them relate a bit better. For me, Los Angeles makes a reasonable comparison – it’s a city that’s mostly sunny; there’s a relaxed atmosphere among the citydwellers, and the streets are populated with people decked out in looks you’d want to call “casual chic.” Like Los Angelinos, the people of Madrid are considered body conscious (which is no surprise since they spend much of their time in swimwear), and even the often-delicious cuisine tilts to healthier options. Their weekend activities tend to revolve around beaches or hiking paths. Ad, once your in the sun is over, you can join the locals at dance parties that often last until sunrise as world-famous deejays spin their hearts out for you.

Madrid, Spain

Otherwise, Madrid is lined with elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro, and it’s commonplace to overhear a conversation about art and fashion anywhere you visit. And you shouldn’t be fooled by the many fine examples of older architecture around, either. Madrid is a very cosmopolitan city, the center of many businesses, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch. The streets are like an outdoor catwalk with good looking fashionistas strolling in every direction. Any season, malls and shopping districts are packed – after all, because being fashionable is a point of pride here. The city is also renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters.

Enjoy new highlights of travel photographer Edwin Santiago’s journeys each week.

Last modified: June 16, 2017