The documented history of Madrid dates back to the 9th century, although the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The development of Madrid as a city began when Philip II, King of Spain at its peak of power, moved his court from Toledo to Madrid in the 1560s.The Spanish capital is in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula, 622 metres above sea level. It is the third largest city in the European Union and, thanks to Barajas Airport, it is an important communication hub with Latin America.
A green city located between the Guadarrama Mountain Range and Vega del Tajo, Madrid has a wealthy natural heritage. The number of trees that line the avenues and gardens clean the air and generate the ideal atmosphere for walking, sports or leisure. El Retiro, La Casa de Campo or El Monte de El Pardo are a few of the large parks and forests located within the city.
Situated in the heart of Madrid, the Paseo del Prado is home to three of the most comprehensive painting museums in the world. The Reina Sofía National Museum Art Centre, with Picasso's Guernica, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, which presents an overview of art history, and the Prado Museum, with artworks by Goya and Velázquez. All three also host interesting temporary exhibitions.
Six enclaves listed by the UNESCO as "World Heritage" locations can be found near Madrid. Aranjuez and El Escorial were once the residence of Spanish royalty and their palaces and gardens have an important natural and artistic value. Alcalá de Henares, Ávila, Segovia and Toledo have monumental centres from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Madrid has a moderate continental climate. There are lots of showers in autumn and spring, mainly in October, November and April. In winter, the temperatures range between 2 and 12 degrees centigrade and between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade in summer. The breeze that blows down from the Guadarrama mountain range through the plateau is responsible for Madrid's almost permanent blue skies.
The buses and metro run regularly and are highly reliable. Madrid's underground system is in fact one of the longest in the world. Users can purchase single fares, 10 journey tickets, monthly or yearly season tickets or tourist tickets for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 days. There is also a large taxi fleet, whose prices are also very reasonable. The journey from Barajas airport to the city centre is a flat rate of 30 euros.
For more information about transport in Madrid, please visit: http://www.ctm-madrid.es/