21st-Century Madrid


Madrid is the third largest city in Europe (after London and Berlin) and seems determined to give Barcelona a run for its money as the liveliest city in Spain. It wasn't always this way, but go to Madrid today and you'll find non-stop activity, with the tapas bars around Plaza Santa Ana and other areas packed day and night -- and night in Madrid means until the sun comes up the next day. The centrally located museums are as great as any you'll see anywhere: the Reina Sofia home of Picasso's devastating Guernica; the vast and renowned Prado, with its almost overwhelming collection of masterpieces (Raphael, Titian, Goya, El Greco, Velazquez, etc.) and my favorite, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a bright, visitor-friendly showplace housing the bulk of one family's amazing and eclectic collection. You'll also want to spend some time in El Retiro, the city's major park with a lake and a lovely, living memorial to the more than 200 MadrileƱos who were killed in the terrorist bombings at the central Atocha train station and two smaller stations in 2004. An attractive and fascinating city, and one I'm looking forward to revisiting.