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Do you enjoy Art?

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a cosmopolitan city that combines the most modern infrastructures and the status as an economic, financial, administrative and service centre, with a large cultural and artistic heritage, a legacy of centuries of exciting history. Strategically located in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid has one of the most important historic centres of all the great European cities. Art and culture play a key role in Madrid's cultural life. The capital has over 60 museums which cover every field of human knowledge. Highlights include the Prado Museum, one of the world's most important art galleries, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, with over 800 paintings ranging from primitive Flemish artists through to the avant-garde movements and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary Spanish art and containing works by Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Juan Gris, among others. We think the best way to get acquainted with Madrid is a walking tour through the Old District, also called the Austrias and Borbons (the dynasties who built it)

Madrid's Royal Palace was built in the 18th century by order of Philip V on the site of the old Alcázar fortress, a former Moorish castle. The Puerta del Príncipe gateway on the east side gives access to the central courtyard. The Sabatini and Campo del Moro Gardens are among the Palace's other attractions, as well as its several different façades. There is some debate as to its artistic style; it is thought by some experts to belong more to the Baroque, and by others to the Neo-classical style. Of particular note among its numerous rooms are the Royal Guards' Room, the Columns Room, the Hall of Mirrors and King Charles III's room. It also contains paintings by Velázquez, Goya, Rubens, El Greco and Caravaggio. Beside it is the Plaza de Oriente square, the Teatro Real opera house and the modern Cathedral of La Almudena. The Puerta del Sol square is surrounded by a varied and select area of shops and businesses, and the "Paseo del Arte" art route (whose name derives from its world-class museums, palaces and gardens) are further elements in an array of monuments which includes particularly the Palace of Telecommunications, and the fountains of Cibeles and Neptune.

Toledo is definitely a must: the city of the three cultures, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, who lied in peaceful coexistence for centuries until the expulsion by Christian around 1492. Picturesquely sited on a hill above the River Tagus is the historical centre of Toledo.

The Romans built a fortress on the site, today occupied by the Alcazar fortress. The Visigoths made Toledo their capital in the 6th century AD, and left behind several churches. In the Middle Ages, Toledo was a melting pot of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures and it was during this period the Cathedral was built. Toledo is known for its art and history and has a landscape that combines Arabic, Mudejar, Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance architecture. The atmospheric walled town is crammed with churches and museums. Must see sights include the Cathedral of Toledo, Santo Tomé church and Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue.

The Cathedral dates back many centuries but has only existed as a Christian church since the nineteenth century. The temple was actually built on top of a Muslim mosque, and before that it had been a church in the sixth century during the reign of the Visigoth King Recaredo. King San Fernando and the archbishop began building the new church in 1226. The fifteen chapels of the ambulatory were subsequently completed. In the year 1300 the transept nave was completed, although work continued on the church for the next two centuries. The church has five naves and measures 120 metres long and 59 metres wide. The roof is supported by 88 columns. The polychromatic stained glass windows date back to the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The altarpiece in the main chapel has five sections, depicting scenes from the New Testament, along with life-sized polychromatic sculptures made of gilded wood. The 15th century Santiago Chapel, has a flamboyant Gothic style and houses the sarcophagi of Alvaro de Luna and his wife Juana de Pimentel. The impressive choir is considered as one of the grandest in all Christendom. The lower choir stalls were begun in the fifteenth century depicting scenes of the surrender of cities and fortresses up until the conquest of Granada.