A single paving stone at the Puerta del Sol marks the center of Spain. People trample right over it, their attention distracted by the statue of a bear kissing a tree. You might expect a grander landmark, but Madrid doesn’t need to shout. You may admire the flamboyant art-deco architecture of the Gran Via and stop to take in the Goya and Velazquez masterpieces in the Prado Museum, but the best Madrid experiences are the simplest. The name Madrid comes from the Arabic word ‘magerit’, which means ‘place of many streams’. Squeeze into one of the tiny tapas bars around the Puerta del Sol, where legs of ham hang from the ceiling. You will have to fight for attention as mustachioed men prop up the bar, debating politics over beer. But one slice of salty, melt-in-the-mouth meat and a glass of full-bodied Rioja will convince you that this is indeed the heart of Spain.
People traveling to Madrid also make sure that they do visit Barcelona, Ibiza and Valencia.