These days it seems all the plaudits go to Barcelona, but sizzling Madrid, matches – exceeds, even – the Catalan capital for pure energy, culture and its insatiable appetite for art and great food.

It’s often described as the most Spanish of Spanish cities. Geographically, it sits on a 650 metre-high plateau in the nation’s centre. Politically and economically, it is the beating heart of Iberia. But more than anything Madrid is the perfect destination for a tailor-made cultural escape.

On a luxury Madrid holiday, you can explore the cobbled labyrinth of the medieval quarter or shop at high-end boutiques on regal boulevards. Enjoy churros and hot chocolate at pavement cafes or suntrap terrazas. Experience traditional bullfighting or some of Europe’s most sultry nightlife. Marvel at innovative architecture like the twin-towered Puerta de Europa or Surrealist masterpieces in illustrious galleries.

Only a handful of cities come anywhere near rivalling Madrid’s artistic treasures, lavishly gathered by Spanish royalty of the years. Your whole luxury holiday could be spent exploring the world-class trio of museum, the Golden Triangle alone.

There’s the Reina Sofia – home to Picasso’s Guernica – and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses works by van Gogh, Cézanne and Caravaggio, among many others. The centre stage belongs to the world-famous Prado however. One of the world’s greatest art repositories, it exhibits over 8000 artworks including celebrated masterpieces like Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

As well as art, Madrileños have a great passion for food. It’s home to the purportedly oldest restaurant in the world, Botín, where Ernest Hemingway once dined on suckling pig. Gastronomic pleasures await in the tascas (tapas bars) tucked away among the mazy medieval streets of Cava Baja, south of Plaza Mayor – where stopping for Cava and oysters is an essential Madrid experience.

Exclusive Salamanca is the where to go for fine dining: at prestigious restaurants like Zalacain, one of nine Michelin-starred establishments in the city. Salamanca also has the city’s most stylish shops, with an A-list line-up of international designers, from Armani to Chanel to Hugo Boss. Madrid’s sleekly-designed luxury boutique hotels are showcased in the district too.

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