Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain, as well as the capital of the autonomous community of the same name (Comunidad de Madrid). Madrid is best known for its great cultural and artistic heritage, a good example of which is the El Prado museum. Madrid also boasts some of the liveliest nightlife in the world. It is situated almost at the geographical epicentre of the country on a high central plain (meseta) and is at the heart of the Spanish economical, political and communications systems. A thoroughly modern city, Madrid could not be described as handsome and does not hold the historical pull of other European cities, such as Paris or Rome. However, visitors to this dynamic metropolis cannot help but be drawn to the vibrant spirit of the city that can be found in its streets and people.
The city of Madrid is centred around the Puerta del Sol and many important roads radiate outwards from this thoroughfare, such as the Calle de Alcala, the Calle del Arenal, the Calle Mayor and the Calle de la Montera. The Playa Mayor lies to the south of the Puerta del Sol and forms the most historical part of the city, and is conveniently where the Madrid Municipal Tourist Information Office is located. There are also regional tourism centres based on the Calle del Duque de Medinaceli, at Barajas Airport, and also at both the Atocha and Chamartin railway stations. Madrid is a city of great monuments. Among its highlights are the medieval center dating back to the Habsburg Empire and the Prado Museum. It makes up for this with its boundless energy, blue skies, art, culture and some of the most exhilarating and exhausting nightlife in Europe. The city is compact and easy to navigate on foot - most of the sights of interest are found in the downtown area between the Royal Palace and Parque del Retiro.
Madrid is Spain's second largest industrial center after Barcelona. It manufactures aircraft, electrical equipment, agricultural machinery, and leather goods. The city is the center of national government, finance, and insurance, and the nation's transportation hub. It is also one of the most important publishing centers of Spanish language materials in the world. Tourism is an important element of the economy. Wheat, vines, and olives are some of the agricultural products grown in the province of Madrid.
The climate of Madrid is continental; mainly dry and quite extreme at times. Madrid sees perpetual sunshine and a characteristically hot and dry summer, and a fairly cold winter with frequent frosts during the night and the occasional snowfall. Spring and autumn are mild with the most rainfall concentrated in these seasons. Spring and autumn are definitely the best times to visit, especially the months of April, May and June and September and October. There is very little rainfall during summer and also less rainfall during winter. During winter snow occurs sporadically, however snowfall usually lasts only for a few days, but there is abundant snowfall in the adjacent mountain ranges nearby. The climate of Madrid is dry, warm and pleasant. It's high altitude and proximity to mountains causes some wide variations in winter and summer temperatures. In summer the heat at midday can be intense, with pleasantly cool evenings. Winters, by contrast, bring temperatures dropping to just below freezing. Rain in Madrid is a rarity, with a short rainy season in late October and some showers in spring.
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