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The city is always peppered with a variety of events and festivities: the capital is noisy, vibrant and packed with life. These are people who are inhabitants of Madrid, who are essentially transient. Born in some other corner of Spain they had every intention of returning to it after making their name of their fortune in the big city.

The upper crust: Jeronimos the area between the Paseo del Prado and Calle Alfonso. Other fashionable areas are El Patio on the Highway to La Coruna. Poor south: This are industrial zones in the outskirts. Government & Economy Madrid is the geographical, financial and political centre of the country. Parliament currently has a Socialist Majority. It s a member of the EU. The peseta is the official currency.

Heart of Spain The area stretching east from the Plaza de Oriente opposite the Royal Palace the broad and beautiful Paseo del Prado. The delightful Plaza de Oriente, facing the Royal Palace exists thanks to Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleons brother, who has briefly ensconced on the Spanish throne. The Opera or Theatro Real, a large building with a curious hexagonal shape, faces the Royal Palace across the Plaza. In recent years cafes have sprouted like mushrooms in the vicinity of the Teatro Royal. One which is always crowded and less than a decade old despite it s appearance of maturity, is the cafe de Oriente. It offers dining in 17th century cellars. The Bank of Spain a graceful building dating from the end of the 19th century, stands on the south-west corner of the Plaza de Cibeles. Inside there is a valuable collections of paintings mostly by the Spanish Artists.

The Capital s lifeline Today modern buildings fill the landscape and two controversial blocks, Las Torres de Kio, are under construction, designed to lean strangely away from the vertical, like Italy s Tower of Pisa. Along the boulevard on can find the Ministry of Defence. Opposite are modern glass buildings the Ministries of Economy and Industry. The National Library (Biblioteca National) was built in 1892 with its ornate granite facade staircase. At the back of the Library is the Archaeological Museum.

Bullfights Bullfights are intimately linked to the history, culture arts and character of Spain. These are held in the Los Ventos Bullring, the season begins in mid-march and ends in mid-October, with bullfights scheduled for every Sunday and holiday and sometimes on Saturday evenings. Dressing to kill. When the parade reaches the barrier or fence which separates the arena from the callejon (the passageway before the stands), the bullfighters turn their fancy dress capes over to their mozos de espadas (swordboys), who act as all-purpose valets. IF the matador is a top star, the mozo de espadas will have a full-time job, otherwise it is an all-day affair on Sunday only.

The matador is at the front. He is followed by teams of Banderilleros, who still assist him with the cape work and the placing of the ...

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