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Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain.  Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial center of the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies, as well as the headquarters of three of the world’s 100 largest companies.

While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  A cosmopolitan city, a business center, headquarters for the Public Administration, Government, Spanish Parliament and the home of the Spanish Royal Family, Madrid also plays a major role in both the banking and industrial sectors.

Madrid is a wonderful city year-round, but you’ll especially appreciate being here when the weather’s warm and the kaleidoscopic variety of life Madrid-style courses through the streets or takes up residence in the city’s plazas.  During the Fiestas del 2 de Mayo, a festival of the Community of Madrid, celebrations include a wide variety of concerts, open-air dancing and sporting events.

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    Madrid Overview

    Madrid has a unique atmosphere due to the combination of its high altitude and the mountain breeze. At an altitude of 2,100 feet, this could be Europe’s highest capital. Not only is Madrid the capital of Spain but it is also the world capital of bullfighting.

    Located virtually in the centre of the country, Madrid is in close proximity to Segovia in the north and Toledo in the south, two other very important cities. Also close by is Avila an historic centre. Madrid has always been at the forefront of Spain’s history; King Philip II promoted Madrid from a provincial town to his national command post in the middle of the 16th century. Since then Madrid hasn’t stopped growing. Nowadays many of Spain’s leading companies have head offices here as well as many major factories. Being such an economic centre, Spaniards have converged upon Madrid from every corner of the country.

    The Puerta del Sol is the centre of Madrid and is the point from which all Spain’s radial highways begin; ‘kilometre 0’. In the central area of the Puerta del Sol you will find a statue based on Madrid’s coat of arms. It shows a bear standing against a tree. You will find the very same bear all over Madrid.

    Madrid Neighborhoods

    Contemporary Madrid came into its own after the death of General Francisco Franco. Years of the Franco regime left Madrid and much of the country in economic shambles due to isolation. With his death, Madrid, and Spain as a whole, began to reassert itself on the international stage. The modern metropolis is home to over three million people. As expected with any major European capital city, each district (or barrio in Spanish) has its own feel. Some of the most well-known “barrios” in Madrid are:


    As the name implies, Madrid’s main Opera Theatre is the Teatro Real (Royal theatre).

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    Madrid Time Zone & Electricty

    Time Zone

    The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. Here is an example given the local time in Madrid and New York City at 12:00 UTC when daylight saving time is not in effect:

    Madrid Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC+1 hour = 1:00 am

    NYC Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 05:00 hour = 7:00 pm

    Madrid is on Central European Time CET and does observe Day light Savings time.   Local time in New York is 6 hours behind Madrid.


    Electricity supply in Spain is AC 220 Volts, 50 Hertz. Sockets meet European regulations and use the round pin system. You will need an adapter, but make sure that the electrical appliances you are going to use (computers, mobile phone chargers, shavers) work at this voltage.

    Madrid History

    Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since pre-historic times, in the Roman age this territory belonged to the diocese of Complutum (present-day Alcalá de Henares). But the first historical data on the city comes from the 9th century, when Muhammad I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is today occupied by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built.  From this came the naming of the site as Majerit, which was later rendered to the modern-day spelling of Madrid). The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconstructed the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison’s granary).

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    Fast Facts

    Population (2005)

    City           3,228,359

    Metro         5,561,748

    Area 235 sq mi (607 km²)

    Phone Numbers

    011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of U.S.A., when placing the call in the US.

    001 is the international prefix used to dial the US, when placing the call in Spain

    34 is the international code used to dial to Spain.

    91 is the city code for Madrid.

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    Click Here For Madrid Climate.

    By Car

    Driving in Madrid is an…experience.  The streets are far too narrow to handle all of the automotive traffic, so there are always jams and backups.  Parking is just as bad, sometimes people just park in the middle of the road.  Parallel parking on the street is just inviting your bumpers to get, well, bumped, by people squeezing into the tight spots.  Underground parking is a little safer on the paint job.

    The roads in Spain vary from very poor to very good, the latter especially since Spain joined the EU and has benefited from the funding from other countries over the last 20 years. The main connecting roads are generally excellent. Roads are classified thus, and they can be easily clarified on a road map.

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    Public Transportation

    Madrid Metro

    Serving the city’s population of some six million, the Madrid Metro is one of the most extensive and fastest-growing metro networks in the world.  With the addition of a loop serving suburbs to Madrid’s south-west “Metrosur”, it is now the second largest metro system in Western Europe, second only to London’s Underground. In May 2007, Madrid’s metro system will be expanded and it will have more than 175 mi. The province of Madrid is also served by an extensive commuter rail network called Cercanías.

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    Air Transportation

    Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD)

    (34) 91-393-6060

    The airport’s three terminals stand side by side, linked by corridors and moving walkways. This ribbon development presents its own challenges even to those who enjoy physical exercise and, sensibly, there is a transfer bus service for those passengers changing flights and terminals.

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    As in the U.S. there are 3 basic choices of television service, aerial antenna (called terrestrial In London), cable or satellite.

    An aerial antenna on the roof or in your living room, provides comparatively poor service and just a few, basic channels, but is free. Every person owning a TV needs to pay an annual fee called the TV license. It is currently £116 per year. Revenues are used to support the non-commercial activities of the BBC. If you don’t pay the fee you are breaking the law and may face fines.

    PAL TV format is used by the UK but  NTSC is used by the U.S. The systems are incompatible, so you will not be able to operate a TV in the UK that you bought in a country not using the PAL format.


    89.1 BBC Radio2 MOR
    91.3 BBC Radio3 Classical
    93.5 BBC Radio4 News, Talk, Drama
    94.9 BBC London Live Local News, AOR
    95.8 Capital FM Commercial Pop
    96.9 Choice FM Soul
    97.3 News Direct News
    98.8 BBC Radio1 Pop, Indie, Chart, Dance
    100 Kiss 100 FM Dance
    100.9 Classic FM Light Classical
    102.2 Jazz FM Jazz, R&B
    103.3 Greek Greek
    103.8 RTM Music, Talk
    104.9 XFM Indie, Alternative, Britpop
    105.4 Melody MOR, AOR
    105.8 Virgin Commercial AOR
    106.2 Heart AOR


    London has three daily newspaper titles – the popular Evening Standard, plus two free titles, Metro and Standard Lite which are distributed every morning at London tube and railway stations. The independent weekly listings guide Time Out Magazine provides concert, film, theatre and arts information.

    Evening Standard

    Standard Lite



    The Palacio Real

    The Royal Palace is probably one of the most important places in Madrid and it is open to the public, except when official business is taking place. It is set in formal gardens on the site of a Moorish fortress that burned down in 1734. There are many rooms to be seen including the throne room and the Royal Farmacia. Across the courtyard you will find the Royal Armoury with an impressive display of armor; this is included in the tour price.

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    Gardens & Parks

    The Botanical Gardens (Jardín Botánico)

    Plaza Murillo, 2

    These gardens, situated next to the Prado Museum, were inaugurated by Carlos III in 1781 after sending out scientific expeditions all over the world to help build up the collection of more than 30,000 species of plants, including several varieties of tropical plants housed in the hothouse.

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    Prado Museum

    Edificio Villanueva

    Paseo del Prado

    (34) 91-330-2900

    This is without any doubt the pride of Madrid and is one of the most important museums in the world.    It houses the world’s greatest collection of Spanish paintings. If you were to allow a full day visit you would struggle to see all of its treasures but at the very least you should allow a couple of hours to see the best old masters in the world. Goya, El Greco and Picasso are just a few of those artists represented.

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    Madrid’s three main football (soccer) teams are Real Madrid, Atlético de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano

    Real Madrid

    Santiago Bernabéu stadium

    Calle Concha Espina

    28026 Madrid

    (34) 91-229-1709

    Real Madrid, officially the best football team of the 20th Century as recognized by FIFA.

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    Madrid Shopping

    Big shopping centers and department stores open from 10.00 h to 21.00 or 22.00 h uninterruptedly. These big stores open sometimes on Sunday.


    The best and most exclusive national and international fashion firms together with antique shops, bookshops, jewelers, galleries and other prestigious establishments can be found in the streets of Serrano, Velázquez, Castelló, Goya, Jorge Juan and Lagasca and the other streets which go to make up the Salamanca quarter. Each square meter of the specialist shops along the so called “golden mile” offer a world of luxury, distinction and elegance.


    If you are looking for the very latest, alternative fashions and designs you must visit Chueca, which consists of the streets Fuencarral, Hortaleza, Barquillo and Almirante. The most daring hairstyles, tattoos and the latest CDs and books, shoes or cosmetics are all available in these narrow streets with their lively bohemian atmosphere.

    Crafts in the Centre

    The Plaza Mayor, the Gran Via, the Puerta del Sol and adjacent streets make up the oldest shopping area in Madrid where there are myriad small shops specializing in all kinds of traditional, typical and craft products. In this, the neuralgic centre of the city, you can buy craft work, ceramics, pottery, leather products, fans, guitars and other musical instruments, flamenco dresses, accessories and foodstuffs, together with all kinds of clothes, CDs and books.

    Compulsory Education

    When you move to Spain, one of your main concerns if you have children is their education. It might be fine to integrate them into the Spanish education system at primary stage but when it comes to later on and exams, you might prefer to move them into the British system for their GCSE´s and A levels. It is considered healthy for a child to be educated along with children of many other nationalities and this is exactly what happens when they attend an international school.

    When choosing an international school there are many things to consider, not least of all the costs for school fees and materials as well as the location of the school and the amount of traveling that needs to be done to and from the school. Within ex-patriate areas there are many such schools to choose from. All schools encourage you to take a tour of the school.

    Hastings School

    Infants School

    Paseo de la Habana 204

    Madrid 28036

    Junior & Secondary School

    c/ Azulinas 8

    Madrid 28036

    (34) 91-359-9913

    International School of Madrid

    Rosa Jardón, 3

    Madrid 28016

    (34) 91-359-2121

    Kensington School

    Av. de Bularas, 2

    Pozuelo de Alarcon

    Madrid  28023

    (34) 91-715-4797

    King’s College

    Paseo de los Andes

    Soto de Viñuelas

    Madrid  28761

    (34) 91-803-4800

    Montessori School

    Paseo de Belmas, 2

    Collado Villalba

    Madrid  28400

    (34) 91-850-1053

    Numont School

    C/ Parma, 16

    Madrid  28043

    (34) 91-300-2431

    Runnymede College

    Calle Salvia 30

    La Moraleja

    Madrid  28109

    (34) 91-650-8302

    St Anne’s School

    Avda Alfonso XIII, 162

    Madrid 28016

    (34) 91-345-9060

    English Montessori School

    Av. LaSalle

    s/n Aravaca

    Madrid  28023

    (34) 91-357-2667

    Higher Education

    Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)

    Avenida Séneca, 2

    Madrid, SP 28040

    (34) 91-394-4099

    The Completeness University of Madrid is the most prestigious, and largest, public university in Spain and one of the oldest universities in the world. It has 10,000 staff members and a student population of 117,000. It is located on two campuses, in the university quarter Ciudad Universitaria at Moncloa in Madrid, and in Somosaguas.

    Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

    (34) 91-336-7903

    The Technical University of Madrid  is located in Madrid. It was founded in 1971 as the result of merging the different Technical Schools of Engineering.  UPM’s Schools are spread all over Madrid, instead of being placed in an unified campus.  More than 35,000 students attend the university.

    Business Hours

    The most common business hours are Monday through Saturday, from 9.30 h to 13.30 h, and from 16.30 to 20.00 h.

    Shop opening hours

    Most shops open at 10.00am and close for siesta at 2.00pm, re-opening at 5.00pm until 8.30 or 9.00pm. Many shops open 10.00 – 2.00 on Saturdays and most close on Sundays.

    Currency & Banking

    Currency (code) euro (EUR)

    Exchange Rate euros per US dollar

    0.7534 (2008)

    0.8034 (2007)

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    Eating out in Spain is relatively cheap and meals are usually substantial instead of gourmet. The Spanish tradition of tapas is a good way to sample the local food. Tapas are small dishes of snacks which are served anytime especially in small bars. They cover all types of foods from seafood to vegetables. Many Spanish people make an evening of hopping from bar to bar trying different tapas. Another of Spain’s favorites is Serrano Ham. Spain is famous for its fish delicacies and simply must be sampled, especially if you get to coastal areas. Paella has long been a Spanish favorite, based on either meat or seafood. Every region in Spain has its own specialties.

    The Spanish tend to eat traditional continental breakfasts, a light lunch and an evening meal, late.

    At almost all restaurants, service is included, but it is common practice to leave a 5-10% tip.  Tipping is not obligatory anywhere, but much less in bars or cafeterias. However, if you leave a small tip it shows your appreciation of the service – a good rule of thumb here is 10 to 15 cents per round of drinks. Never leave tips in pubs or discotheques.

    Embassy & Visa

    The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona, and six Consular Agencies located in cities around Spain provide consular services to the approximately 1,000,000 American tourists that visit Spain each year and to the over 80,000 U.S. citizens who are residing in Spain.

    The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit is located at:

    American Embassy

    Calle Serrano 75

    28006 Madrid

    Telephone (34) 91 587 2240

    Travel registration is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.

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    When attending a business dinner, be prepared to stay up late. Most restaurants do not open until after nine o’clock, and often do not get active until around eleven!

    The Spanish dress more formal than many other Europeans. In Spain, it is important to project good taste in apparel. Business attire includes well-made, conservative suits and ties. Avoid flashy colors, as it is not popular to stand out.

    Time is very relaxed. It is wise for foreigners to be punctual, but Spaniards do not put a great emphasis on time themselves. The Spaniards often consider deadlines an objective that will be met if possible, but do not become overly concerned if the deadline is not achieved.

    Although many Spanish businesspeople speak English, it is a good idea for foreigners to have all of your materials printed in Spanish.   Business cards should be two-sided, one side having English and the other side containing Spanish. When presenting your business card, place the card with the Spanish side facing your Spanish colleague.

    Negotiations are usually an extremely long and arduous task, so do not be in a rush to close a deal in Spain.  Dining is usually associated with establishing business relationships in Spain, so be prepared for your business associates to join you at any or all of your daily meals.


    Spain has a very good national health service that works alongside a wonderful private sector. Hospitals are of a very high standard. However you are best advised to have your own private insurance.

    The Spanish National Health Service has an extensive network of health centers and hospitals throughout the country. The health centers offer primary health care services (family/GP services, pediatrics and nursing, with availability of midwives, physiotherapists and social workers). They are aimed to be located within 15 minutes of any place of residence. If circumstances require, medical attention can be given at the patient’s residence.

    Hospitals offer specialized attention, with access via referral from primary healthcare services. There are also Accident and Emergency services available at hospitals and some health centers.


    Chemists (farmacias) are plentiful in Spain and are marked with a large green cross. The law states that farmacias must operate on a rota system so that there is always one open. Local newspapers carry details of the duty farmacia. Details are also posted on the door of the farmacias. You can obtain basic medical advice here. There are also alternative chemists such as Chinese clinics and herbal clinics. Most speak English.


    The entry of dogs, cats, or ferrets under three months of age is not allowed.  The animals will also be accompanied by a veterinary certificate, issued by an Official Veterinarian, which will include the following:

    • Identification of the owner or person responsible for the animal.
    • Description and origin of the animal.
    • Microchip or tattoo number, location and date of insertion.
    • Information on the rabies vaccine (the vaccine type must be inactive, and in compliance with the standards of the OIE).

    The veterinary certificate will be valid for 4 months or until the vaccine’s expiration date, whichever is first.   The cage or carrier in which the animal is traveling must be labeled with the name, address in Spain, and phone number of the owner or the owner’s representative.

    Animals without the certificate will be denied entry into Spain.

    Postal Service


    Post offices in Spain are called Correos. They can be recognized by the yellow sign with a white post horn. Post boxes are yellow and located in the street. You will also find post boxes in hotels and some shops. You can purchase postage stamps from the post office or from a tobacconist (Estanco).


    U.S. Tax Information

    Internal Revenue Service

    P.O. Box 920

    Bensalem, PA 19020

    (215) 516-2000 (not toll-free)

    Phone service available from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm (EST) M-F

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office serving Spain is located in Philadelphia, and provides U.S. Federal tax assistance to Americans in Mexico.

    The IRS Home Page,, has a lot of information available to answer many questions. Go to ‘Individuals’ and then ‘Overseas Taxpayers’ you will find a section of FAQ, which will take you to IRS Publication 54. Many questions of overseas taxpayers can be answered from that source.

    One point to remember for all overseas taxpayers is that the United States taxes its citizens on their worldwide income. Even though they may be eligible to exclude a certain amount of their earned income from their income tax computation, they must file a US tax return in order to claim that exclusion.


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