Madrid is about more than football, although the Champions League final between its top teams – Real and Atlético – certainly showed the Spanish capital's dominance of the beautiful game. The Spanish capital remains a thriving world city, despite Spain’s continuing economic woes. Services make up the largest sector of the city’s economy and it is the country's financial capital, with its centre in the AZCA district.
The French capital also has one of the highest concentrations of the world's biggest companies and is home to the headquarters of oil company Total, investment bank BNP Paribas, global communications agency Havas as well as the UN's cultural organisation UNESCO. In recent years, a number of start-ups have come out of the city, although few have made a global impact in the way that those from Silicon Valley have. Notable exceptions include the pioneering online flash sale site Vente Privee and music streaming site Deezer. The city has also hosted, since 2004, the seminal tech conference
British Airways and its sister airline Iberia, link Heathrow and Madrid's Barajas airport 13 times a day.
Barajas airport is 9km from the AZCA financial district and 23km from the Puerta del Sol, the city's historic centre. It’s just 15 minutes on the metro from any airport terminal to the central Nuevos Ministerios station. Take line 8. You can also breeze into the centre from Terminal 4 in 11 minutes by train. An official white and red taxi from the airport to the centre costs a flat €30.
Madrid's art museums are legendary – and well placed if you have a spare hour or two between meetings. The Prado on Paseo del Prado has one of the best collections of European art in the world, including stunning works by Goya and Velázquez. Meanwhile, enjoy the eclectic collection ranging from Old Masters to the post-Impressionists at the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza. And if you can fit in some football on a business trip, the Santiago Bernabéu is well worth a visit, if only to gawp at the Real Madrid trophy collection. A tour costs €19. You can buy tickets for games at www.realmadrid.com/en/tickets, costing from around €30 for a standard ticket and from €225 with hospitality.
Business hotel rates in Madrid are low by the standards of major European cities. Rates fell by more than 7% in 2013 over the previous year and now average €136.32.The Silken Puerta América Madrid is a real treat for the senses. World-leading architects including Zaha Hadid and Sir Norman Foster have created distinct room designs – some straight out of sci-fi – on each floor. There’s also a popular rooftop bar with amazing views of the city.
The beautiful Retiro park is one of Madrid's main attractions and the Hotel AC Palacio Del Retiro is housed in a National Heritage status palace overlooking it. Its interior design is absolutely à la mode, but also beautifully captures the essence of the past – and The Prado is just next door. Rooms start at €170.
Budget a little more limited? The RoomMate group of Spanish hotels is good value. The RoomMate Alicia on Calle Prado is well designed, colourful and comfortable and a bargain, from around €70 a night. Just make sure you book in advance.You'll want to eat great tapas when in Madrid. Traditionalists will love the intimate tiled interior of La Casa del Abuelo at Calle Goya 57. Just don't go for a meeting after snacking on a ración of garlic prawns.
A more recent opening and a lot less traditional is TriCiclo at Calle Santa Maria 28 in the literary quarter. Oxtail ravioli and rendang taco are examples of internationally inspired, lip-smacking snacks. Taberna Antonio Sanchez at Mesón de Paredes, 13 has been around forever; a wonderful old bar packed with bullfighting memorabilia. Fabrica Maravillas could not be more different, serving up its own craft beer in an industrial-chic setting at Calle Valverde, 29.
For coffee, art and the chance to pick up a present or two, head for design cafe, gallery and shop La Fabrica at Calle Alameda 9.
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Leave your luggage in the ample racks near the doors and relax for your journey in one of our comfortable, spacious seats.
With a good nights sleep before your flight then just 15 minutes to the airport, Paddington is a great place to stay.
Don't risk missing your flight by getting stuck in a taxi in rush hour or being hit by a tube strike