<p>Photo: Madrid's Gran Via</p>

Madrid’s Gran Vía buzzes with activity 24/7, fronting shops from high-end to gritty and hotels for all budgets. Along the Vía you’ll also find grand cinemas that host Spain’s red carpet film premieres.

Photograph by Guido Cozzi/Atlantide/Corbis

Like the best tapas bars, Madrid offers a selection of delights so tempting it reduces even the most seasoned traveler to giddiness. On one glorious stretch of boulevard, it houses three of the world’s greatest art museums. It boasts Western Europe’s largest Royal Palace and its most audacious gay pride parade. Get lost in the 16th-century cobblestoned streets around Plaza Mayor, the über-trendy boutiques of Chueca, the upscale chic of Salamanca, and the medieval elegance of La Latina. Dine on cutting-edge cuisine in a world-famous culinary temple or join locals in a gritty corner bar where the simple tapas come in huge portions and everyone throws their napkins on the floor. Begin a night out at 10 p.m. with a heart-stirring flamenco performance and finish at 6 a.m. with pulse-racing techno. Madrid is a city that locals proudly claim never sleeps. Except, that is, during siesta. Do like they do and take a nap—it is key to truly living la vida madrileña.

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