Why go now?
There may be a slight chill in the air, with temperatures hovering around 15C in March, but Spain's handsome capital is slowly starting to warm up. Even more enticing is the cultural calendar. A new exhibition on the living and working spaces of Spain's greatest artist, Picasso, has just opened in the studio at the Fundación Mapfre at Paseo de Recoletos 23 (fundacionmapfre.org; free). It runs until May 11 with rarely seen pieces on loan from his family.
Later this summer, the 400th anniversary of the death of the Renaissance painter El Greco will be marked with a blockbuster exhibition at the Museo del Prado at Paseo del Prado (www.museodelprado.es; €14) from June 24 to October 5.
Get your bearings
Perched on a rocky plateau 667m above sea level, Madrid rose to prominence in 1561 when King Felipe II made the small market town his capital. It was, he said "a city fulfilling the functions of a heart located in the middle of the body". Besides a brief spell in the 17th century, when Valladolid was top dog, Madrid has been the capital ever since, growing steadily to become a city of eclectic architecture and fine food.
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