Madrid, capital of freedom lovers

Madrid has never been more radiant. Here, in the land of Cervantes, Velázquez and Goya, culture is in a state of permanent flowering under fresh winds of creativity and the hot breath from the nostrils of Pablo Picasso’s Minotaur.

Art is blooming everywhere, including in some places previously used as monasteries (Las Descalzas Reales) and private palaces (Thyssen-Bornemisza and Lázaro Galdiano). Churches display El Greco's work and Goya remains under the heavy fire of French troops in the Prado.

Today, modern and contemporary art has pride of place on the walls of the Reina Sofia museum, while the Madrileño art scene electrifies the magical site of CaixaForum and the art galleries of Lavapiés. The fashion crowd finds its designer clothes in the Salamanca district, and hangs out in legendary luxury hotels (the Ritz, the Westin Palace), haunted by the stars, or, wrapped in a Capa Seseña hidalgo cape, and attends one of the world's most beautiful opera halls, the Teatro Real.

Who would have imagined that a small fort built at the end of the ninth century by the Cordovan emir Muhammad I, would one day have the best nightlife scenes in Europe, and be a mecca of fusion and molecular gastronomy-a showcase destination teeming with bodegas, tapas and wine bars?

Here, nearly a century ago, Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca went to Toledo (30 minutes by train from Madrid) in search of unforgettable experiences, wandering, titillated, in the alleys of the old city. Today, they would find them in Madrid.

When to go