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Leisure time
There are lot of things you can do in Madrid apart from sightseeing. One possibility is to explore Madrid, the shopping paradise. If you prefer to relax, you can chill out in one of the many green oases of the city, which you can also use for sports. It is very hot during the summer, perfect weather to cool down in a swimming pool or would you like to discover the neighbouring cities?

Parks
Here the most famous and popular parks of the Madrilenians.

Retiro Park
Subway: Retiro, Príncipe de Vargara, Ibiza, Atocha
A must-see is the Retiro park, which is like a green island with more than 15.000 trees, 130 hectare of forrest in total. You can enter the park through one of its many elegant entrances, which are situated at Plaza de la Independencia, Calle de Alcalá, Calle de O'Donnell as well as Calle de Alfonso XII. In the park you will see the “Estanque de Retiro”, an artificial lake, which is close to the mausoleum of Alfons XII. During the spring/summer season you can rent out rowing boats. More attractions are the glass pavilion, Palacio de Cristal in Spanish, and a lot of small cafés all over the park, where you can sit down and have a cold drink or ice-cream. A peculiarity is the Angel Caído, the only statue in the world in honour of the angel Lucifer. Apart from that you will see a rose garden as well as the gardens of Cecilio Rodríguez and many hidden corners (fehler im Original), where you can enjoy some privacy. Especially during the weekends the whole city meets up in this park to watch artists and drummers, to stroll around or have a picnic and enjoy the good weather.

Parque del Oeste with Templo de Debod
Subway: Moncloa-Argüelles
The park has been designed by landscaper Cecilio Rodríguez in 1900 and especially the rose garden “La Rosaleda” is worth a visit. The Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple from the 4th century BC and it offers a beautiful scenery at sunset, where you can often see bridal couples posing for photographs. There are various gardens not far from the royal palace: the playground for children at Plaza de Oriente, the bordering Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini gardens) with its truncated trees and hedges at the Northern part of the palace, which you can enter from Calle de Bailén and Campo de Moro, which you can enter from Cuesta de la Vega.

Casa de Campo
Subway: Lago, Batán
At the right side of the riverbank of the Manzanares in the Western part of the city we can find the green lung of Madrid, Casa de Campo, a huge park with 4.000 hectares of land. It was founded in 1560 by Felipe II and it was used for hunting. In 1931 the park was opened for the public and today it is a very popular destination of the „madrileños“. You can rent rowing boats to paddle on the artificial lake, swim, play tennis or just enjoy a drink in one of the many “chiringuitos” and the nice view. The Parque Zoológico (zoo) and the Parque de Atracciones, a big amusement park (http://www.parque deatracciones.es/ ) are to be found in the Southern part of the park.
If you don’t want to take the metro, you have the opportunity to reach the park via cable car (teleférico) from Paseo de Pintor Rosales, which is a nice way to enjoy the view. The cable car runs on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays between: 12:00 – 15:00 / 16:00 – 18:00; a single ride costs 3 Euros, a return ticket 4 Euros; more information at: http://www.teleferico.com/

Jardín Botánico (botanical garden)
Subway: Atocha
The entrance to the botanical garden is located at Glorieta de Morillo, next to the Prado museum. The gardens, which include more than 30.000 different sorts of trees and plants from all over the world, have been designed by Charles the Third for the botanical faculty. The different parts are divided by beautiful avenues and every plant and tree has a label with the Latin name and its species on it. Open daily from 10:00 – 18:00.


Sports
If you are not very keen on jogging in the park, you have the opportunity to go to the gym (http://www.descubremadrid.com/en/buscar.asp?tipo=100&id=22) or to go for a swim in one of the numerous swimming pools of the city. Here you find a list with a range of „piscinas“ with address and short description: http://www.descubremadrid.com/en/buscar.asp?tipo=100&id=14&piscinas=1

In addition, you should also inform yourself about the sports programme at your university, as you can attend many leisure courses for free and get to know a lot of people at the same time. Regarding swimming pools, you can ask at your respective uni, as they might run a swimming pool, where you can get a discount.

Cinema and shopping
In case you feel like going to the cinema, you will find a list at: http://www.descubremadrid.com/en/buscador_cine.asp; you can also search for a movie and then you can see in which cinemas it is played.

It is of course a must to go shopping in Madrid, as you have endless possibilites. Sol is a shopping paradise as well as the streets of Princesa, Goya and Castellana, where you will also find bigger department stores. The district of Salamanca is claimed to be very chic and it houses a number of juwellers, shoe, leather, furniture and gift shops. Around Plaza Mayor you will find a selection of shops with traditional Spanish articles, which is perfect when you are in the mood for strolling around and browsing.
Something you have to see is the famous Rastro, a huge flea market in Madrid taking place in the weekends. It is worth getting up a bit earlier, even though it is weekend and you have been partying the night before (most of the stands close in the afternoon) and joining this large crowd of people. The crowd moves between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores and you will find everything and even more: antique pieces, second hand items, clothing, shoes, collections, books, records and CDs, paintings, jewellery, souvenirs…everything! After a stroll through the Rastro you can refresh yourself in one of the small bars with a cool beer (cerveza, clara) and tapas. But careful: don’t bring your backpack or a big handbag and watch your purse, as this place is full of pickpockets.

Excursions to the surroundings
Even though life in a big city like Madrid is very exciting, it is also nice to have a little bit of change and recreation once in a while. Madrid offers a big variety of excursion destinations.

Alcalá de Henares
An ancient city, which is situated only 33 km from Madrid. In 1499 its famous university was founded by cardinal Cisneros and it has been declared Wold Heritage Site in the meanwhile. The university building at the Plaza de San Diego has a magnificent façade, beautiful patios (Patio Trilingüe), interesting arcades and gardens. Alcalá is the native city of Spanish national poet Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote. Cervantes’ birthplace is situated in the Calle de Imagen and it has been equipped with furniture and household articles from his time. It is possible to visit this place. There are also many churches and convents in the city, which attract many people, like the church of the master, built in the 21st century, the palace of the archbishop, the convent of Las Bernardas, the Jesuit church as well as the oratorio of San Felipe Neri.
Trains from Atocha and Chamartín leave every 10 minutes. Busses leave from the entrance of Avenida de América, also every 10 min.

Aranjuez
The city of Aranjuez was founded in the 18th century and this majestic area, 47 km outside of Madrid disposes of real jewels like the Palacio Real (royal palace) and the magnificent gardens surrounding it. This place has been residence for kings since the 15th century. In the 17th century the Bourbons built the palace and the garden area, like the Jardín del Parterre, the Jardín de la Isla and the Jardín del Príncipe, a garden in British style. The Casa del Labrador is a neoclassical hunting lodge, built for King Carlos the Fourth and located in the Jardín del Príncipe. The palace of Aranjuez with its gardens and the city are declared UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trains run every 30 mins from Atocha, busses from Estación Sur de Autobuses. Between the months of May and October (except from August) a special train for tourists runs every Saturday, called Tren de la Fresa (strawberry train).

Manzanares el Real
This is a picturesque city in the Sierra de Guadarrama, at the foot of the mountain La Pedriza, where many Madrilenians have their summer residences. The palace from the 15th century is a juwel of civil architecture. It is worth to walk along the bank of the Manzanares in the La Pedriza park. The city is situated 47 km outside of Madrid, busses start at Plaza de Castilla.

El Escorial
The monastery is located in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 50 km north west of Madrid. The construction of these terrific granite buildings - monastery, church, palace - were ordered by Felipe II. Also remarkable is the basilica, which has a 92 m high cupola and the vaults are decorated with paintings from Lucas Jordán. There are a lot of things to gaze at, amongst others:
Palaces: One of the palaces inhabited by the Habsburgs is the Sala de las Batallas, which is decorated with frescos and is especially beautiful. The elaborate rooms of the Habsburgs stand out with their luxurious tapestries.
Chapterhouses: paintings of El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Titian and Bosch as well as works from the Venecian School of the 16th century can be admired.
Library: the library disposes of more than 40.000 books, dating back to the 9th century. There is also a museum with paintings from Titian, Veronese, Zurbarán and Tintoretto, etc as well as a museum of architecture, which exposes construction plans of the monastery. Outside of the building complex it is worth to visit the Casita del Príncipe, a small palace founded by Carlos II, as well as the Casita del Infante, both designed by Juan de Villanueva.
The UNESCO has declared the palace area World Heritage Site on November 2, 1984. In Spain the buliding is known as the 8th wonder of the world. Trains run from the train stations of Atocha and Chamartín.

Ávila
Ávila is the highest located captial of provinces of Spain with an altitude of 1.128 m. The most important monument is the 2500 meter long, completely preserved Romanesque city wall (11th – 14th century) with 88 towers and nine city gates. The most popular daughter of the city, who is still omnipresent in the citiyscape, is the mystic and teacher of the church Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada (1515 – 1582), also known as Santa Teresa de Jesús or Teresa from Ávila. The city is located 115 km to the north west of Madrid and trains run from the train station of Atocha. If you want to take the bus, you have to catch it at Paseo de la Florida, 11.

Segovia
Segovia is situated 87 km to the north west of Madrid. The impressive Roman aqueduct in the city, the majestic castle of Alcazar, the Cathedral and numerous churches are attractions worth a visit. You should also visit La Granja de San Ildefonso, a beautiful palace with nice gardens and a monumental fountain, situated 11 km outside of Segovia. Trains run from Atocha, busses from Paseo de la Florida, 11.

Toledo
This is a fascinating monumental city, 70 km to the south of Madrid and centre of the empire of the Visigoths, imperialistic capital and residence of Arabs, Jews and Christians. There are many masterpieces in the city of El Greco (he lived in Toledo from 1577 until he died in 1614). The old town with the Cathedral of Santa María from the 13th – 15th century and the Alcázar from the 16th century as well as numerous churches, a monastery and museums have been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1977. Two rare and preserved synagogues from the Middle Ages, El Transito and Santa Maria la Blanca, which were used as churches after the persecution of Jews in 1492, are also woth a visit. Until today you can see the chains at the church of San Juan de los Reyes, where slaves have been kept by the Berberesques. Trains run from Atocha, busses from Estación del Sur.

Salamanca
A bit further away but still worth a visit is the city of Salamanca, where you can admire the oldest university of Spain, unique facades, cathedrals, the beautiful Plaza Mayor and the house of mussles. The city was declared UNESCO World Heritage in 1998 and in 2002 it was the cultural capital of Europe. It is also said that people speak the nicest and most correct form of Spanish in Salamanca. Therefore you have a wide range of language courses offered by private agencies and universities, which attracts many foreign students during the summer.


More cities and events, which you have to see are the Carnaval de Cádiz in February, the Fallas (a festival, where huge figures made of cardboard are being burnt ), in Valencia in March and the Sanfermines in Pamplona, the famous bull run in the beginning/middle of July.