Sporting Break in Madrid, Spain

If you’ve ever been to the Spanish capital of Madrid in the sweltering heat of summer, you’ll know that the idea of actually doing any sport there is enough to make you feel sick. “Nueve Messe de invierno, tres messe de infierno,” (nine months of winter, three months of hell) the locals say ruefully, before sinking another glass of iced water and fanning their face with a rolled-up copy of Marca – a local football magazine.

That’s fine – if, like in Barcelona, you can hit the beach but Madrid, is marooned way up north in the middle of Spain, nowhere near the coast.  If you set out from the city with your towel and flip-flops, you’ll have to walk 400 kilometres before you find sand and sea.  It’s fortunate, then, that the best sporting activities in Madrid involve watching rather than doing.

Football is the religion of most Madrilenos, and it has been ever since the end of 19th century when the game was introduced to the region.  Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are the city’s top teams, and share a rivalry that can match any major football capital.

Real, the most successful team in the history of European football, were formed in 1902, although the club only earned it ‘Real’ title in 1920, when King Alfonso XIII gave it his royal patronage. Madrid moved into their home stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu, in 1947.  This historic arena, which now finds itself in the heart of Madrid’s business district, has hosted three European Cup Finals and the 1982 Wold Cup final.

Catching a game alongside 88,000 fan in the steep, five-tiered cauldron is a fantastic experience for any fan; you can also join a stadium tour, although you won’t be allowed in the home changing room -  it’s too sacred, apparently.

The Atletico’s fans are equally passionate and create an electric atmosphere at their home, the 55,000 –capacity Vicente Caldron stadium.

Basketball (balancesto) is another big sport in Madrid, and the city’s teams – Real Madrid and Estudiantes – attract healthy crowds between September and May.  The city also plays host to major events like the Madrid Masters, part of tennes’s ATP Masters Series, and serves as the final destination for La Vuelta, Spain’s version of the Tour de France.

If you arrive outside the summer season or are brave enough to face the heat – there are plenty of activities to partake in yourself.  Madrid has more than 250,000 hectores of parks, and the Parque del Buen Retiro is always stocked with rowers, joggers and cyclists.  Golf is particularly popular with the affluent Malrilenos, and you’ll find a range of courses in the beautiful countryside just outside the city. If you are on a short break, you best bets for a round of golf are at Golf Park or the Oliver de la Hinojosa Golf Club.

Madrid is the international capital of bullfighting.  The Plaza de Toros Monumental de Las Ventas is a temple to the ‘sport’ and has the capacity for 25,000 spectators.  If you are interested and want to experience the traditional Spanish sight of a sequined matador in action, this is the place to do it.  The season stretches from March to December and bullfights are held on Sundays.

If you are in Madrid between the months of November to February, you can even go skiing. Yeah, its weird I know, but Madrid is only about an hour away from a selection of vibrant ski resorts. Navacerrada is the most popular; it has runs for beginners and advanced skiers, as well as its own snowmaking system. Other events include the Madrid Marathon a 26.2 miles event attracting about 13,000 competitors.