Expansive plazas, local and foreign crowds, street performers, colorful lights, window shopping, restaurant signs promising the best paella, ham, and churros con chocolate- this is downtown Madrid, a collection of plazas interconnected by a network of side streets. Some of these side streets are wide pedestrian shopping routes, and some are hidden, so it's possible to duck in and out of the bustle as desired. The iconic Puerta del Sol is the giant crossroads of the city and a must-see attraction at any time of the day. The nearby Plaza Mayor, completely enclosed by historic red buildings, is an ideal place to grab a bite to eat outside, amidst scores of tables and people out for a stroll. Plaza Isabel II (also known as “Opera”) is smaller and a good meeting spot, and the stately Plaza del Oriente is the front yard of the Royal Palace. Centro can be touristy (pickpockets are unfortuately not unheard-of here), crowded, and sometimes gimmicky, but it is also the place to experience classic Madrid.
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