The old and the new contrast vividly in Madrid, where narrow cobbled lanes and 17th-century chapels border modern boulevards and gleaming skyscrapers. Such is the diversity of modern Madrid, where locals revel in the centuries-old sport of bullfighting in the afternoon and then feast on sushi in the evening. And if you ask Madrileños about their favorite attractions, they\'re just as divided: The masterpieces of the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums vie with junk-shopping at the Rastro.

Attractions

 

1.Alfil

Though officially a mainstream theater, the Alfil\'s repertoire dips so frequently into the avant-garde -- recent performances have included Star Trip (a surrealistic sendup of Star Trek) -- that it\'s fair to include it in this section. A popular venue for stand-up comics -- having in the past hosted the Internacional Teatro de Humor -- it also provides a regular program of satirical and humorous plays. The box office opens 1 hour before each performance. Check with theater for exact shows and times. 

2.Almudena Cathedral

This highly controversial building -- built on the site of Santa María de la Almudena, which in turn occupied the site of Madrid\'s first Muslim mosque -- must be one of the longest-delayed projects in modern times: 110 years from inception to conception, in fact. Work began in 1883, following a neo-Gothic plan by the Marqués de Cubas. 

3.Aquasur 

In Aranjuez, this superb open-air pool with five giant slides is an ideal fun location for the kids if you\'re visiting Madrid in the full heat of summer. Catch the regular cercanías train from Atocha for the 40-minute trip. Free buses run from Aranjuez town center (Calle Príncipe) to the pool. It\'s a better value on weekdays.

4.Aquopolis-Villanueva de la Cañada

One of two Aquopolis water parks in Madrid province (the other is in San Fernando de Henares), this well-equipped summer favorite is among the biggest pool leisure centers in all of Europe. Among its main attractions are its wave pools, huge water slides and -- the coup de grace -- a serpentine 65m-long (213-ft.) tube slide called the \"Black Hole.\"


5.Auditorio del Parque de Atracciones

The schedule of this 3,500-seat facility might include everything from punk-rock music groups to the more highbrow warm-weather performances of visiting symphony orchestras. Check with Localidades Galicia (tel. 91-531-27-32 and 90-234-50-09; www.parquedeatracciones.es) to see what\'s on at the time of your visit. 


6.Banco de España

On the other side of Cibeles Square from the Correos building, Spain\'s most prestigious bank is housed in an equally impressive 19th-century French Second Empire-influenced landmark designed by Eduardo Adaro and Severiano Sanz de Lastra. Standouts inside include a Carrara marble stairway, glass-domed central patio, and a variety of stained-glass windows. Guided tours can be arranged, and the bank\'s collection of Goyas can be viewed by appointment.


7.Basilica de San Francisco el Grande

This immense house of worship was completed in 1760 on the site of a Franciscan convent that, tradition has it, was founded by St. Francis of Assisi himself in 1217. The basilica served as Madrid’s leading church until 1993, when Catedral de la Almudena was finished after more than a century of construction. The basilica boasts several architectural superlatives (largest cupola in Spain, for example), and it has some wonderful art, including the recently restored ceiling murals of Mary Queen of Heaven.


8.CaixaForum

It took 5 years to transform the 1901 Mediodia electrical power plant across the Paseo del Prado from the Real Jardín Botánico into a dynamo for contemporary art. Pritzer Prize winners Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron managed to multiply the floor space fivefold while creating a brick structure that seems to levitate (it’s actually cantilevered) above its plaza. The building is so strange that you might not immediately notice the 24-meter-high (79-ft.) Jardin Vertical—a wall covered with 250 species of plants that flourish without soil