Destinations 

Madrid vs Mallorca

One vibrant city, one beautiful island. Which would you choose as your ideal short break destination? Gill Heelibi tries to make up her mind.

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Steeped in history, rich in culture and oozing that cosmopolitan air only possible in a handful of Spanish cities, Madrid has every right to be the capital of Spain. For centuries, it has been the meeting point for people of all nationalities and walks of life and thankfully, this is still the case. The city has managed to cling to its vitality and still offers a wealth of modern and traditional contrasts, which attract millions of tourists every year.

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Its excellent transportation networks (tube and bus) make it easy and quick to get around, but more impressively, its hotel network is probably the biggest in the country and offers the most exclusive accommodation.

Nonetheless, one of Madrid?s main attractions has to be its exquisite (and typically Spanish) cuisine. This mainly consists of ?tapas?, the small, light but incredibly tasty rations which are served in most of Madrid?s bars, taverns and restaurants and after a busy day, there?s nothing more satisfying for the local Madrile?o than enjoying a glass of cold beer, accompanied by an array of tapas. However, Madrid gathers its culinary art from all over Spain, so there?s plenty of other dishes to choose from if you prefer a heartier meal.

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The city is awash with museums and historic monuments, such as the grand Puente de Toledo Bridge, Plaza de Colon and the Puerta del Alcala ? a gate built by King Carlos III in 1778. A stroll to the Parque de Retiro is a must if you seek an hour?s retreat from the bustling city. Here, you can relax by the lagoon whilst admiring the park?s beautiful monuments, such as the Fallen Angel. There is also a stunning lake, on which you can row a boat during the summer months.

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Fans of modern art should head to the Queen Sofia Arts Centre (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia) which houses a large, well displayed collection of thought-provoking contemporary pieces

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Evenings in Madrid are never dull. When there?s not a colourful fiesta, bullfight or Real Madrid match taking place, why not catch a musical at the Gran Via theatre or Teatro Real, a neo-classical styled theatre, built in 1850. There are a number of Flamenco bars around the city, however, the best live show in Madrid can be seen at Restaurant El Corral de la Morer?a. Founded in 1957, this is the oldest ongoing flamenco show in the city and also offers a fantastic menu. If you want a slice of real Spanish life, then Madrid is without a doubt, the place for you.

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Mallorca, on the other hand, couldn?t be more different. Along with sister islands, Menorca and Ibiza, Mallorca (or Majorca, as the Brits prefer to spell it), is one of the Balearic Islands and lies off the south east coast of mainland Spain, in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Since the 1960s, Mallorca has been, without doubt, one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, particularly for Northern Europeans. Year-round sunshine, a laid back attitude to life and plenty of attractions make this the ideal place for families and couples alike.

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Many tourists spend Christmas in Mallorca as, unlike the climate on the mainland, it generally remains mild, bright and sunny in December. Christmas markets, midnight mass, processions and most other Spanish traditions have all been adopted by the island?s inhabitants.

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The island?s capital city, La Palma is definitely worth a visit. Not unlike Madrid, it offers a chic, cosmopolitan feel and all the ambience of a modern European city. Its 14th Century Gothic Cathedral is the first thing you see when you approach the city, which is quite simply breathtaking and well worth a closer look, particularly if you have a camera with you.

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If you prefer lazing on the beach however, then Mallorca will leave you spoilt for choice. Places like Cala Bona (once a small fishing village) and Deia Village (a playground for the rich and famous) offer gorgeous sandy beaches and a wealth of bars and restaurants, serving local delicacies such as Mallorcan-style ratatouille, Llom Amb Col (pork wrapped in cabbage with pine nuts and raisins) and Lechona Asada (roast suckling pig).

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A trip to Soller is a must if you love quaint, picturesque towns. However, the journey up there may impress you more than the actual location! For just ?14 per person for a return train ticket, it takes one hour to chug through the mountains from la Palma, with a short break for photos in between (the scenery is amazing). The railway was built in 1912 and some of the train?s coaches date back to the same year.

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