Pick up your hire car at Madrid airport and head for the Spanish city that never sleeps.
"We're a vital vibrant city where the locals have the got the work / life balance sorted. Work hard: play harder."
Vibrant, yes, but it's not just about the fiesta. This large but easily navigable metropolis is jam-packed with enough parks, museums and galleries to make your head spin.
Like the last day of term. Whether it's groups of youths drinking 'calimocho' (red wine and Coke) in the street or the still-suited lawyers salsa dancing until dawn, everyone seems to be partying.
Forget New York, Madrid is the city that never sleeps. Clearly masters of power napping, the locals' siestas ensure they can party into the wee small hours.
The temperature can hit up to 40 degrees in the summer and falls below freezing in winter months. Check the forecast before packing your flip-flops.
Try cocido Madrileno, a hearty stew of meat, chickpeas with vegetables, sometimes served in stages as a broth, vegetable course and meaty main.
Operatic tenor Placido Domingo hails from Madrid, while Latin lovelies Penelope Cruz and Julio Iglesias also call the city home.
The restaurant Botin, just off Plaza Mayor, is listed in The Guinness Book of Records as the oldest restaurant in the world, dating back to 1725.
"The quality of life is so good and I couldn't imagine not living there now." - one-time Madrid resident Victoria Beckham, shortly before she moved to LA
We compare prices from leading suppliers
Despite having the largest royal palace in Western Europe as his pied-a-terre, King Juan Carlos actually lives outside the city. Come and see what he's missing.
There is an underground car park just in front of the palace. You can access it from Calle de Bailen and it costs €0.35 per minute.
The Gate of the Sun is the symbolic centre of Spain - 'Kilometre Zero' - and is a bustling meeting point for Madrilenos young and old.
You're unable to access this in your hire car, so leave it in the car park in Plaza de Jacinto Benavente, which you can access from Calle de Atocha. It costs €2.10 an hour.
One of the smartest streets you'll ever shop on. Architecture lovers will go weak at the knees for this chic showcase of early 20th-century design.
You could try to park in the street near here, but you'll have a hell of a job finding a space. Instead use the public parking in Plaza del Carmen, or Plaza de Espana. Both cost €2.10 an hour.
The scene for everything from markets to bullfights and even the odd Inquisition execution. You didn't expect that did you? No one expects the Spanish Inquisition. It's now home to lovely cafes and shops.
There's an underground car park beneath the square. The entrance is in Calle de Atocha.
Madrid's most popular park is a treasure trove of tranquil walkways, soothing lakes, mini palaces and, erm, a statue of Satan. Something for everyone then!
Outside of working hours you can park in a nearby street for free. Otherwise street parking will set you back €2.55 for two hours.
A city of crazy carvings. Check out the lucky frog on the Universidad Civil and the astronaut and ice cream cone on the Catedral Nueva.
It takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes to drive to Salamanca. Head north-west out of Madrid on the AP-51, which turns into the A-50.
Some say Avila beats Toledo in the award for 'prettiest fortress city near Madrid'. Judge for yourself, and ensure you don't miss the Convento de Santa Teresa, with its grisly relic of the saint's ring finger, complete with ring.
Avila is north-west of Madrid. Take the A-6/AP-6 and it should take around an hour and 20 minutes to get there.
Visit the final resting place of several Spanish rulers. Royals from Charles I (died 1558) to Alfonso XIII (died 1941) are interred at Monastery of San Lorenzo, while General Franco is buried at the nearby Valle de los Caidos.
It's about a 50-minute drive to El Escorial. Take the A-6/AP-6 and head off at exit 47 onto the M600.
Once the capital of Spain, now the place to buy swords and admire work by Gothic master El Greco including The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in the church of Santo Tome.
It takes about 50 minutes to get there from Madrid. Take the A-42 south-west all the way to Toledo.
" The city centre is busy at rush hour, but the Paseo de la Castellana is an easy way of getting your bearings as it crosses from the north to the south. The centre of the old Madrid consists of a complex maze of streets and if you need to drive through this area you should use the main roads such as the Gran Via. Like any other major Spanish city, drivers can get very impatient and use their horn a lot, so try not to be put off. "