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Madrid is the capital and largest city in Spain, as well as in the province and the autonomous community of the same name. It is located on the river Manzanares in the center of the country. Due to its geographical location and history, Madrid has been considered the financial and political center of the Iberian Peninsula.

As the former capital of the old Spanish Empire Madrid has been bestowed with a degree of cultural predominance. Renowned museums such as Museo del Prado, the Museo Reina Sofia, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza are major tourist attractions in the city. Other cultural highlights include the Royal Palace of Madrid and the nearby royal monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

The exact population of the city was 3.228 million (July 2005), while the estimated urban area population is 5.078 million. The entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area (urban area and suburbs) is calculated to be 5.843 million. The city spans a total of 607 km² (378 square miles).

Following the restoration of democracy in 1975 and the integration to the European Union, Madrid has experienced an increasing role in European finances making it one of the most important Southern European cities. The residents of Madrid are called madrileños, and the current mayor is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón of the conservative Partido Popular.

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The culture of Madrid was dominated by its religious and royal history. Enormous, monolithic cathedrals and churches are plentiful in Madrid, as well as medieval architecture, although nowadays Madrid is just as much a cosmopolitan city as Berlin or London.

The citizens of Madrid, who refer to themselves as Madrileños or the more traditional and currently seldom used term "gatos" (cats), live by a daily routine that is heavily influenced by the harsh climate. Due to the typically extreme midday heat, a "siesta" is observed during which some citizens take a break to cool off. Small stores are often closed during this time. Workers and those more afflicted by Western lifestyles choose not to observe this long break and work traditional business hours, which are usually between 9 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. Offices usually close during the weekend but businesses are often open Saturday morning (downtown stays open until afternoon). Most grocers are closed on Sundays, but some major chain and department stores, like FNAC, will be open throughout the day.

Madrid possibly has the largest number of bars per capita of any European city and a very active nightlife; Madrileños are known to stay up until as late as 6-8 a.m. It is important to note that, due to this lifestyle, lodging located near the Gran Via may end up a nightmare for light sleepers.

Madrid has become very modernized as of late, with an elaborate transportation network comprised of buses and the Metro. The city contrasts with some large European cities in that it is extremely clean, and city employees in bright green vests can almost always be seen cleaning the streets and sidewalks. Like most large cities, however, there is a substantial population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.

Madrid is one of the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. Communities of West Africans, North Africans, Latin Americans, other Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis are prominent.