MADRID became Spain's capital thanks to its geography; when Philip II moved the seat of government here in 1561, his aim was to create a symbol of Spanish unification and centralization. However, the city has few natural advantages – it is 300km from the sea on a 650-metre-high plateau, freezing in winter, baking in summer – and it was only the determination of successive rulers to promote a strong central capital that ensured its success. Today, Madrid's streets are a beguiling mix of old and new, with narrow, atmospheric alleys and wide, open boulevards. It is also home to some of Spain's best artworks, from the outstanding pictures acquired by the monarchs, which went on to form the basis of the Prado's world-renowned collection, to the impressive modern works at the Reina Sofía museum. Galleries and sights aside, much of Madrid's charm comes from immersing yourself in the daily life of the city: hanging out in the traditional cafés and chocolaterías or the summer terrazas, packing the lanes of the Sunday Rastro flea market, or playing hard and very late in a thousand bars, clubs, discos and tascas.