The lure of the Spanish capital is no stronger than during the summer months; with its long, hazy hours of blazing sunshine, rooftop bars and buzzing music and food festivals, it’s a dream location for a weekend getaway, romantic or otherwise.
While it’s perfectly possible to spend your entire trip eating your way around the city, but just in case you wanted a little something else we’ve pulled together some of our favourite city hits.
Before you book, CF’s fashion editor Lisa Haynes gives us her perfect Madrid packing wardrobe.
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THE PACKING EDIT
What To Do?
Take in some of the world’s greatest art
Madrid has no shortage of museums, with some of the finest art collections in Europe. Take in the Golden Triangle starting with Spain’s national art museum, the enormous Prado (www.museodelprado.es), is considered one of the finest in the world, home to notable works are by Spanish painters, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Goya and El Greco. For modern art, the Reina Sofia (www.museoreinasofia.es) houses works by Picasso and Dalí, amongst others, while for something a bit more off the cuff, El Matadero – set in a former slaughterhouse – is made up of a number of warehouse showcasing innumerable film, theatre performances and art galleries. (www.mataderomadrid.org)
Pack a picnic and head to the park
El Retiro Park was made for a summer’s day. Whether you seek a sunny spot or a shady enclave amongst the 15,000 trees, this 125 hectare oasis breathes life into the heart of the city. Home to fascinating monuments and gardens, as well as a Mexican conifer that is nearly 400 years old and is believed to be Madrid’s oldest tree. Rent a boat on the central lake and stroll to the magical Glass Palace, a stunning glass pavilion built in 1887 and one the finest examples of cast-iron architecture in Spain.
El Retiro Park, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid
Visit a tropical train station
The 19th Atocha station is home to a magnificent tropical garden amongst its striking arches, home to over 260 species from from around the world. As unexpected as it is beautiful, stay for a coffee at Antigua Estacion de Atocha. Appreciators of botany should also pop into the bargain Real Jardín Botánico, just across from the Prado. The city centre botanic gardens may not be a patch on Kew, when it comes to sizes, but for just a few Euros it’s a beautiful way to while away an hour or two.
Atocha Station, 28045 Madrid
Real Jardín Botánico, Plaza de Murillo, 2, 28014 Madrid
Head to Chueca
Browse head over to the Chueca neighborhood to browse the fancy boutiques along Calle Almirante. The centrally located Chueca neighborhood is a fun, flirty place full of fashionable restaurants and shops. Once a marginalized area, Chueca today is anything but. It’s known as Madrid’s quarter for cutting-edge trends and gay life. But gay or straight, Chueca is now a playground for all, especially on weekend and summer nights when you will see the restaurants and bars packed.
Walk La Gran Vía
The street that never sleeps is worth the walk, day and night. Pass the ornate old buildings down this promenade, which runs along the southern edge of Malasaña, famous for its shopping, parks, and, come sundown, nightlife.
Where To Shop
Bag a bargain at Madrid’s biggest flea market
Set your alarm early for Sunday morning and head down to the El Rastro fleamarket, a warren of side streets full of treasures from clothes and jewellery, to handbags and antiques and a fascinating people watching opportunity. The La Latina area in which it resides is home to plentiful beer and tapas joints for a post-shopping refresh while you’re at it, just make sure to watch out for pickpockets.
El Rastro Market, along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, 28005 Madrid
Join the throng browsing for buttons
An odd inclusion perhaps, but the Almacon de Pontejano (www.almacendepontejos.com) haberdashery – a resident of the same site since 1913 – is a fascinating treasure trove of delicate laces, dazzling buttons, shimmering beads and beautiful Spanish fans. Home to every item of haberdashery you could imagine, immediately after it reopened from siesta it was packed to the rafters, bustling with busy locals.
Calle del Correo, 4, 28012 Madrid
Stock up on sandals
We’ll let you in on a little secret; once you’ve discovered Lobo’s handmade sandals you will never go back. This gem of a shoe shop in La Latina, has espadrilles of ever conceivable style and colour nailed to the walls as well as a fine range of handmade leather dancing shoes, should taking up flamenco be on your to do list. Customers collect a paper ticket and wait in line at busy times and we defy you not to walk out the door with at least two pairs and with prices had of what you’d spend on Oxford Street you’d be a fool not to. Just make sure to leave enough space in your luggage.
Calle de Toledo, 30, 28005 Madrid
Where To Eat
Indulge your inner glutton at Mercado de San Miguel
No visit to Madrid would be complete without a trip to the city’s infamous food market, the Mercado de San Miguel (www.mercadodesanmiguel.es). Since it opened its doors as a wholesale food market more than 100 years ago, today this historical building is home to flavours from every corner of Spain. From the finest Iberian ham to Galician shellfish, exquisite cheeses from Castile and Asturias to dishes from the Mediterranean coast, with over 20 stands serving tapas and drinks you’ll be spoilt for choice. From miniature crab burgers to fresh fish tapas, homemade croquettes, paella and delicious oysters, make sure you visit with an empty stomach.
Plaza de San Miguel, 28005 Madrid
Step back in time at La Mallorquina
Madrid is no stranger to bakeries and ‘pasteleria’ pastry shops, but a visit to La Mallorquina (www.pastelerialamallorquina.es) is like no other. Pick up some of its delicacies to enjoy standing at the end of the bar with a coffee while you watch the locals pour in for their sweets, or pick up some pastries to eat out just for the quaint powder pink boxes, reminiscent of the bakery in the Grand Budapest Hotel. Delicious.
Mayor 2, 28013 Madrid
Sample Spanish home cooking
Opened in 1935, the tiny restaurant that is Casa Ricardo (www.casaricardo.net) offers a reasonably priced menu of classic, traditional Spanish dishes such as rabo del toro (bull’s tail). Simple and authentic, it’s a true Madrileño experience.
Calle Fernando el Católico 31, 28015 Madrid
Seek out one of Madrid’s 16 Michelin stars
With over 3,000 restaurants in Madrid, it’s no surprise that there are 16 Michelin stars lurking amongst them. For a truly special experience, the 3 star DiverXO (www.diverxo.com) promises a journey through a hedonistic, greedy and creative world of avant-garde cuisine.
Click here for some more restaurant tips for Madrid
Where To Drink
Gingko Sky Bar
Head to the VP Plaza España Hotel for a sundowner at Gingko Sky Bar, a spectacular twelfth floor terrace with an almost 360 degree view of Madrid’s city scape. From the pretty spectacular cocktail menu, try the unique flavour of a Monte Fuji, a blend of Dewar’s 12 whisky, Peat Monster whisky, pineapple juice, mango and was el handout’s marmalade, coconut puree and lemon juice.
Chueca district’s Vinoteca Vides showcases the very best of Spanish wines, carefully curated by owner Vicente who scoured the country for the best quality, lesser-known varieties. If you thought you knew Spanish wine, think again; you won’t find these gems in a supermarket.
Calle Libertad, 12 www.vinotecavides.es
Bodega de la Ardosa
It’s impossible (potentially illegal?) to visit Madrid without sampling a glass of vermouth, a Madrileño’s favourite tipple. The city is awash with cosy vermouth bars, many of which would have been around in your grandparents’ era. Bodega de la Ardosa is no exception, a bastion of the Malasaña neighbourhood singe 1892. It’s the best place to sample vermut de grifo – vermouth on tap – with a little nibble on the side of their classic Spanish tortilla.
Calle de Colón, 13 www.laardosa.es
Where To Stay
Bless Collection opened its first property in Madrid in January with its new proposition of ‘hedonistic luxury’. With a summertime rooftop pool and year-round subterranean spa, bar and bowling alley, there’s plenty to keep guests entertained, though with rooms featuring roll top baths, pillow and duvet menus you may not want to leave your suite. From £328, room only. www.blesscollectionhotels.com
Hotel Urban couldn’t be closer to the action, situated mere minutes from the centre of town, Puerto del Sol and the Plaza Mayor. Despite being in the heart of the financial district its anything but dull, boasting two fine dining establishments, Glass Mar – one of the city’s best seafood restaurants – and the Michelin star CEBO. It’s perfectly placed for whiling away a summer evening with a cocktail on its sun-drenched roof terrace before hitting the town. Rooms from €236.50. www.hotelurban.com
Read full review here
Head to Madrid’s literary district for boutique hotel CoolRooms Atocha for a dose of vintage glamour. Staff in top hats and tailcoats will greet you at this 19th century townhouse, boasting beautifully restored rooms with art deco flourishes and a pretty impressive Tapas menu at bar El 34. From £180 per night.www.coolrooms.com/atocha
Urso Hotel & Spa
Check in to the Urso Hotel & Spa for the ultimate indulgence of one of their Spa & Terrace Suites, each with a private terrace for outdoor celebrations and breakfast under the Spanish sun. The first branded luxury hotel spa in Madrid, the spa offers treatments by the prestigious skincare specialists, Natura Bissé and Sisley Paris in its three treatment rooms, alongside a Hammam, steam room and hydrotherapy pool. Just the ticket after a busy day’s shopping. From €200 for a B&B stay in a Double Room and from €570 for a B&B stay in the Urso Hotel & Spa Terrace Suite. www.hotelurso.com
Read full review here.
The Principal Hotel
Elegance is the word here. Rooms, corridors, interiors, views of the Metropolis building. The bathrooms are equally lustworthy, drenching rainfall showerheads, and Finca Gayeta toiletries from Mallorca. Principal is ultra chic through and through, with a hip location and views that can’t be beat. Double rooms from €260 (£226), excluding breakfast. www.theprincipalmadridhotel.com
As a member of Small Luxury Hotels, and sister to Urso Hotel, it deserves its place with a minimalist style but buzzing energy full of locals filling up the bar. A 19th-century building that has maintained original features including the lobby’s original wooden staircase spirals up the five floors, perfectly located between the Serrano and Goya shopping streets and close to Paseo de la Castellana, Totem. Double rooms from €160 (£134), excluding breakfast. www.totem-madrid.com
Also featuring as one of our favourite Spas (see Spa of the Month), Villa Magna is right in the middle of the snazzy Salamanca district, one of Madrid’s finest neighbourhoods. In the former palace of a Count, the contemporary aspect of the hotel’s 150 rooms and suites takes nothing away from the hotel’s classical aspect. Double rooms from £276 (€350) plus 10% VAT, excluding breakfast. www.villamagna.es
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