There’s something for everyone in Madrid — 300 days a year of sunshine, great restaurants and exciting nightlife. Art lovers can find one of the world’s best collections at the Prado Museum, and cutting-edge contemporary art is featured at the Thyssen museum. Barcelona may have inspired Woody Allen, but Madrid is muse to the renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar.
Where to stay
Galaico Hostel: A simple but comfortable hotel located on Gran Via, one of Madrid’s main streets, and at the heart of the shopping district around the buzzing square known as Puerta del Sol. Double room from $95 Gran Vía, 15; www.hostalgalaico.com
Hotel NH Eurobuilding: Right in the centre of Madrid, NH Eurobuilding hotel is surrounded by some of the city’s most iconic sites, including the Europe Tower, the Picasso Tower and the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Corporate but stylish, with a spa. Double room from $163. Calle Padre Damián, 23; www.nh-hotels.com
Santo Mauro: Home to David Beckham for a couple of months when he arrived to play at Real Madrid, this former residence of the Duke of Santo Mauro has only 51 luxury rooms and is located in the centre of Madrid. Suites run up to $1,500. Calle Zurbano, 36; www.ac-hotels.com
What to see
Palacio Real: The Palacio Real of Madrid (Royal Palace) is the official residence of the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, although day-to-day he lives at the Palace of La Zarzuela on the city’s outskirts. This 18th century palace is now used for ceremonies, and you can visit its sumptuous rooms including the throne room, armoury and the collection of paintings by Goya, Caravaggio and Velazquez. Entry $16; www.patrimonionacional.es
Paseo del Arte: The Paseo del Arte or Art Avenue includes monuments, gardens and the best three museums around the Paseo del Prado — the Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofía Art Centre. The three art galleries have recently undertaking ambitious improvement and extension projects. The Prado has a new building designed by the celebrated Spanish architect Rafael Moneo and the Reinsa Sofía Arth Centre has been enlarged by Jean Nouvel.
Retiro Park: The Retiro Park is a very popular green space in Madrid’s city centre, not far from the Prado Museum and home to the large artificial lake called Retiro’s Pond, which is the perfect place for a romantic boat trip. The park also contains the Crystal Palace, the Statue of the Falling Angel and the Forest of the Departed, a memorial dedicated to the 191 victims of the March 11, 2004, Madrid terrorist attacks.
Gran Via: The Gran Vía, built in the mid 19th century, was created to connect two urban areas, namely the Alcalá street and the Plaza de España square. It’s a busy shopping and entertainment street, full of cinemas and restaurants.
Capricho Park: In the 14 hectares of Capricho Park you can find a small river, a labyrinth, an artificial lake with an island and a bunker that was built during the Spanish Civil War. Some of the scenes of the film Doctor Zhivago were shot there. It’s not downtown, but is worth a visit.
Where to shop
Mantequería Bravo: Pick up a bottle of Cava, the best of Spanish cold cuts and perhaps a wedge of Don Picón de Cuenca ewe’s-milk cheese, earthy with rosemary and thyme.; Calle Ayala, 24.
Fuencarral Market: Located in Chueca, which is Madrid’s gay neighbourhood and one of the city’s trendiest shopping areas, this market has more than 60 shops selling clothes, accessories, gifts, house decorations, shoes and records. You’ll also find hairdressers, tattoo parlours, art galleries, clubs, restaurants and terraced bars; Calle Fuencarral. www.mdf.es.
Escridiscos: Independent record shops in Madrid are rare. Escridiscos opened in 1977, and was the gathering place for bands in Madrid’s ’80s Movida movement. Nowadays it sells retro rock, psychedelic, indie and Spanish pop; Calle Navas de Tolosa, 4, www.escridiscos.net.
Kukuxumuxu: Popular Spanish clothing firm with original designs, originally inspired by the running of the bulls at the San Fermín festival. Their fun cartoons adorn T-shirts, sweaters, ashtrays, notebooks, pens and even pet clothes; Calle Mayor, 47, www.kukuxumuxu.com.
Rastro: Purportedly the world’s largest flea market, Rastro is held on Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The streets of the entire area are filled with stalls selling just about everything imaginable; Calle Ribera de Curtidores.
Where to go clubbing
Berlín Cabaret: Located in the heart of the lively La Latina district, with live music, stand-up comedy, theatre and drag queen shows almost every night. Calle Costanilla de San Pedro, 11. Hours: 8 p.m. to 3 a.m
El Junco: Fun, hip jazz club that draws celebrities, models and those just looking for famous people, models, and naturally all those people wishing to experience Madrid’s nightlife in a truly inviting setting. C/ Santa Barbara, 24. Hours: 11:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.; www.eljunco.com.
Pachá theatre: Pacha is the cult disco at the heart of Madrid’s nightlife. Set in the historic Barceló Theatre, this multi-floored venue offers the latest house tunes for a dressed up crowd; C/ Barceló, 11. Open: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., www.pacha-madrid.com.
Where to eat
La posada de la Villa: The first inn to be built in Madrid at the time of the Hapsburgs, in 1642. It has been renovated and is now a restaurant specializing in Castilian and Madrid cuisine, including lamb, roasted on a wood-fire oven, and the cocido Madrileño, a chickpea-based stew traditionally cooked in an earthenware pot over a low fire; C/ Cava Baja,. www.posadadelavilla.com
Café de Oriente: One of the most iconic restaurants in Madrid, situated in Plaza de Oriente opposite the Royal Palace. As well as high quality international cuisine, you’ll find a great selection of wines and cigars; Plaza de Oriente, 2, www.cafedeoriente.es.
The best restaurant in town
El Chaflán: This ultra-stylish award-winning restaurant, complete with grey walls anda live olive tree growing the centre of the dining room, offers equally stylish cuisine. Chef Juan Pablo Felipe offers modern Spanish dishes using the freshest of Spanish produce. Avenida Pío XII, 34. Gourmet menú: $155; www.elchaflan.com.