3 DAY TRAVEL GUIDE TO MADRID
What used to be Barcelona’s more relaxed sister is now becoming one of the most vibrant, hip cities in Europe. As far as heritage goes the city’s well-kept history remains the way it is, but with regards to the food scene, Madrid’s becoming a culinary hub worth exploring. The city is also known for its artistic expertise from Diego Velásquez to Claudio Coello and of course, buzzing night life which may take some getting used to. Madrid offers an array of things to do to keep you busy on your city escape and here’s a guide to a few of the most important things to make the most out of it.
Breakfast, the most important meal of the day when on a city break as it gives you the necessary fuel to walk around and explore the city. In Madrid, and especially in the Malasaña district you will find endless places to have some breakfast but I suggest you start at Federal Café, for it’s great position in the city centre and extensive menu. Inspired by the Australian town of Federal, the Madrid-based café combines hip Australian vibes with food apt for every craving. The menu offers anything from avocado on toast, brioches with maple syrup and eggs Benedict that you could pair with one of their healthy, homemade smoothies such as Green Tommy made with apple, cucumber, chia seeds and celery or a refreshing pomegranate smoothie.
Address: Pl. de las Comendadoras 9, 28015 Madrid
From Plaza de las Comendadoras, where the café is based, you can walk down to Plaza Mayor by walking down Calle Amaniel and reach Gran Via. Turn left and walk down until you reach Santo Domingo tube station. From the tube station walk down Calle de san Bernardo and follow the road down until reaching Costanilla de Los Angeles. Turn right down that road and you will reach Calle del Arenal. Cross the road and turn into Calle de las Hileras. Carry on walking down the road and it will lead you directly into Plaza Mayor.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most significant squares of Madrid and it dominates the city’s district of Malasaña with the contrasting simplicity of the square with the embellished Casa de la Pandería. The Casa de la Pandería was built by Diego Sillero towards the end of the sixteenth century and it was home to royal lodgings however today it’s the base of the city’s tourist office. The incredible façade is the work of Carlos Franco, a painter of Spanish origins who, through his art, depicts mythological creatures relating to the history of Madrid.
As you pass through the square keep an eye out for the Statue of King Philip III on horseback; it was gifted to the King by the Duke of Florence. From Plaza Mayor make your way back to Calle Cdad. Rodrigo. After a minute on your left hand side you will see plaza de San Miguel which houses one of the city’s best known food markets and rooftop bars. El Mercado de San Miguel is one of the oldest standing food markets where you can find endless Iberian tapas.
From the market make your way back to Calle Mayor and follow the road through to Catédral de la Almudena. This neoclassical church was completed in the twentieth century after a series of refurbishments and changes. The Interior of the cathedral bares a neo-gothic style with a Greek cross plan and numerous side chapels decorated with statues of contemporary artists. The gothic stained glass windows really catch the eye but do not forget to look up at the intricately painted artwork that spreads across the ceiling. The entry to the cathedral is free however there is also a museum that explains the history of the church and its patrimonial goods. The entry to the museum costs €6 for a standard ticket and €4 for a reduced ticket.
From the cathedral walk up Calle Bailén and turn left into Plaza de la Almería. You will get an amazing view of both the cathedral on your left and the Palacio Real on your right hand side. This is also where you can purchase tickets (€10 for a standard ticket) to the Royal Palace. [If you go between October-March, on a Monday-Thursday, Between 16.00-18.00 & between April-September, on a Monday-Thursday, between 18.00-20.00 the entrance is free]. The neoclassical style of the Royal Palace has been reflected in its gardens, Jardines de Sabatini, with well trimmed hedges and deep green coloured plants. They were opened to the public by King Juan Carlos I in 1978 but the name of the gardens derives from Francesco Sabatini, the Italian architect who helped design the palace and to whom the gardens are dedicated to.
After strolling around the gardens it’s time to find a place for Lunch. Exit the Sabatini Gardens onto Calle de Bailén. Walk past the Teatro Real, Madrid’s major opera house that was reopened in 1966 following refurbishments. Make your way to Calle Mayor and follow the road through Plaza Puerta del Sol and turn right at Calle de Espoz y Mina. Turn left into a little road which will lead you to Plaza Santa Ana. You will find Lateral, one of the best tapas of Madrid.
Lateral Santa Ana
Lateral is great spot for a quick, tasty tapas style lunch based in the heart of Madrid’s centre. The menu varies from a selection of pinchos, the smallest tapas you can get, usually served on wooden sticks, tapas and raciones which are larger versions of tapas. The amount you order usually depends on how hungry you are but three per person are the recommendation. Dishes include your typical refreshing gazpacho, grilled leg of octopus on a base of potato, boquerones in vinegar, burger trio (beef, Iberian pork and free-range chicken) and a grilled goat cheese salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
Address: Plaza de Sta. Ana, 12, 28012 Madrid
Continue down Calle del Prado until you reach the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. One of the three “Golden Triangle of Art” in Madrid along with the Prado museum and the Reina Sofía. This artistic institution houses an overview of art from the 13th century to the 20th century featuring Salvatore Dalí, Caravaggio, Manet, Van Gogh, Grosz and Picasso.
From the Thyssen-Bornemisza you walk up Paseo del Prado, turn left at Fuente de Cibeles down Calle de Acalá. Stay on the right hand side to follow on to Gran Via. Walk down the street and from Plaza de España walk down into Calle Ferraz where you will find Parque del Oeste. The park houses the Templo de Debod, temple that was initially built in Egypt and later transferred to Madrid when the Aswan Dam was built. This park is the perfect spot to sit down and relax and watch the sunset because the colours reflect onto the water and the view is spectacular. If you haven’t accustomed to the Spanish timings then you may want to make your way to dinner. A highly recommended spot is Perrachica.
Aesthetically, Perrachica is one of the most mesmerising venues. The décor is varied, as the restaurant is spread over different floors each with their own characteristic. What does stand out is the rustic feel with the wooden furniture contrasted with an abundance of plants. The menu is tapas-based with traditional Spanish options upgraded with something extra for example the truffle tortilla, aubergine tempura with honey and hummus and oxtail croquetas.
Address: Calle Eloy Gonzalo, 10, 28010 Madrid
When the name itself accurately describes the place then it must be good. Superchulo is an all round great venue for breakfast, lunch and dinner for its great food and great atmosphere. It’s a place that holds nature, health and sustainability as its pillars and reflects this in the carefully curated menus they offer. Options include açai bowls, porridge, avocado on toast and an endless choice of fresh juices and smoothies.
From Superchulo walk down Calle Genova until you reach Plaza del Colón. Make a right down Paseo de la Castellana and pass through Plaza de Cibeles. Admire the intricate architecture of the capital’s city council Palacio de Cibeles, which has a rooftop bar on the sixth floor with a spectacular view over the city. A few metres from here you will reach the Museo Nacional del Prado that is celebrating its 200th year opening anniversary this year. With more than 100 pieces of art, the museum displays the largest holdings of Bosch, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Velázquez and Goya. The museum is free entry but you can purchase access to the temporary exhibitions for €15. Post museum if you have time, venture towards the Real Jardines Botanicos that are located in front of the Prado. Madrid’s botanical gardens are filled with over 30 000 plants and flowers and were designed by two famous architects: Francesco Sabatini and Juan Villanueva.
The lunch spot is only a fifteen minute walk from the here, back to Plaza de Cibeles and up Calle de Alcalá until you reach Plaza de la Independencia, home to Puerta de Alcalá, a landmark that was commissioned by King Carlos III and used to be the main entry into the capital.
El Perro y la Galleta
The notable interior of the restaurant was modelled upon a 19th century victorian cottage. Its rustic ambiance is given by the wooden furniture, however the menu is everything but rustic. The menu is a modern, fresh and almost tropical take on Spanish cuisine. Expect tuna and avocado tartar and salmon poke bowl for starters, beef tataki with chimichurri sauce and truffle potatoes and cod Mexican tacos with guacamole. Make sure you leave space for desert, as part of Grupo Galleta, the restaurant excels in their in-house deserts made with fontaneda biscuits. End on a sweet note with the hot cookie with biscuit ice-cream or the apple cake with biscuit ice-cream.
Address: Calle de Claudio Coello, 1, 28009 Madrid
Take the afternoon to walk around Parque del Retiro and make sure you keep an eye out for the Palacio de Cristal, a majestic crystal structure erected in the 19th century. The purpose was to showcase tropical flora from the Philippines that used to be a Spanish colony, yet today its purpose is purely aesthetic. Weather permitting, the locals love to hire a rowing boat in the park’s lake. On weekdays expect to pay bout €5.80 and €7.50 on the weekend.
What better way to spend a summer late afternoon than on a rooftop bar drinking sangría. Well, Madrid’s Azotea del Círculo located on the seventh floor of the Círculo de Belles Artes offers a 360 degree perspective of the city skyline. The bar serves a wide range of beers, cocktails and of course the Spanish classics sangría and Tinto de Verano.
From an aesthetic and gastronomic point of view, Ramses is the perfect combination. The building encloses a maze of dining areas each with their own aesthetics designed by world renowned architectural designer Philippe Starck. The restaurant’s gastronomy is the creation of three Michelin starred chef Juan Mari Arzak, and it incorporates countless flavours and textures to everyday cuisine. Highlights include a cannabis salad, duck liver with rhubarb and cocoa and roasted pigeon with a passion fruit wafer.
Address: Plaza de la Independencia, 4, 28001 Madrid,
Head down to the beach, or better said the sand beach in Ojalá’s basement floor. This restaurant had a revamp in 2014 and it’s no wonder it’s always buzzing inside, imagine hanging plants and fairy lights. As far as food and drink goes Ojalá spoils for choice, for breakfast they have a selection of set “brunches.” Whether it’s veggie, healthy or a world mix you’re looking for, Ojalá has it on offer.
Address: Calle de San Andrés, 1, 28004 Madrid
There is no better way to get a feel for a city than walking around and getting lost in Madrid’s labyrinth-like streets. The areas of Malasaña and Chueca are perfect for this, as they represent the real thriving heart of the city centre. Make your way around the streets where you will encounter hidden markets, small boutiques and ample plazas enclosed by tapas hubs. The best part about Madrid is that all of its barrios have a different character that come’s to life as you walk through them. Head to Salamanca, area similar to London’s Chelsea, that covers the area just above the Retiro park. The area is lined with designers boutiques and high end restaurants all housed in 19th century majestic buildings. Salamanca is also home to the National Archaeological Museum and the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, an artistic hub that showcases the works of Goya and Bosch. The plates is also a must, former theatre that has been converted into Europe’s largest gastronomic and food centre. You will find anything from sweet to savoury but if you have never tried a macaroon from Mamá Framboise then now is the time - or at least buy one for later.
Mercado de San Idelfonso
Let your senses travel across Spain in the Mercado de San Idelfonso’s gastronomic variety. Bringing you twenty stalls that serve sharing dishes from Galician grilled octopus, truffle and langoustine croquetas, jamón iberico, manchego cheese, boquerones in vinegar and various grilled meat skewers. Select what you want to eat and take it to one of the two terraces where you can order a drink and enjoy your mean under the warming sun.
Address: Calle de Fuencarral, 57, 28004 Madrid
Head to the last museum that composes the ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ : Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The most important piece of artwork displayed in this museum is Picasso’s Guernica, completed in 1937. The Guernica is a powerful political statement against the Nazi’s when they bombed the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. There are more than 22,400 works of art from the twentieth century are housed in this museum, displaying numerous important historical events and movements that have shaped Madrid into what it’s like today politically, socially and economically. After visiting the museum, take a walk around Lavapiés, Madrid’s multicultural, bohemian neighbourhood that has been up and coming in the last few years and is seen today as one of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods. Given it’s history as the immigrant-filled area in the 2000’s, Lavapiés has become a food hub thanks to the influx of ethnic restaurants. It’s also a cultural centre with constant art exhibitions taking place at the Tabacalera and La Casa Encendida.
You cannot leave without visiting El Jardín Secreto de Salvador Bachiller’s, a jungle inspired rooftop bar nestled on the top floor of lifestyle boutique Salvador Bachiller. The store sells almost everything you can imagine from fashion jewellery, accessories, luggage and homeware. El Jardín Secreto is a hidden enchanted garden with an extensive cocktail menu - sip on a drink and take in the peaceful surroundings before heading back to the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
A tropical gastronomic jungle based in the heart of Madrid’s Salamanca. Amazónico is part of the Paraguas Group, a company known for the immaculate attention to detail present in all seven, high-end restaurants. The detail refers to both aesthetics and gastronomy. Amazónico’s menu features a spicy combination of global cuisine with a focus on Japanese/Brazilian fusion. But also on the menu you will see Mexican tacos, Peruvian ceviche, Indian curry and Thai stir-fry. The cocktails are a wonder in themselves with tropical fruits served in cool cocktail glasses and to end the night head downstairs to the restaurant’s Jungle Jazz Club that plays music every evening from blues to soul.
Address: Calle Jorge Juan 12
HOW TO GET TO MADRID:
British Airways and Iberia operate various daily flights from London Heathrow and London Gatwick to Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suárez.
HOW TO GET TO THE CITY CENTRE FROM THE AIRPORT:
Taxi: There is a fixed taxi fare of 30 Euros from the airport to any destination!
Bus: From Atocha and Plaza Cibeles there is a bus called "Exprés Areopuerto" which will take you to the airport for 5 Euros. It Stops at T1, T2 and T4. From the airport you can catch it from any of those stops too.
Metro: From any terminal you can get the Metro line 8 to Nuevos Ministerios. It only takes 20 minutes approximately and there is an extra fee on top of your usual travel card of 3 Euros unless you have the Abono Turistico. (For more information on the Abono Turistico click here.
Tourist Information is located in Plaza del Sol.