While most visitors start their Spanish journey in Barcelona, we believe that Madrid makes for an equally worthy destination. After just one visit, the dynamic energy and old-world will make you want to come back for more, time and time again.
Why you should visit Madrid?
Few cities boast a palette as colorful as Madrid’s: from its lively zeal radiating through up-and-coming neighborhoods to its buzzing tapas bars, museums showing off their collection of priceless art, and one of the richest culinary capitals of Europe to boot, Madrid is worthy of any itinerary.
However, don’t be fooled– the action isn’t found only in Madrid! The province of Madrid has a list of never-ending things to do outside of the capital, from half-day trips to wineries (bodegas) to grand palaces (including the ‘Spanish Versailles’), beautiful nature, and more.
The capital of Spain is an exciting and vibrant metropolis with plenty of things to do. Whether it’s stopping for a few tapas in the La Latina district before heading off to find treasures in the El Rastro flea market, finding new vantage points from above, or heading out of town to explore off-the-beaten-path attractions, Madrid has it all!
1. Madrid’s Most Authentic Workshops: Madrid is a city of creatives, dreamers, and artisans – why not get a small peek into their world? We arrange private visits to the most representative artists of our cultural heritage. Learn more about the artist, enjoy a private tour through their studio, and sit down to discuss key issues in the art world. Please contact us for more information.
2. The Golden Triangle of Art: When passing through the Paseo del Prado, one of Madrid’s most famous boulevards, don’t miss Spain’s most artistic district. The so-called ‘Golden Triangle of Art’ are three art galleries — El Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofia– located within walking distance of each other. The Museo del Prado is the largest of the three and one of the most famous art museums in Europe (and, arguably, the world). The museum contains a collection of more than 27,000 paintings, including rare pieces obtained from the Spanish monarchy. For something a little more contemporary, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is a perfect choice. The museum has a vast collection of 20th century and contemporary art, including Spanish greats like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Joan Miró. Last but certainly not least, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is the smallest of the three yet has the most variety. The Thyssen-Bornemisza features lesser-known artists and movements, such as Impressionism and Cubism, in greater detail, as well as European greats like Duccio, Jan van Eyck, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Rembrandt.
3. Madrid Rooftops: Once you’ve seen the historic streets of Madrid from below, it’s time to climb up and see the city from above. First, stop at El Corte Inglés de Callao, Spain’s biggest department store. However, we won’t be doing any shopping – instead, take the elevator up to the 9th floor, where the Gourmet Experience is waiting for you. Here you can enjoy delicious dishes at the sprawling terrace, or admire the view and get gourmet take-away if you’re not hungry yet. From there, head over to Palacio de Cibeles. There, on the rooftop (named Mirador Madrid, literally Madrid viewpoint), you’ll find complimentary maps that will help you recognize the city’s most iconic buildings. And of course, hotels with a view are highly coveted. One of our favorites, La Terraza – at The Principal hotel – offering impressive and unique views of the dome of the Metropolis building and of Alcalá and Gran Vía streets.
4. The Unconventional Districts: Centro, Salamanca, and Lavapies may garner most of the attention from visitors, but how about taking a stroll through Madrid’s unconventional and up-and-coming districts? For starters, Malasaña is a neighborhood with trendy tapas bars, colorful houses, and remnants of Madrid’s counterculture movement in the 80’s. Chueca, located just west of its neighbor Malasaña, is one of Madrid’s hippest neighborhoods and the epicenter of nightlife. Spend your morning strolling around the comfortable streets before coming back in the evening to indulge in a sophisticated cocktail. Finally, we have La Latina with its gorgeous historical architecture and explorable side streets. On Sundays, La Latina comes alive as it hosts the city’s largest flea market, El Rastro.
5. El Rastro flea market: El Rastro is an extensive open-air flea market with more than 400 years of history. Noted as the most popular flea market in Spain, El Rastro is held every Sunday and public holiday. Although the flea market has a dedicated street where vendors sell their wares, the real treasures can be found in the side streets Antiques, clothing, books, accessories, and other curiosities await.
6. Guadarrama National Park: From hiking to biking, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and kayaking the Riosequillo reservoir, in the heart of the Sierra de Guadarrama, conceals a recreational area where the largest natural pool in Spain is found (4,500 meters² of surface area). Only 1.8 miles away is the town of Buitrago del Lozoya, a lush green walled city by the river Lozoya. The entire town is considered a Site of Cultural Interest since 1993. In fact, did you know that it houses a Picasso Museum? The artist donated more than 60 works to Eugenio Arias, his hairdresser at that time, who then ended up creating this museum. End the day eating a ribeye, something that this town is famous for.
7. Day tour to Aranjuez: Created as a Royal Estate under the rule of Philip II, only the royal family and nobility were allowed in Aranjuez until 1752. The city, which is under an hour’s drive from Madrid, has a gorgeous French-influenced Royal Palace with an elaborate facade and a lavishly decorated interior. While touring the estate, don’t miss the porcelain room and throne room, which are both beautifully decorated and take one’s breath away.
8. La Granja de San Ildefonso, the Spanish Versailles: La Granja is known as the Spanish Versailles because King Felipe V wanted to model it after the original palace that his grandfather, the mythical Louis XIV, built. King Felipe V attempted to make this particular hunting enclave in the Segovian highlands his version of Versailles, where, by the way, he was born and raised. King Felipe V designed a ‘humble’ Baroque-style palace with the idea, what was not spent on the rooms was spent in the gardens. The spectacular 26 fountains found across the palace gardens feature marble and bronze statues of mythological themes designed by a French architect. However, only a handful of fountains are working each day. Three times a year, on the feast days of San Fernando and of San Luis (May 30, July 25, and August 25), all 26 fountains put on a show, which should be a national holiday in of itself. But the culinary scene is not any less impressive: roast suckling pig is the city’s specialty, together with the creamy La Granja white beans (judiones de La Granja) famous all over Spain!
Food & Wine in Madrid
From bustling hole-in-the-wall tapas bars to world-famous Michelin-starred restaurants, Madrid is a delectable city of contrasts and flavors. Discover them with our guide to food in Madrid:
✧ FOODS NOT TO MISS
- Although the Bocadillo de calamares might seem like a humble dish (it’s literally a fried calamari sandwich), many argue that this is the real culinary symbol of Madrid after the tortilla and callos (tripes). The bocadillo de calamares consists of deep-fried squid rings nestled in a soft bread roll. The real flavor in the bocadillo comes from the fact that each sandwich is made to order, which gives the squid rings a delicious crunch. Best of all, you can enjoy a bocadillo de calamares for breakfast, lunch, or dinner… you can even grab one for a snack after a long day of sightseeing! Perfect with an ice cold draft beer Mahou (the brewery was founded in Madrid in 1890).
- If you’re wandering the streets of Madrid in winter, you’re bound to catch a whiff of the delicious dish called cocido madrileño. Translated as Madrilenian Stew, this is an extremely hearty dish that is made of chickpeas, pork belly, chorizo, onions, potatoes, and other vegetables. Callos a la madrileña, traditionally served in a clay bowl, is a rich soupy stew made of beef tripe in addition to chorizo, pimentón (paprika), blood sausage and ham, one of the locals favorite.
- Ir de cañas is a favorite tradition of Madrid locals – translated, it means ‘to go for a drink.’ The typical drink of choice for Madrileños is a nice cup of cold beer – in fact, more than 50% of all Spaniards prefer beer over any other alcoholic drink! The most popular brand is Mahou, a local Madrid-based beer that was founded more than 130 years ago. In recent years, the craft brew revolution has taken Spain by storm, and you can see plenty of new pop-ups in the city.
- Aperitivo hour – Every day, in the afternoon, there’s a subtle shift in Madrid. People start to be more carefree, jovial, even blasé, which can only mean one thing: it’s time to ir de aperitivo (go for an aperitif). A tradition that goes beyond a glass, aperitivo hour is a chance for people to gather with friends, discuss the day’s events, and nourish their bond over small snacks and drinks. In Madrid they even have their own olives named A la madrileña, which consists of black olives, with bone and sweet paprika from La Vera, spring onion, oil and coarse salt.
- Ruta de bodegas – In Spain, the word bodega means a winery, a wine cellar, or a tasting room. Get to known Spain through its drinks — There are over 400 grape varieties in Spain! — and find your favorite with a wine tour. Explore each of Spain’s wine regions with our in-depth guide, or contact us to arrange a tailored tour.
- Tortillas – Although tortillas are a staple in the Spanish diet, Madrid is proud to be in the top 5 list serving the best tortillas in the entire country (Bilbao is a hard competitor). A thick omelette made with eggs and potatoes, Spanish tortillas are a traditional comfort food that are almost considered to be a national treasure by local Madrileños!
- Markets Hopping: There’s no better way to feel like a local than to have an aperitif before hopping around gourmet stalls in markets like San Miguel, San Antón, or San Ildefonso, the latter being a pioneer in introducing the concept of street food to the markets. For rare cuts and gastronomic delights, visit the traditional butcher stalls in the San Fernando Market in Lavapiés, the most alternative of them all.
✧ WINES REGIONS AROUND
From Madrid you can easily reach stunning wine regions in a short drive…
- DO Méntrida: Sturdy and honest, the character of the wines produced in Méntrida are just like the soil and climate found in the region. Although it was obscure in most of its history, Méntrida is making a big comeback with a new generation of winegrowers and methods – make sure to visit it first before it takes off into the mainstream!
- DO Vinos de Madrid: Although known as the capital of Spain, Madrid wasn’t known as a wine region – that is until 1990, when it received the title of DO. Since that pivotal moment, local winemakers have hard at work refining the region’s reputation and carving out a name in the big leagues. DO Vinos de Madrid is comprised of 3 different subzones — Arganda, Navalcarnero, and San Martín — each of which produce very different types of wine.
Where to Stay in Madrid?
Top: URSO Hotel & Spa, a five stars with chracter | Bottom left: Hotel Orfila, Relais & Châteaux | Bottom right: Recently opened Four Seasons Madrid
With such a large city, it’s hard to pick just one accommodation – it feels like there is a hotel for every personality! However, we tried our best to narrow it down to crowd-pleasing favorites:
For globetrotters in search of immersive experiences, we love URSO Hotel & Spa. The hotel is located in the chic Salesas area of Madrid and just steps away from trendy neighborhoods like Malasaña and Chueca. For those of us who like to shop ‘til we drop, the nearby boutiques and stores along Calle Fuencarral are calling our names. URSO is headquartered in a sleek early 20th-century palatial building and features beautiful earthy tones, delicate pieces of art, and a lovely curated gallery of black-and-white photos of Madrid in the early centuries.
Heritage Madrid, a Relais & Châteaux property, stands above the rest. The hotel’s claim to fame is their exquisite interior design, which echoes the same luxury sentiments as the Belle Époque-era building that it’s housed in. Don’t miss champagne and oysters on the secret roof terrace, or the chance to dine at two-Michelin star chef Mario Sandoval’s restaurant, The Haroma, for lunch or dinner.
Nestled in the old Banesto headquarters, the upcoming Four Seasons Madrid marks the first Four Seasons Hotel in Spain. Comprised of 200 upscale rooms across six connected historical buildings, the Four Seasons offers two restaurants, a four-level spa, and an expansive roof terrace. One unique feature of this Four Seasons is the direct access to the Galería Canalejas, one of the most extravagant luxury shopping destinations in the country – the gallery features more than 40 boutiques from famous Spanish and international brands.
Speaking of new offerings, the revamped Mandarin Oriental Madrid will also open its doors in spring 2021. Following the most ambitious and extensive renovation to take place in its 110-year history, Mandarin Oriental took on prominent Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz and French designer duo Gilles & Boissier to completely transform the hotel into an oasis. Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta, famous for his farm-to-table philosophy, will be overseeing the five on-site restaurants and bars.
Traveling to Madrid? Paladar y Tomar will find the accommodation that best suits your personality. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.