A summer stalwart, the Spanish capital is a beguiling city where energy abounds and culture awaits at every turn. We get a local perspective
FOR A CULTURAL DELIGHT
Diana Alvara, guest services manager at Museo Del Prado, highlights the crop of Madrid’s cultural delights
When it comes to culture, what can visitors expect?
Madrid is museum city! Don`t miss the most famous ones on the Paseo del Arte like the Prado where you can see the work of Spanish painters including Goya and Velazquez, the CaixaForum Madrid museum and the Art Centre Reina Sofia where they have the famous Guernica of Picasso. Many of Madrid’s museums also offer free entry on certain days – so check websites for details before you visit.
What’s your favourite museum in the city?
Rather surprisingly, it’s probably Temple of Debod just north of the Royal Palace. Dating back to 200 BC, it was donated to Spain in 1968 by the Egyptians as a thank you for the country’s help in saving ancient temples threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam and I love wandering its grounds. There’s a lovely park around the monument and a viewing platform with fantastic views out over Casa de Campo park.
Best cultural spot for children?
Created by the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind, Museo Tiflológico is great for kids because, unlike in most museums, all the exhibits here are touchable. With scale models of famous landmarks, art by blind artists and a bit about the history of braille, it’s also free to enter. Afterwards, take the little ones to Buen Retiro park, Madrid`s green lung just a short walk from Gran Via. Enjoy a stroll through the park or take a boat ride on the glistening lake.
What’s the most exciting cultural aspect of the city?
There’s so many to choose from but one of my favourite things is to go to Teatro Alfil to watch a show. The performances are all gestural-based so you don’t even need to understand Spanish to appreciate them. It’s universal humour and makes for a great evening out.
WHETE TO BE AND BE SEEN
Street style blogger Maria Martin shares her tips on the of-the-moment places around town
What’s the most popular neighborhood in Madrid?
If you want something lively, book a hotel in the city centre. Sol and the surrounding areas are usually a little too busy with tourists so try Malasaña for a Bohemian vibe with loads of places to eat, drink and shop. Lavapiés is the most multicultural spot, while Chueca is probably the most of-the-moment spot.
Where should we go for great views?
Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes has, in my opinion, some of the best views in all of Madrid. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Sierra, sit at a table and enjoy a cool drink or sprawl out on a sun lounger.
And when it comes to relaxing?
When you’ve had your fill of sightseeing, head to Hammam Al Andalus. Step inside these atmospheric baths and you’ll feel miles from the bustling city, go for a hammam or try an indulgent massage.
What’s the nightlife like?
Cava Baja is probably the best street for a tapas bar crawl. It’s in Barrio La Latina, and is always packed at the weekend.I definitely recommend stopping at Lamiak, where you can get delicious pintxos (Basque-style tapas). Afterwards, Costello Club is a great place for drinks and even the occasional concert.
FOR GASTRONOMIC BRILLIANCE
Tour guide Fernando Larroud spills the secrets on Madrid’s world-famous culinary spectrum
Tell us a bit about Madrid’s dining scene?
The city is a capital of gastronomy and you’ll find traditional and avant-garde places to eat. Tapas are the most popular dishes, and you can order these just about anywhere. Surprisingly – given the city’s love for cured meats – there’s also a great choice of vegetarian and vegan spots.
Where’s the best place to head for a quick coffee?
Honestly, you can find great coffee everywhere. Try one of the bars in the streets between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol and be sure to order a ‘café solo’ for the authentic Spanish way of drinking coffee – it’s a tiny, strong espresso that’s delicious.
Where would you recommend for dinner?
My personal favourite is La Gabinoteca.
What’s the best area for eating out?
For evening eats, Malasaña and Chuecas near the Gran Via offer tons of fancy cafes, bars and restaurants and a whole host of live music. It’s the best place for an evening out – start with dinner then party until the sun comes up.
Are there any good food markets that are worth a visit?
Yes, Mercado de San Miguel is a historic glass-covered market next to Plaza Mayor that’s perfect for getting a real taste of Spanish cuisine. Pick up local cheeses or freshly caught seafood at the fishmongers’ stalls, you can pop in for a snack or spend an entire evening moseying from counter to counter.