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Madrileños are known for their laid–back way of life, thanks to midday siestas, leisurely late lunches and rooftop–terrace hops. But don’t expect to get much sleep after dark: The crowds don’t flock to the famously buzzing nightclubs until 1 a.m. or later. By day, stroll through the Golden Triangle of Art – three of the world’s finest museums practically side by side.
Where to stay
- A hotel room at Totem in Madrid, SpainTótemFor the trendy location
- A room in the Barcelo Torre de MadridBarceló Torre de MadridFor the Instagrammable interiors
- Charming terrace at the Heritage Madrid Hotel in Madrid, SpainHeritage Madrid HotelFor Old World glamour
- Stylish lounge at the Only You Boutique Hotel in Madrid, SpainOnly You Boutique HotelFor the Mediterranean vibes
Eat & Drink
Churros perfection at Chocolat Yes, Madrid has churrerías with more history, fame and Old World charm; no, none are as good as Chocolat. A great churro must have a crisp but not tough exterior, and a soft but not gooey centre. It must never be oily and always be hot. And most importantly, it must be served with thick, wickedly dark melted chocolate. On all accounts, Chocolat nails it.
Upscale Asturian cuisine at El Paraguas The greeter at this chic Salamanca institution is a professional ham carver in a suit who chirps ¡Buenas tardes! while shaving delicate slices onto platter after platter. The jamón ibérico is a no–brainer lead–in to the haute Asturian mains, which hinge on dayboat seafood (try the cloud–soft hake cheeks with egg yolk) and top–quality meats (like certified Rubia Gallega beef tenderloin).
Creative cocktails at Macera You won’t find any brand–name liquor here – just a rainbow wall of spirits that have been macerated (hence the bar’s name) with aromatics ranging from licorice to orange peel to rosemary and coffee. These are blended into cocktails both novel and classic; spring for a margarita shaken with jalapeño– and cilantro–infused tequila, or warm up with an old–fashioned made from chestnut–steeped whisky.
Spanish abuela fare at Sylkar Long before Calle Ponzano became the city’s buzziest tapas street, with its own hashtag (#Ponzaning), Sylkar was already everyone’s favourite neighbourhood restaurant. The waiters remember your name and your usual order, which might include wine–braised meatballs, tender squid in an oniony ink sauce, or a slice of runny tortilla española, arguably the best in town.
Old–timey Spanish dishes at Taberna de Antonio Sánchez Founded in 1830, this is one of the oldest taverns in the city, yet it flies under the radar of most Madrileños (let alone tourists). In its heyday, painters, writers and bullfighters met here for tertulias, or intellectual gatherings, over tapas and Valdepeñas wine. The sense of history endures in the ancient menu boards (“fried bread: 25 céntimos”), taxidermied bull heads and old–timey Spanish dishes, like stewed oxtail and garlic soup.
What to do
Classic espadrilles at Antigua Casa Crespo Name a better Spanish souvenir than a pair of colourful, handmade espadrilles from Madrid’s most fabled alpargatería; we’ll wait. This iconic shop, opened in 1863 on a cobblestoned Malasaña side street, sells the canvas–topped, rope–bottomed shoes in every shade and style imaginable.
Live music at Café Berlin Serious music lovers keep close tabs on the events schedule at this underground concert hall off Plaza de Santo Domingo as its nightly live shows – ranging from flamenco to acoustic guitar to Cuban jazz – sell out fast. Stick around after the show for the venue’s disco–inflected DJ sets, which heat up around 2 a.m. and draw a fashionable crowd Thursday through Sunday.
Picnics and views at Cerro del Tío Pío Nicknamed the Parque de las Siete Tetas (“Park of the Seven Boobs”) for its undulating grassy knolls, the Cerro del Tío Pío offers unrivalled views of Madrid’s cityscape. On warm evenings, locals flock with picnic blankets, coolers of Mahou (Madrid’s favourite beer) and portable speakers to kick back as the sun sinks below the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains.
Stylish home accessories at El Moderno Situated in the hipster Malasaña district, this concept store brims with home–design pieces sourced from across the Continent. Independent craftspeople are given priority: You’ll find crocheted stuffed animals by Anne–Claire Petit, pendant lamps by Schneid, and handwoven esparto–grass baskets by Javier S. Medina, whose workshop is around the corner.
Contemporary arts and culture at La Tabacalera This former cigarette factory, which spans an entire city block in the multicultural Lavapiés district, houses both a town hall–funded cultural centre and an unaffiliated, semi–legal art squat. Miraculously, they exist in harmony. Enter the former for its cutting–edge exhibitions, and the latter for its artful, thought–provoking graffiti blanketing nearly every surface.
Gourmet souvenirs at Mercado de la Paz Some things just taste better in Spain: the nutty jamón ibérico that melts between your fingers, the jarred tuna that flakes on forking, the brick–red pimentón that lends smokiness to soups. Why forgo these delicacies when they’re so easy to take home? Shop this true–blue neighbourhood market, where you’ll find stalls devoted to everything from charcuterie to cheese to canned seafood to spices.
Designer womenswear at Pez Housed in a restored pharmacy, this womenswear boutique adheres to boho chic. Slouchy jeans? Check. Platform sneakers? Check. But there are treasures to be found in Pez’s small furniture and home–goods section as well, such as one–of–a–kind mugs and plates by Madrid–based potter Laon and impossibly soft wool blankets by Portugal’s Burel Factory.
Foodie education with Tapas Like a Local To learn the history of the country’s quintessential dishes — Spanish omelette, gambas al ajillo, patatas bravas — it helps to buddy up with a seasoned tapas crawler. With Devour Madrid’s Tapas Like a Local tour, you’ll visit four family–run establishments in the historic centre, and get to know the city through iconic dishes between cold glasses of vermouth and sudsy cañas (Madrid slang for half–pints).
Statement streetwear at Sportivo Located across from the Conde Duque cultural centre, this independent boutique is considered the top menswear store in the city, and arguably in Spain. The racks are plush with hand–selected threads from coveted international brands, like Études Studio, Paraboot, Barena and Lemaire.