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Madrid city guide

Taberna de Antonio Sánchez

For a taste of tradition

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.

El Paraguas

For upscale Asturian cuisine

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).

Sylkar

For Spanish abuela fare

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.

Chocolat

For the best churros

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.

Macera

For creative cocktails

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.

Museo Sorolla

For art appreciation

Step into the world of Joaquín Sorolla (1863–1923), the Impressionist artist whose paintings cast the Valencian coast in shimmering light and colour, on a tour of his mansion-turned-museum. The house contains not only masterworks like Women Walking on the Beach and The Pink Robe, but also the artist’s intimate artifacts, such as letters, jewellery and sepia photographs.

Cerro del Tío Pío

For skyline views

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.

Café Berlin

For the music scene

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.

Tapas Like a Local

For a foodie education

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).

La Tabacalera

For contemporary arts and culture

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.

Sportivo

For statement streetwear

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.

Mercado de la Paz

For gourmet souvenirs

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.

Pez

For designer womenswear

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.

El Moderno

For stylish home accessories

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.

Antigua Casa Crespo

For classic espadrilles

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.

Heritage Madrid Hotel

For Old World glamour

Opened in spring 2018 in a historic building, this Relais & Châteaux property fully embraces its grande-dame aesthetic: French wallpaper, lacquered woods, gilded mirrors and overstuffed down pillows. Summer evenings are best spent sipping cava or cocktails on the leafy terraza with views over the terracotta roofs.

Only You Boutique Hotel

For the Mediterranean vibes

For the scene-y fashion set, there’s no beating this boutique hotel opened by Ibizan entrepreneurs in the swish, gay-friendly Chueca district. The property’s Mediterranean roots come through in the blue-and-white palette, sun-dappled common areas and laid-back cocktail bar. If the budget allows, spring for a street-facing Premium room for excellent people-watching.

Dear Hotel

For the rooftop pool

This minimalist four-star overlooking Plaza de España is an ideal outpost for travellers wanting to explore the up-and-coming Conde Duque neighbourhood and quaint residential streets of Moncloa. All blond woods, black marble and earth tones, Dear Hotel wouldn’t be out of place in Copenhagen. In the warm weather months, its main draw is the rooftop bar area, complete with a plunge pool.

Posada del León de Oro

For the wine bar

Situated on Cava Baja, Madrid’s main tapas drag, Posada del León de Oro is a culinary destination in itself for its ground-floor vinoteca, which is 300 bottles strong. After an evening spent sipping, retreat to the boutique hotel’s cozy and well-priced guest rooms, which have wood-beamed ceilings, tile floors and ornate wrought-iron balconies.

Barceló Torre de Madrid

For the Instagrammable interiors

Jaime Hayón, the Madrid-born designer behind this hotel’s decor, has transformed the historic Torre de Madrid skyscraper with his playful vision. Millennial-pink walls pop with KlunderBie’s photographs of matadors and flamenco dancers, a zebra-striped bear sculpture towers in the lobby, and guest rooms are decked out with wall-to-wall mirrors and monkey side tables.

Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.

Getting From the Airport

The Metro (Line 8) connects Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD) with the city centre, as does the 24-hour Autobús Exprés (cash only), which makes stops at Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid Atocha Train Station, the O’Donnell Metro stop and all airport terminals. Both public transportation options cost €5. Taxis charge a flat rate of €30 and get you into town in about 25 minutes.

Public Transportation

A one-way fare on the city’s Metro and buses is €1.50 to €2, depending on the length of your journey. First-time riders will have to buy a reloadable Multi Card for €2.50. (Children under four travel free.) The Metro runs from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily, and buses operate 24/7. Get a new card, or top it up, at any Metro station. Visitors planning to use public transit often should opt for the 10-trip option for €12.20.

Taxis

Taxis are available at all hours across the city, and all accept credit cards. Uber and Cabify are also everywhere and generally more affordable.

Radio Taxi Independiente: 914-05-12-13
Radioteléfono Taxi: 915-47-82-00
Servitaximadrid: 807-46-48-57
Taxi Mercedes Madrid: 915-93-20-20
Tele Taxi: 913-71-21-31

Bikes

BiciMad’s electric bikes, available for rent at 165 stations around the city, work well but only suit cyclists accustomed to riding in traffic: Madrid has sparse dedicated bike lanes, and it’s illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. It costs €2 to rent a BiciMad for up to an hour.

Stay
The Walt Madrid

The Walt opened in 2017 in the heart of the city, with 30 spacious rooms, many with terraces, that feature custom headboards outfitted with twinkly lights. The hibiscus- and camellia-lined courtyard off Bob’s Bar on the main floor is the best place to sip fresh mojitos paired with Iberian ham.

Calle del Barco, 3, 34-915-31-71-11

Dine
Florida Retiro

Top chef Joaquín Felipe Peira leads this newly renovated culinary complex that houses five restaurants and a performance venue in El Retiro Park. Start with a cocktail on the rooftop terrace, continue with fried calamari at the market kiosks and cap things off with shared plates at the sit-down El Pabellón.

Paseo de Panamá, Parque de El Retiro, 34-91-827-52-75

Day Trip
Alcalá de Henares

Just 35 kilometres northeast of Madrid is this 16th-century university city and UNESCO World Heritage Site where Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, was born. Tour his childhood home, then stroll the cobblestoned Calle Mayor, one of the longest streets with continuous porticoes in Europe.

Calle Mayor, 48, 34-91-889-96-54

Weather in Madrid

Monday sky is clear
23°C Sep 16, 2019
Tuesday light rain
24°C Sep 17, 2019
Wednesday sky is clear
25°C Sep 18, 2019
Thursday overcast clouds
26°C Sep 19, 2019
Friday heavy intensity rain
24°C Sep 20, 2019
Saturday moderate rain
23°C Sep 21, 2019
Sunday scattered clouds
23°C Sep 22, 2019
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