48 Hours In Madrid: Spain’s Lively Capital City Is Chock-Full Of Things To Do And See
Spain’s lively capital city is chock-full of things to do and see, no matter what your interests.
Get Your Art Fix
Situated close to Atocha station at Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s golden triangle has three world-famous museums — the Prado, Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, within a stone’s throw of each other. Picasso’s famous ‘Guernica’ hangs in Room 206 at the Reina Sofía museum. Once done with ‘Guernica’, walk down to the first level of the Jean Nouvel building and see artist Richard Serra’s modern installation Equal-Parallel: Guernica-Bengasi (1986) to understand war in the modern context. Cross the street and head to the Prado. The Prado guide has thoughtfully marked the mustsee classics, with their room numbers, so you can do a self-curated, time-saving masterpieces tour, which should include Velazquez’s ‘Les Meninas’ in room 12, Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ in room 56A, Raphael’s ‘Cardinal’ in room 49 and Goya’s ‘The Third of May’ in room 64. There are still works by Titian, Durer, Rembrandt, Ribera and Tintoretto to explore.
Walk out of the Prado towards the Thyssen, a beautiful 18th-century palace-museum with a stunning private collection of art from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Check out Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch in room 38, Van Gogh, Matisse and Kandinsky on the first floor and Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon on the ground floor. Museum-ed out? Walk towards the Buen Retiro park (Park of Pleasant Retreat), the largest park in the city, or sit at the Temple de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple gifted to Spain by Egypt in 1960.
El Cortes Ingles is Spain’s answer to Galeries Lafayette and Harvey Nichols for everything and more under one roof, and has several branches in the city. Insider’s tip — buy Spanish master perfumer Ramón Monegal’s line of luxury fragrances to take home. Loewe is the equivalent of Hermes here, and a leather memento is a must-have. El Ganso specialises in contemporary menswear and has branches all over. Isolee, Pull&Bear, Zara, Massimo Dutti and Manolo Blahnik are the other well-known Spanish brands. Gran Vía, Calle Serrano and Calle de Fuencarral are the three big shopping areas in Madrid. Calle Serrano and its neighbourhood is Madrid’s luxury shopping strip, with watches, clothing and highend jewellery stores. El Figurante is the cool bar where designers and ad folk hang out between shopping bouts. Calle de Fuencarral has pedestrian zones, so shopping here is fun.
Gluttonous Debauchery is a tasting menu priced at €165 at Madrid’s only restaurant with three Michelin stars, DiverXO, helmed by quirky chef David Muñoz. Tickets have to be booked in advance, and the food is served like a work of art. La Terraza del Casino de Madrid, with two Michelin stars, was initially mentored by Ferran Adrià of El Bulli but is run by chef Paco Roncero. Located in a historic building, the modern terrace offers beautiful views and a romantic setting for some superb food. Degustation menus start at about €140. There is the more modern, one-Michelinstar Kabuki Wellington, in the Wellington hotel, which combines Japanese and tapas styles into its own signature style. Twelve Madrid restaurants are featured in the Michelin list for 2016, so it is worth signing up for at least one experience.
Soaking It In
Puerta del Sol, or the Gate of the Sun, is ground zero, literally Spain’s zero-kilometre milestone. It is the centre from which all main streets lead and is a great place to meet, but the city square or Plaza Mayor is the place to hang out and watch the world go by, as you drink a chilled beer at one of the cafes that line the square. More interestingly, find a seat at one of the balconies overlooking the square and people-watch. Snack on the local favourite — Bocadillo de Calamares (a fried shrimp sandwich) at Los Campanos, or go to the Salon de Tapas at the square for some tapas. Casa Patas and O Pulpo Bar at Calle Canizares are the places to go for the mandatory flamenco experience. Posada del León de Oro is a posada or modern inn with rooms to stay in Las Latina, and its popular wine-themed atrium and cellar gives you a chance to taste all the great wines of Spain. Casa Lucio is a classic tapas bar with food that gets a thumbsup from Time Out Madrid. Beker 6 at Calle Hermanos Bécquer is an Armenian restaurant, with a commendable wine list if you want to go upscale and chic. Mercado de San Miguel is the place for gourmet and local produce as well as charming little stalls and bars with wine and tapas, all in a restored market.
Good To Know
- The 48-hour Spain card (€60) is a boon when you want to bypass long queues at museums. It gets you a 10 per cent discount at tapas and flamenco bars as well.
- Sign up for an official guided tour of the city’s highlights at Centro de Turisimo, Plaza Mayor. Tours run every day.
- History buff? Take a half-day trip to El Escorial, a magnificent monastery and Royal Palace outside the city, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- For all-day shopping, head to Las Rozas Village, a luxury outlet mall outside Madrid with stores in low Mediterranean-style villas and all the brands at enviable prices. The Shoppers Express service offers daily trips, which you can book online.
- BiciMAD is the place to source a bike to pedal your way through Madrid’s hidden quarters.