Modern, old, cosmopolitan, traditional, majestic, intense, fun, ecstatic; no city on earth is more alive than Madrid. This amazing city, that sometimes never seems to sleep, is great to live at, but also perfect for a short visit, even if it were only for a weekend.
We start at the pulsing heart of the city; the Gran Via, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century this wide boulevard is pledged with several, monumental buildings, starting with the famous Metropolis building that is crowned by a beautiful female Fenix. Walk from the Metropolis building into the direction of Callao, and once there, head up to the last floor in the Corte Ingles, the so-called Gourmet place, and admire the rest of the Gran Via from this great angle, including its famous Schweppes lights. The terrace at the Gourmet section becomes at night a trendy place, full with modern people enjoying good food and overpriced, gin tonics.
Cervantes for real
From Callao walk down all the way to plaza España and picture-pose a moment with Cervantes enormous statue at the fountain in the middle. Catch a quick glimpse of the Temple de Debod, located nearby in the Parque de Oeste, which is an Egyptian temple that was given as a gift to Spain by Egypt for helping out preventing a flood.
From Plaza España, walk on to the most majestically and relaxing part of the city centre, the Plaza de Oriente. Here you can visit de Royal Palace or just relax a bit on the nice but expensive terraces in front of the opera. This one of my favourite spots in the city as you really can feel and see the incredible history of Madrid at this spot. On Sundays, you sometimes can watch local street singers or tango dancers on this square in front of the Opera or the Palace.
The statues of all the Spanish Kings in this park were initially to be placed on top of the palace but when Isabel II had a nightmare about the statues falling on top of her, they were finally placed in the park next to the palace.
Best bocadillo (sandwich) in the world
From the plaza Oriente, it’s a perfect walk to plaza mayor where you can stop by for a delicious bocadillo de calamares with a caña in one of its side streets, or in winter time order some chocolate and churros at famous chocolateria San Gines. Do you a fancy more tapas style lunch then hit the Mercado de San Miguel for some amazing tapa treats, and if you like, some excellent vermouth from the tap.
Don’t forget to check out the Arcos de los Cuchilleros, and if you fancy something sweet, buy some homemade cookies at the monastery Las Carboneras, still run by nuns who aren’t allowed to expose themselves, so the sweets they sell are exchanged through a curious, sliding door system. For a more extensive lunch with the bests roasts of Madrid visit Casa de sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world, famous for its roasted suckling pig and one of Hemingway’s favourite restaurants in town.
Amazing Tapa at the heart of the city centre
From plaza mayor, follow the crowd to the heart of the city centre, la Puerta del Sol, picture pose with the famous Madroño bear in the middle, and check out the 0-kilometre point in front of the old post office, now a regional government building. When you have found the Tio Pepe sign, treat yourself with a caña and a delicious fried cod tapa at Casa Labra. For a more old-style elegant lunch visit Lhardy, a magnificent, old, but also very touristy restaurant that has served food for over more than 175 years, and was already frequently visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1847.
From the Puerta del Sol its an excellent starting point to do some exploring at the barrio de Las letras, famous for the writers who used to live there. Pass by the house of Lope de Vega and Cervantes and check out the Athenæum of Madrid, a cultural centre, adorned with Greek Revival paintings.
End the day with more cañas and tapas with for example a relaxing fino at the ancient bar La Venencia or check out the super trendy Glass Bar for an expensive cocktail, or hit Cerveceria Quevedo if you are on a tighter budget. If you fancy some live music you can watch a Flamenco show at Villa Rosa or Casa Patas. For some great late night dancing, visit La Boca del Lobo, a trendy club with DJ´s. If you fancy a mojito visit Madrid Madrid and admire the famous decorated interior.
Exhausted from the intense day? Then crash in high style at bullfighter´s hotel ME Madrid Reina Victoria at Plaza de Santa Ana which has 192 slick rooms located in a 19th-century palace. Guests have access to the popular, trendy rooftop bar, while those who upgrade to a suite are given their own “personal assistant”!.
*Click here to see the schedule for day two.