9:30am | La Mallorquina
Grab a chocolate napolitana and café con leche from Madrid’s historic and famous bakery, La Mallorquina. This timeless pastry shop is at the heart of the city in bustling Puerta del Sol, a city square filled with celebrations and demonstrations throughout the year.
A: Calle Mayor, 2 | Hours: 8:30am-9pm | Price: $$ | T: +34 915 21 12 01 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
10:30am | Museo del Prado
The Prado is one of the oldest and greatest art galleries in the world, containing a marvelous collection of more than 7,000 masterpieces by varying artists such as Bosch, El Greco, Titian, Rubens Velázquez and Goya. Its western wing (Edificio Villanueva) was completed in 1785, as the neoclassical Palacio de Villanueva. Originally conceived as a house of science, it later served as a cavalry barracks for Napoleon’s troops during their occupation of Madrid between 1808 and 1813. In 1814 King Fernando VII decided to use the palace as a museum to store hundreds of royal paintings that were gathering dust – this was an era where art was a royal preserve. Five years later the Museo del Prado opened with 311 Spanish paintings on display. Today, around 1,500 are currently on display and are like a window onto the historical vagaries of the Spanish soul, at once grand and imperious in the royal paintings of Velázquez, darkly tumultuous in Las pinturas negras (The Black Paintings) of Goya, and outward looking with sophisticated works of art from all across Europe.
A: Jerónimos Entrance, Felipe IV Street, Paseo del Prado | Hours: Sun. 10am-6:30pm Mon-Sat. 10am-7:30pm | Price: €15 | T: +34 913 30 28 00 | E: email@example.com
The only thing typical about this popular tapas bar—so popular that it now has a new branch on a terrace inside the Reina Sofia Museum—are the Iberian hams hanging from the ceiling and the paper tablecloths; the quality and sophistication of the food, however, stand out well above the crowd. Go to the bar for a quick bite, like fresh, salty anchovies with bread and tomato, fried artichokes, or a bowl of salmorejo accompanied by a cold beer or a glass of wine. At the handful of tables, hungry locals share more elaborate fare: think sautéed rice with truffle and wild mushrooms, quail with sautéed onions, or a tomato and white tuna–belly salad. Note that it also serves half portions of many dishes.
A: Calle Menéndez Pelayo 13 | Hours: 12:30pm-2am | Price: $$ | T: +34 915 57 26 91 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | W: arzabal.com | Reservations: Recommended
> La Castela
Traditional taverns with tin-top bars, beer and vermouth cooled with stainless-steel coils, and über-efficient waiters are a dying breed in Madrid, but this one, just a couple of blocks from the Parque del Buen Retiro, is one of the best. It’s always busy with locals clamoring over plates of sautéed wild mushrooms, fresh salty anchovies served with a cucumber and tomato salad (pipirrana), or clams in an Andalusian white-wine sauce. You can stop in for a quick bite at the bar—they’ll serve you a free tapa with every drink—or enjoy heartier choices, such as the chickpea and king prawn stew, in the homey dining room at the back.
A: Calle Doctor Castelo 22 | Hours: 12pm-5pm & 8pm-12:30am | Price: $$ | T: +34 915 74 00 15 | E: email@example.com | W: restaurantelacastela.com | Reservations: Recommended
2pm | Parque del Retiro
The glorious gardens of El Retiro are as beautiful as any you’ll find in a European city. Peppered with marble monuments, landscaped lawns, the occasional elegant building and abundant greenery, it’s quiet and contemplative during the week but comes to life on weekends. Put simply, this is one of our favourite places in Madrid. Laid out in the 17th century by Felipe IV as the preserve of kings, queens and their intimates, the park was opened to the public in 1868. From the entrance at the Puerta de Alcalá, head straight toward the center and you can find the Estanque (lake), presided over by a grandiose equestrian statue of King Alfonso XII. The 19th-century Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), southeast of the Estanque, was built to house exotic plants from the Philippines, a Spanish possession at the time. This airy marvel of steel and glass sits on a base of decorative tile. Next door is a small lake with ducks and swans. Along the Paseo del Uruguay at the park’s south end is the Rosaleda (Rose Garden), bursting with color and heavy with floral scents for most of the summer. West of the Rosaleda, look for a statue called the Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel), which madrileños claim is the only one in the world depicting the Prince of Darkness before (during, actually) his fall from grace. It is currently being considered for a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A: Plaza de la Independencia, 7 | Hours: 6am-12am | Price: Free | T: +34 914 00 87 40
(Optional) Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Home to Picasso’s Guernica, arguably Spain’s most famous artwork, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Madrid’s premier collection of contemporary art. In addition to plenty of paintings by Picasso, other major drawcards are works by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The collection principally spans the 20th century up to the 1980s. The occasional non-Spaniard artist makes an appearance (including Francis Bacon’s Lying Figure; 1966), but most of the collection is strictly peninsular. The permanent collection is displayed on the 2nd and 4th floors of the main wing of the museum, the Edificio Sabatini. Guernica’s location never changes – you’ll find it in Room 206 on the 2nd floor. Beyond that, the location of specific paintings can be a little confusing. The museum follows a theme-based approach, which ensures that you’ll find works by Picasso or Miró, for example, spread across the two floors. The only solution if you’re looking for something specific is to pick up the latest copy of the Planos de Museo (Museum Floorplans) from the information desk just outside the main entrance; it lists the rooms in which each artist appears (although not individual paintings).
A: Calle Santa Isabel, 52 | Hours: Mon, Wed-Sat. 10am-9pm | Price: €10 | T: +34 917 74 10 00 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
5:30pm | Tapas & Vino
This 7th-floor restaurant and bar at the Circulo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Circle) building offers the best 360-degree views of Madrid while enjoying delicious tapas and vino. You can almost reach out and touch the glorious dome of the Edificio Metrópolis and otherwise take in Madrid in all its finery, including the distant mountains. Two bars, lounge music and places to recline add to the experience. Downstairs, the centre has exhibitions, concerts, short films and book readings. There’s also a fine belle époque cafe on the ground floor.
A: Calle de Alcalá 42 | Hours: Mon-Fri. 9am-2am Sat-Sun. 11am-2am | Price: $$$ | T: +34 915 30 17 61 | E: email@example.com | W: azoteadelcirculo.com | Reservations: Recommended
> Ramon Freixa
Celebrity chef Ferran Adrià once stated that his dream was to cook for only one guest at a time, and Ramon Freixa, a Catalan and another of the handful of chefs who are raising the bar of Spanish cuisine, gets close to Adrià’s fantasy at this small restaurant with only seven tables and two Michelin stars. The experience in the baroque-inspired setting is best enjoyed by true connoisseurs, considering that some of the dishes are so sophisticated and intricate they’re served on up to three different plates. “Less is more” is definitely not the motto here, as dishes like the “deconstructed tomato”—10 different varieties of tomato cooked in 10 different ways—proves, but if you have the wallet, this is a delicious adventure.
A: Hotel Único, Calle de Claudio Coello 67 | Hours: Tue-Sat. 1:30-3:30pm & 9pm-10:30pm | Price: $$$$ | T: +34 917 81 82 62 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | W: ramonfreixamadrid.com | Reservations: Recommended
This restaurant, decorated in dramatic dark wood, gleaming silver, and apricot hues, introduced nouvelle Basque cuisine to Spain in the 1970s and has since become a Madrid classic. It’s particularly known for using the best and freshest seasonal products available, as well as for having the best service in town. Making use of ingredients such as various fungi, game, and hard-to-find seafood, the food here tends to be unusual—it’s not one of those places where they cook with liquid nitrogen, yet you won’t find these dishes elsewhere.
A: Calle Álvarez de Baena 4 | Hours: Mon-Fri. 1:15pm-4pm & 8:30pm-11:30pm Sat. 8:30pm-11:30pm | Price: $$$$ | T: +34 915 61 48 40 | W: restaurantezalacain.com | Reservations: Recommended