4 days in one of the most charming cities in the world
Selected districts of Madrid – Hotels in Madrid – Shopping in Madrid – Drinks – Tapas – Restaurants in Madrid – Dancing – Flamenco – Sights in Madrid – Museums – Parque del Retiro – Food market: Mercado de San Miguel
Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world. There is no lack of interesting architecture, museums, great restaurants and night life, of course. And the Madrilenos are really the nicest.
So, put on your best sneakers and your favorite sunnies and hit the beautiful streets of Madrid.
In which part of Madrid should I stay?
Our guide starts with a few words on the Madrid districts before giving you the best advice on hotels, restaurants and the sights in Madrid. The area in Madrid I personally prefer is Salamanca – it is a little more classy and I always find some new restaurants I want to try here, or pass by an interesting looking café I want to stop by.
Selected districts of Madrid
- Centro (around Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol and Opera): Lots of tourists and lots of people. Puerta del Sol is known for the pickpockets and the drug trade so avoid this area during night time.
- Chamartín: Madrid’s business district but you will also find Real Madrid’s football stadium Santiago Bernabeu here. If you are into the sport.
- Chamberí: Was once THE place where all the aristocrats built their residences. Accordingly, you will find the most stunning street in Madrid here: Calle Zurbano. Also, there are several great tapas bars with outside seating around Plaza De Olavide.
- Salamanca: One of the most exclusive parts of Madrid. You will find all the best hotels, restaurants and shopping here. And lots of great architecture as well.
- Retiro: Historic buildings, museums and Parque del Retiro.
- Chueca: Gay.
- Malasaña: Alternative, avant garde, vibrant.
- Lavapiés: Multi cultural.
Hotels in Madrid
- The Principal Madrid – a lovely and stylish hotel with a roof terrace and spot on location.
- Urso – elegant and luxorious with that extra twist, quite often mentioned in magazines like Vogue and Food and Travel.
- Gran Melía Palacio de la Duques – grand palace in historic hoods.
- The Tótem – rich colors, velvet, bathroom in black marble. Every single detail is well thought out in this boutique hotel.
- Me Madrid – has a good location by a vibrant square. Furthermore, Me Madrid has a great roof terrace with a view over Madrid but if you don’t stay at the hotel you need to pay a few euros to take the elevator up.
Quite allright but maybe not…
Dear Hotel – where we, four besties, stayed. None of us has anything to complain about the Dear Hotel (4*), really, except for the dull reception on the first floor and the location which was a little off, in the farthest end of Gran Vía. It is just that there are so many better hotels in Madrid you might want to try and you want your weekend in Madrid to be perfect. The rooms are pretty basic, but the breakfast – it was fantastic. And so was the view from the roof top bar.
Shopping in Madrid
- You will find El Corte Inglés here and there, but you need to know that the range of products and labels varies greatly between them. El Corte Inglés Serrano 47 (woman) and Serrano 52 (man) have more trendy and exclusive brands.
- Calle de Serrano: Manolo Blahnik, Zara, Mango, Üterque, Gucci, Louis Vitton, Massimo Dutti, Miu Miu, Stella McCartney, Michael Kors, etc.
- Calle Fuencarral closer to Gran Vía.
- Calle Preciados: All kinds of stuff, from Carolina Herrera to Pepe jeans. More high street shopping.
- Tatel – this fab bar is crowded till 10 pm, then everyone moves on.
- Celso y Manolo – order a pisco sour and possibly some tapas to go with it.
- La Terraza – Hotel Principal’s beautiful roof terrace.
- Ten con Ten – the bar is always crowded and the terrace is a big hit summer time.
- Sky Bar and 360 Terrace of Riu Hotel – the view doesn’t get any better than this. If you are not staying at the hotel (actually the rooms seem just so and so as far as I can tell), you will have to pay 5 euro to get in.
- Bodega de la Ardosa – no fancy-pants stuff but the tapas are greater than great.
- Vi Cool – gourmet tapas.
- Taberna el Tempranillo – according to many, el Tempranillo has the best tapas in Madrid.
Restaurants in Madrid
Note! Everyone has dinner really, really late in Madrid, around 10 pm or later.
- Calle de Jorge Juan is known as the street of gastronomy.
- La Primera – great fish and a long wine list.
- Taramara – super trendy interior but the food is even better. Taramara was chosen for the best restaurant in 2017 by Asocación de Cocineros y Reposteros de Madrid and it keeps up the good work still.
- Los Gallos – trendy, popular, good food – only great vibes in this one.
- Maquina-gruppen has several fun restaurants, I have not eaten here before but I look forward to making a reservation at La Maquina Jorge Juan next time I visit Madrid.
- Amazónico – a perfect place for a drink in the bar, a dinner and a little bit of a disco dancing on top of that. Trendy.
- Fortuny – you have it all under one magnificant roof: Magical terrace, restaurant and a club. Just the interior design makes your heart go faster, so the wow-factor is real.
- Ochentagrados – especially Ochentagrados Castellana and Malasaña.
- Azotea del Círculo – popular rooftop bar and restaurant. Me like!
- Amazónico – the Jungle Jazz Club is a great night club down in the cellar of Amazónico. If you have your dancing shoes on but don’t want to wait till the clubs open at 3-4 am this is where you will be heading around midnight. The Jungle Jazz Club sometimes has shows earlier in the evening so be sure to check out what’s on the schedule.
- Fortuny – super exclusive night club, see also above.
- Cardamomo – not to be missed if you love flamenco.
Sights in Madrid
- Puerta de Alcalá – triumphal gate by the El Retiro park which once was the main entrance to the city. Puerta de Alcalá is one of the most famous monuments in Madrid.
- Puerta Del Sol is the most famous square in Madrid, surrounded by interesting buildings. The giant bear eating fruit from a tree (the symbol of Madrid) stands here and the shopping street Calle Preciados starts from this point.
- Plaza Mayor – the square is surrounded by stately buildings, restaurants and street artists. It is fun to walk by Plaza Mayor but skip the rest. Warning for lots of tourists.
- Palacio Real de Madrid – the official residence of the Spanish royal family and a magnificent baroque castle. If you plan on visiting buy the tickets online in advance.
- Templo del Debod – an Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Temple del Depod stands in the middle of a beautiful park and is well worth a visit, especially at sunset.
Museo del Prado – the finest collection of art of European – and especially Spanish – in the world. Velazques’ Las Meninas and Hieronymos Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights are on display, among other amazing pieces.
Thyssen-Bornemisza – Madrid’s third largest art museum is found in the Villahermosa Palace, an important architectural work in its own right from the 17th century.
Parque del Retiro
Just stroll around and enjoy the beautiful alleys, all the trees and flowers, sit down at one of the cafés and have some ice cream. Or rent a rowing boat. El Parque del Retiro is a must visit when in Madrid.
The food Market Mercado de San Miguel has so many varieties of food and small restaurants it most certainly will satisfy the gourmand in you. Buy some lunch to go but be warned: To say that it is crowded is an understatement.