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Madrid. Leisure Guides.

 

More than just Spain’s capital, Madrid is the centre of the country and its national pride. From traditional architecture to all-night parties and a tapas culture that will never leave you hungry, this is a city worth fully experiencing.

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Getting around


Madrid enjoys a cheap and efficient public transport system that makes it easy to explore. For orientation, head to the main hub of Puerta del Sol, where you can pick up maps and information. The metro has 12 colour-coded lines, is simple to negotiate and offers a range of ticketing options. Other transport options include bus services run by EMT (which offer free WiFi) and an extensive local train network – consisting of commuter trains and light rail – that can take you from one side of the city to the other with minimal fuss. Note that basic bus and metro tickets are interchangeable.
 
There are ample taxis across Madrid, and you can either flag them down or pick one up at a taxi stand. The fares are metered in the usual way, with possible surcharges for luggage or additional passengers. Check with your driver before you set off.
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Getting here

Getting here could not be any easier. We offer many frequent flights from London City Airport and plenty hotel packages. To book flights and hotels please click here.

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Hotels


Madrid has a choice of hotels befitting any modern capital city, which means you’ve got your pick of trusted traditional options as well as properties with a more eccentric touch. Swanky selections at the higher end of the market include the Westin Palace Madrid (Plaza de las Cortes 7), with its elegant décor and stain-glassed cupola dining room. For contemporary chic, the Urban Hotel (Carrera de San Jerónimo 34) offers modern style with a trendy rooftop bar and pool with views of the city. 
 
There are plenty of great four- and three-star options as well. The ME Madrid Reina Victoria (Plaza de Santa Ana 14) is a classy outpost of the Meliá chain that draws a hip young crowd, especially with its Penthouse rooftop bar. Nearby Vincci Centrum Hotel (Calle de Cedaceros 4) provides additional modern flare at a more affordable price point.
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Nightlife


Be prepared to keep up with the relentlessly social Madrileños, who have transformed going out into an art form. Across Madrid, visitors can get a taste of the capital’s nightlife, from Malasaña, where the young and hip go to see and be seen, to Gran Vía, the capital’s main thoroughfare. 
 
For cocktail culture, head to Madrid classic Museo Chicote (Calle Gran Vía 12), or Ramses (Plaza de la Independencia 4), where you can dine in the Philippe Starck-designed restaurant before imbibing on gin and tonics at the bar. 
 
Live music permeates the city with jazz jam sessions at El Junco (Plaza de Santa Bárbara 10), and an eclectic variety of funk, soul and R&B at Soul Station (Calle Cuesta de Santo Domingo 22).  
 
Be blown away by the best classical dancers in Madrid at Teatro Real (Plaza de Oriente), or pull a few slick moves of your own at nightclubs such as once 19th-century theatre Joy Eslava (Calle del Arenal 11), or among the posh crowd found at Fortuny (Calle de Fortuny 34).
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Restaurants


As the capital and centre of one of the world’s most culinarily acclaimed countries, Madrid doesn’t disappoint in the cuisine department. The easiest way to get your foodie fix is to make like a Spaniard and got out for tapas in the La Latina neighbourhood. For an all-in-one experience, head to nearby Plaza Mayor to El Mercado de San Miguel for a healthy selection of tapas stops under one roof.
 
Those with more discerning palettes can head to Madrid’s most famous Michelin-starred eateries. Culinary hotspot Diverxo (Calle Pensamiento 28) serves up east-meets-west cuisine which has made it one of the most-coveted reservations in the country. For dinner with a view, try La Terraza del Casino (Calle Alcalá 15). 
 
If you’re looking for more traditional flavours, the options are almost endless. Head to Spanish classic Casa Lucio (Calle Cava Baja 35) for hearty local favourites; La Bola (Calle de la Bola 5) for a taste of Madrid’s most famous dish, cocido madrilène; or extra-trendy Lateral (Plaza de Santa Ana 12) for budget-but-delicious fusion dishes.
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Shopping


Shopping opportunities in Madrid are as plentiful as cold glasses of cerveza on a hot Spanish afternoon. Big designer names blanket the posh streets of the Salamanca district, with Calle Serrano serving as the epicenter of high-end and trendy fashions. The Chueca and Malasaña neighbourhoods also offer their fair share of hip boutiques and mainstream brands, along with a sweet selection of shoes found at shops along Calle de Augusto Figueroa. 
 
For the ultimate outdoor market experience, though, head to El Rastro, which fills the narrow streets of the La Latina neighbourhood every Sunday morning. Bargain your way to retail bliss amongst the stalls before popping into nearby bars for an afternoon tapas crawl. 
 
Department stores in Madrid don’t come much bigger than the huge El Corte Inglés, whose centres are sprinkled throughout the city. Apart from bigger name-brand shops, keep in mind that most small businesses will close for a portion of the afternoon, but stay open late into the evening.
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Top 10 sights

Top 5 sights for first-timers

Museo Nacional del Prado

The Prado’s galleries are filled with the biggest names of the 12th through 19th centuries, from Botticelli to Titian and Rembrandt. The most prized pieces, however, belong to Spanish masters like Goya and Velázquez.

Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23
www.museodelprado.es

Plaza Mayor

It may be overrun with tourists but the famous Madrid square retains much of its original beauty, from the 237 balconies that line it to the statue of King Philip III looking out proudly from the centre.

Plaza Mayor

Puerta del Sol

This is truly the heart of Madrid, and pretty much Spain too, considering all distances are measured from a little plaque found on the ground in front of the clock building. From protests to a massive New Year’s Eve party, Puerta del Sol (the ‘Gate of the Sun’) is where it all goes down.

Puerta del Sol 

Palacio Real

Although incumbent King Juan Carlos I resides in a smaller property outside the city, this grand palace is still used for state functions. Some of its 3,000 royal rooms are available for viewing by the public – arrive early to avoid the crowds.

Plaza de Oriente
www.patrimonionacional.es

Retiro Park

Join the locals for a Sunday morning stroll in this haven of greenery. If the shady avenues and lush gardens aren’t enough for you, look out for street performers, puppet shows, and even stop by the free-to-enter Crystal Palace.

Puerta de Alcalá


Top 5 sights for old hands

Palacio de Comunicaciones

Once the city’s post office, this palatial building now serves as city hall. Visitors can enter free of charge to scope out various expositions, or pay a couple of Euros to head to the top for an unbeatable view of Cibeles Square and the city.

Plaza de Cibeles 1
www.centrocentro.org

CaixaForum

Once an abandoned electrical building, this intriguing architectural work combines new and old, and is flanked by a fabulous vertical garden, designed by the French botanist Patrick Blanc. Although the interior hosts a range of artwork and events, the design and layout of the building itself is reason enough to visit.

Paseo del Prado 36
http://obrasocial.lacaixa.es

El Teleférico

For a truly original view of Madrid, take to the skies in this cable car, which glides over the Manzanares River and Casa de Campo Park. A recorded commentary will help you pick out other iconic sights, before arriving at the city’s amusement park, where you can stop for a visit. Times are seasonal so check the website.

Paseo del Pintor Rosales
www.teleferico.com

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

This former hospital now houses 20th-century works primarily by Spanish artists. Among the many greats, you’ll find creations by masters Dalí, Miró and of course Picasso, who produced the museum’s most famous piece, Guernica.

Calle Santa Isabel 52
www.museoreinasofia.es

El Rastro

One of the oldest and biggest flea markets in Europe, this sprawling collection of 3,500 stalls is a great way to while away a Sunday morning. It also showcases Madrid’s ancient, working-class neighbourhoods. After shopping, hang around for authentic tapas and cold beer.

Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores

Museo Sorolla

This mansion-turned-museum displays the work of Valencia-born impressionist landscape and portrait artist Joaquín Sorolla. Get to know both his work and his home by walking through the still-furnished salons surrounded by walls covered with his masterpieces.

Paseo del General Martínez Campos 37
http://museosorolla.mcu.es

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Top 5 activities


Real Madrid game

Passion at the world-famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium runs high as the home team heroes battle Spanish and European rivals throughout the season. Head to the stadium to get tickets or visit its museum. 
 
Cycling

Madrid is a great city to explore on two wheels. Take to the Madrid Green Cyclist Ring, or strike out in the bigger parks Retiro and Casa de Campo, both perfect for a leisurely ride. 
 
Skiing

You might not think central Spain would be a great ski destination, but from December to May you can head to the nearby Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains and hit the slopes. Facilities are best at the resorts of Navacerrada, Valdesquí and La Pinilla. 
 
Flamenco

Widely held as the best Flamenco show in town, the Corral de la Morería has welcomed dancers and audiences for over 50 years. Come for dinner or drinks, but be sure to stay for the after show, which starts up again 30 minutes or so after the first round of sets ends. 
 
Tapas crawl

Join in the ultimate Spanish pastime by spending an afternoon or late evening going out for tapas. In famous tapas neighbourhoods like La Latina, you can grab a drink and bite to eat in one bar before moving onto the next, and then the next, and the next. 
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Top 5 events


Gastrofestival

For two weeks, restaurants, museums and stores offer special menus and food-related events in what is considered a ‘fiesta for the senses’.
 
Date: January/February
Venue: Various
 
Madrid Marathon

Madrid’s famous Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon takes runners on a tour of the city past its most iconic sights, from Santiago Bernabeú Stadium to the Royal Palace and through Casa de Campo. Between the altitude and unexpected inclines, this run will make for an enjoyable challenge.
 
Date: April
Venue: Various
 
Fiesta de San Isidro

Madrid’s very own patron saint commands a colourful, energetic festival. Kids dress up in traditional Madrileño attire, there’s a procession to the Church of San Isidro, and the city spends five days celebrating with live music performances, street parties and outdoor theatre. 
 
Date: 15 May
Venue: Various
 
Madrid Pride

The vibrant Chueca district plays host to the country’s biggest festival celebrating everything gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. There are panels and workshops as well as extraordinary amounts of partying.
 
Date: June/July
Venue: Various
 
New Year’s Eve

Spaniards don’t just count down to the New Year in Puerta del Sol, but they usher it in with the eating of 12 grapes in sync with the clock chimes, and all while wearing red underwear for good luck.
 
Date: December
Venue: Puerta del Sol

Written by World Travel Guide

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