Spain’s capital is a stylish and colourful destination, rivalling any European city with its cultural and gastronomical delights. It offers a wide range of shopping from traditional markets to designer boutiques, and its bars,nightclubs and year-round fiestas secure its reputation as a party town. There are options for every traveller, from luxury accommodation to comfortable hostels, and with dozens of museums, art galleries and theatres, you’ll never be short of something to do.
Getting and staying here
Madrid is easily reached from any major European city, meaning it’s popular with backpackers and people taking short breaks. Budget airlines such as Easyjet offer plenty of flights here, but be sure you are covered with adequate insurance, especially if you plan to travel with medical conditions. Hotel and flight packages are available through companies such as Expedia and Travelocity, and can save you money compared to booking them separately. There are also options for the more adventurous such as arriving by rail, with an overnight ‘trainhotel’ running from Paris to Madrid and arriving in the centre first thing in the morning. Getting on to your final destination is also easy, with one of the largest metro networks in the world with 231 stations, meaning you can get to and from the airport or hop across town with ease.
Like any capital city, staying in Madrid can be expensive. You may be put of by thoughts of hostelling, but the Hostal Acapulco offers private rooms in the heart of the city from around €49per night. There are plenty of basic, but stylish hotels in the city which can be snapped up for bargain prices. The Axor Feria costs from just €55 a night, and although slightly out of the centre, it’s close to a metro station and offers the amenities you’d expect from an upmarket hotel such as LCD TVs, oversize showers and mini bars.
Blow your budget and go for one of the luxury hotels in Madrid, from the Hotel Orfila, a boutique hotel housed in a XIX century palace, and reflecting the style of the era, to the elegant Hotel Villa Magna which offers contemporary styling, spa treatments and a butler service in its most exclusive suites.
Things to do
Now that you’ve got settled, it’s time to explore. In a city like this, where to begin? For some gorgeous holiday snaps visit the over-the-top Royal Palace of Madrid. As the official residence of the Spanish royal family, its Rocco style and wealth of art works is bound to impress. If that’s not enough art works, then the Prado Museum has one of the biggest collections in the world, from Goya to Van Dyck, the exhibitions are constantly changing. Prefer your art a little more contemporary? The Caixaforum tends to show more contemporary exhibitions, and with free admission it’s a must-see. There are also many beautiful churches to visit, such as St. Jerome the Royal which dates back to 1464.
If you need to relax after all that culture, visit the Salamanca district for high-end shops such as Chanel, Gucci and Prada. If your budget is more on the High Street scale, then ABC Serrano offers three floors of fashion, accessories and shoes from some of Spain’s most popular brands.
You are truly spoiled for choice in Madrid when it comes to restaurants. El Club Allard offers imaginative dishes prepared by Michelin-starred chefs. Choose between three tasting menus with several courses of creatively presented courses, a true gastronomic journey. If you prefer more traditional cuisine, Alcaravea offers set tapas menu and has an informal and cosy atmosphere. For cheap eats, try one of the local, smaller tapas restaurants. Bars will sometimes give you free dishes if you’re ordering drinks. Try El Tigre, famous for offering generous amounts of free tapas to soak up the alcohol. You don’t get any say in what you’re given, but isn’t that part of the adventure?
Madrid has an eclectic range of nightlife, so you’re bound to find something that appeals. From chilled out late night bars, to large, trendy clubs like Fabrik and Space of Sound. The city is also home to some of the best live music venues in Europe, enjoy legendary flamenco at Cardamomo or rock music at Honky Tonk. There’s something going on every night of the week.
There’s so much to do in Madrid, it’s hard to fit it all into a short break. Consider booking a whole week, or even more, to explore all the beautiful places this city offers.