How many Madrids does Madrid conceal? Madrid is a city with an edifying past, but at the same time it’s a modern metropolis that looks to the future while preserving its customs and traditions. Madrid boasts a range of constantly changing cultural, shopping, gastronomic and leisure offerings. It’s the ultimate museum city, with the magnificent Prado Museum, the modern Reina Sofía Museum and the diverse Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. It’s a city of bold and traditional cuisine –with cocido madrileño (Madrid chickpea stew) topping the list of its gastronomic offerings– but it’s also open to new, innovative culinary arts. Madrid is cosmopolitan on the avenue of Gran Vía, pensive and serene in the Chamberí district, fast-paced in neighbourhoods like Huertas, Chueca and Malasaña and elegant in Los Jerónimos and the Salamanca district.
Madrid invites you to live and to enjoy the myriad experiences it offers. We are sure that this visit will spark a desire to return to Madrid in the future. That is our greatest hope.
To really get to know a city like Madrid, which has over one thousand years of history, you need to dedicate some time to it. One basic initial itinerary would be a stroll through the world that exists among paintings, architecture and nature in one of Madrid’s iconic areas: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Enjoy this charming part of the city which is not only home to the Botanical Garden, but also to three of the world’s most important museums: the Prado Museum, considered by many to be the best art gallery in the world, the Reina Sofía Museum, which houses Picasso’s Guernica, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the world’s greatest private art collection. Continue along the route towards Plaza Mayor. This impressive arcaded square has been the centre of city life since the court of Philip II, and was built to serve various needs: a venue for theatrical performances, a civic centre, a market, etc.
And what would Madrid be without its Puerta del Sol, the beating heart of the city? There is likely no place that better represents the city’s medley of cultures and its image as an open and cosmopolitan place. Upon arriving, you’ll become aware of the number of landmarks that the square has acquired over time: the clock that chimes the countdown on 31 December, the famous statue of The Bear and the Strawberry Tree, and Kilometre Zero, the point that all of Spain’s motorways are measured from.
Madrid’s sky is one of its iconic attractions, and it will afford you some spectacular sunsets. You can watch the sun go down from the Temple of Debod in Oeste Park, from the dome of La Almudena Cathedral, from Las Vistillas Gardens, from the gardens of the Royal Palace or from the hills of Cerro del Tío Pío Park.
And there’s another symbol of the city for you to discover: Plaza de la Cibeles, one of the most beautiful, central and well-known places in Madrid. It is presided over by a majestic fountain, a city landmark which, along with the fountains of Apollo and Neptune, is one of the decorative elements found along the Paseo del Prado boulevard. Cibeles Palace, also located on the square, is the current seat of the City Council as well as housing a must-visit cultural centre with a terrace from which you can discover Madrid from up high.
If there’s one thoroughfare that truly embodies Madrid, however, it’s undoubtedly the Gran Vía. Wander down this busy avenue and really get the feel of the city of Madrid. Stretching for nearly one and a half kilometres, it’s lined with a vast array of shops, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. As you continue to explore the capital’s urban heritage, be sure not to miss another essential route. Head north to soak up the energy of the Paseo de la Castellana whose tall iconic buildings shape the skyline of the city’s financial centre. This large avenue is also home to Real Madrid’s famous football stadium, Santiago Bernabéu.
In addition to all this, the city boasts numerous parks and gardens. Nobody should miss out on the pleasure of strolling through parks like El Retiro, the city’s most historically and artistically important green space and one of the world’s most beautiful urban parks, gardens such as Campo del Moro or places like Madrid Río, a new space in Madrid located along the banks of the Manzanares River.
If you want to buy something unique, El Rastro, an outdoor flea market with over 400 years of history, is held in the neighbourhood of La Latina every Sunday and on public holidays. The main street of this extremely popular bazaar is Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores, which begins in Plaza de Cascorro and ends at La Ronda de Toledo.
Madrid has two main train stations: Atocha and Chamartín. All long-distance trains arrive at one station or the other. Atocha Station is also the main departure and arrival point of the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española, or “Spanish High-Speed”), which currently travels to the cities of Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona, Barcelona, Huesca, Málaga, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Albacete and Valencia, among others. High-speed trains to Segovia and Valladolid leave from Chamartín Station.
There are also two scenic routes in the city that can be done on the Madrid City Tour bus, with stops at the most representative museums, historic sites and monuments. The city also boasts one of the world’s most extensive metro networks, making it easy to get around Madrid, and urban buses travel around the entire city.
Madrid’s cultural life is among the most vibrant in the world, and this is evident all around the city. Its calendar of events always has something to suit every taste. Big names in music and theatre are always passing through the city, but there’s also an endless number of small venues where you can enjoy less prominent bands or more experimental plays. The Teatro Real opera house, the National Music Auditorium, Teatro Circo Price, Teatro Español, Teatro Fernán Gomez and Las Naves del Matadero are just some of a long list of venues that host the city’s theatre offerings and other shows.
Madrid also has major cultural centres that organise various cultural programmes simultaneously and are housed in unique buildings, such as CentroCentro, located in Cibeles Palace, the seat of Madrid’s City Council, Conde Duque Cultural Centre, which was once an important barrack, Círculo de Bellas Artes, where Picasso attended painting classes as a student in the early 20th century, and La Casa Encendida, located in a Neo-Mudéjar style building. There are exhibitions, cultural projects, creations by artists set in modern spaces and complexes devoted to art in the city of Madrid.
Some people say that the best thing about Madrid is its people. Without them, none of this cultural vitality would be possible. And if there’s one thing that defines the city, it’s its lifestyle; a lifestyle that is evident in its streets, squares, bars, restaurants, outdoor cafés… Madrileños are welcoming and fun-loving by nature.
In neighbourhoods like Chueca, Malasaña, Lavapiés, Madrid de los Austrias (Hapsburg Madrid), La Latina, Conde Duque and Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter), each of which has its own personality, the lifestyle that has made Madrid famous around the world is palpable.
The city’s nightlife is one of its main attractions. Tapas and cocktail bars, nightclubs, jazz clubs, music cafés, tablaos (flamenco clubs) and establishments of all kinds will please people of all ages and tastes.
Madrid has been continually renewing itself in recent years. To understand the dynamism of the city you need to walk through the new Madrid Río Park, which was built on what until a few years ago was a city motorway. It has now been rerouted underground to make room for an immense park over 7-kilometres long that you can travel around by bike or on foot, where you’ll find everything from an area to cool off in summer to places to relax and to get some exercise in addition to first-rate cultural facilities, such as Matadero, the former municipal slaughterhouse, which has been transformed into one of Europe’s most avant-garde cultural centres.
In this city, gastronomy is culture, leisure and a business. Its culinary offerings are amazingly varied: in Madrid you can enjoy home-style cooking or the boldest and most innovative cuisine. The city has international food from all over the world, and top-quality ingredients. Madrid’s kitchens turn out the most surprising dishes in contemporary gastronomy.
Among its over 3,000 establishments, you’ll find everything from the most elegant restaurant to the tavern most famous for its tapas. And going out for tapas is one of the main attractions in our city, where you absolutely must try a calamari sandwich in the area around Plaza Mayor, or give in to the temptation of the bite-sized creations some of the new gastrobars are offering as part of a renewed culinary model.
For those who prefer traditional flavours, make sure to try Madrid’s most iconic dish: cocido madrileño. It has the distinction of being a three-course meal in itself: a first course of soup, a second course of vegetables and chickpeas and a third course of meat.
If you want to try this dish, the best place to do so is unquestionably at one of the nearly 30 restaurants over one hundred years old in Madrid, which have become part of the city’s cultural and historic heritage due to their unique beauty and the fact that they’ve remained in business over the years.
But if what you fancy is some signature, Michelin-starred cuisine, Madrid is home to a vast selection of stellar eateries. Following the release of the prestigious Michelin guide’s 2018 edition, the city of Madrid now boasts 17 restaurants with Michelin stars: DiverXO with three; Santceloni, La Terraza del Casino, Ramón Freixa Madrid, Coque, El Club Allard and DSTAgE, with two; and Kabuki, Kabuki Wellington, Álbora, La Cabra, Punto MX, Lúa, A’Barra, Gaytán and two new additions La Candela Restó and Cebo, all with one star. In addition, the outskirts of the city are home to another four one-star restaurants: Casa José, Chirón, Montia and El Invernadero.
Today the city of Madrid is an essential shopping destination. You can find practically anything here. People come looking for the most specific, sophisticated and outlandish items. Variety is a hallmark of Madrid’s shopping: from the luxury designer shops in Barrio de Salamanca to the most alternative clothing in Calle Fuencarral. Madrid transcends fashion; its style is impossible to define. It can be seen as the sum of all trends: a surprising and vibrant pastiche.
Barrio de Salamanca and its famous Golden Mile glitter more brightly than ever before following the remodelling of Calle Serrano. Wider pavements enable shoppers to take in every detail of the windows of the top national and international brands.
Gran Vía is home to the most popular fashion brands and some prestigious jewellers. If there’s one adjective that defines the shopping area encompassed by Chueca, Calle Fuencarral, Malasaña and Triball, it’s “avant-garde”. This is where the youngest and most modern fashion brands and some of the most important young designers are located.
Las Salesas neighbourhood is a veritable fashion runway where you’ll find the most stylish contemporary creations. And the most traditional shopping can be found around Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, which have shops that are often over a hundred years old where you can find everything from a unique fan to a carefully-embroidered Manila shawl.
On top of all that, you won’t want to miss the Mercado de San Miguel Market or the Mercado de San Antón, two of Madrid’s most famous gastronomic markets where you can do everything from buying top-quality foods to enjoying that same food on-site, accompanied by a glass of nice wine or a beer poured like they only know how to do in Madrid.