Hispanophile Clemmy Manzo eats and drinks her way through Madrid’s neighbourhoods, stopping off at boutiques, galleries, museums and gardens along the way.
With most of the city either crawling into bed or just waking up, there’s no better time to take on a few of Madrid’s busiest areas than before they fill with people. Start with a stroll past the Palacio Real (Calle Bailén) – technically the official residence of the king, although he actually lives just outside of Madrid. Next to the palace, scope out La Almudena Cathedral, whose construction began in the 16th century, but was only completed in 1993 – just in time for the marriage of Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia in 2004. Then, to sample the ultimate late night and early morning snack, journey toward the city centre, past the Teatro Real, to Café El Riojano (Calle Mayor 10, 91 366 4482). Dating back to 1885, this classic café serves up traditional cups of wickedly thick hot chocolate, best paired up with a side of bizcochos de soletilla (ladyfingers), or else try their signature pine nut tart.
Zigzag your way around the corner to admire Madrid’s main square, Plaza Mayor and all 237 of its balconies. A short walk away is the Barrio de Las Letras, its streets named after the Golden Age writers that inhabited them. A plaque on Calle Cervantes marks the place where Spain’s most famous writer lived and penned the second part of Don Quixote, before dying impoverished in 1616. More impressive is the Casa Museo Lope de Vega on the same street (Cervantes 11, 91 429 9216), a restored 16th-century building, once the home of the illustrious playwright. The museum-house contains a mix of Lope de Vega’s own belongings and faithful reproductions of 17th-century furniture, giving an insight into life during this era. The ghosts of Zorilla and arch-enemy Queveda live on too – look down and you’ll see extracts of their novels inscribed on the area’s pedestrianized streets. From here, whizz down a couple of metro stops to the Real Fábrica de Tapices (Calle de Fuenterrabía 2, 91 434 0550). Founded by Philip V in 1721, this factory produced pieces for the Spanish royal family. Today, 300 years on, it continues to create refined works that represent Spain’s rich historical heritage. The Fábrica is also where Goya started his artistic career as a tapestry designer before moving on to work as court painter.
Travel out to the city’s main east-west thoroughfare, Gran Vía, an avenue originally built in the early 1900s as a means to cross the city. Traversing Gran Vía, head due north down Fuencarral, which divides Madrid’s most bohemian neighbourhoods, Chueca and Malasaña. Along the pedestrian street, you can indulge in shopping from both well-known and not-so-well-known boutiques alike. Split off down Augusto Figueroa for a selection of specialty shoe shops, or for an even more authentically Spanish shopping experience, break left into the Malasaña neighbourhood, setting your sights on Antigua Casa Crespo (Calle del Divino Pastor 29, 91 521 5654). The 150-year-old shop sells quintessentially Spanish alpargatas (espadrilles) for the wallet-friendly price of under €10. Male fashionistas shouldn’t miss the chance to get suited and booted at trendy tailor’s, Garcia Madrid (Corredera Baja de San Pablo 26, 91 522 0521). Polish off your shopping spree with a café con leche at local hotspots like the traditional-but-trendy Café Pepe Botella (Calle San Andrés 12, 91 522 4309) or quirky La Musa (Calle de Manuela Malasaña 18, 91 448 7558).
Do as the Madrileños and stop off for pre-lunch vermouth. Head to Bar El 2D (Calle Velarde 24, 91 448 6472), a classic spot famous not only for its fresh-from-the-tap vermouth but also for its time-honoured décor, complete with tiled bar and faux neoclassical pillars. After you’ve warmed up your taste buds, treat yourself to an innovative tasting menu devised by star chef Ferran Adrià. One of Madrid’s most beautiful restaurants, the Michelin-starred La Terraza del Casino (Calle de Alcalá 15, 91 532 1275) is, as the name suggests, on the top floor of Madrid’s opulent casino. If you fancy something lighter, opt for tapas at the recently refurbished El Mercado de San Antón (Calle de Augusto Figueroa 24, 91 330 0730). There, you can sample flavours from various tapas bars within the multistorey market, or, if you’re keen for a rooftop meal, dine alfresco at the Cocina de San Antón (Calle de Augusto Figueroa 24, 91 330 0294), located above the market on the third floor.
Bypass the enormous Parque del Retiro and instead burn off your lunch with a healthy walk around the more manageable 8-hectare Real Jardin Botánico (Plaza de Murillo 2, 91 420 3017). Brimming with 30,000 species of flora ranging from exotic South American plants to Japanese foliage, the botanical gardens also boast a statue of King Carlos III and a series of fountains. A stone’s throw away is the Paseo del Prado, where Madrid’s world-famous art galleries are located. But if you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, hop onto the metro and make your way to Legazpi for a dose of hipster art and culture at Mataderos Madrid (Plaza de Legazpi 8, 91 517 7309). The neo-Mudéjar buildings of this former slaughterhouse were converted into a contemporary art centre in the early 2000s. Highlights include a reading space, a recording studio and concert hall, a micro-cinema showing non-fiction films, a design centre and a performing arts space.
While your itinerary might not allow for you to catch a proper match, that doesn’t mean you still can’t satisfy your football craving. With a visit to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium Museum (Avenida de Concha Espina 1, 91 398 4370) – home to the Real Madrid Football Club – you’ll have access to check out the presidential box, see the dressing rooms and get up close and personal with the famous team’s trophy collection. Open almost every day of the year except on match days, you’ll have guaranteed access to football’s finest.
Finish up your day by visiting Barrio de Salamanca – famous as the city’s poshest neighbourhood. Browse high-end boutiques on Calle Claudio Coello just before they close, then head to Harina (Plaza de la Independencia 10, 91 522 8785), where you can prepare for your late Spanish dinner while enjoying views of Puerta de Alcalá and Retiro Park. Make like a local by ordering a clara con limón (beer with lemon soda) or a tinto de verano (red wine with lemon soda, served over ice).
Perch at the bar area for an aperitif at modern fusion restaurant Ten con Ten (Calle Ayala 6, 91 575 9254) before sitting down to dine on succulent dishes such as strawberry gazpacho and roasted black bacalao with truffles. After dinner, make an appearance just down the street at the Philippe Starck-designed Ramses (Plaza de la Independencia 4, 91 435 1666). With multiple rooms for dining, drinking and dancing, it’s the perfect place for people-watching, swanky cocktail in hand. If it’s something more authentic you’re after, then wrap up 24 hours in the Spanish capital with a feet-stomping flamenco show at local’s favourite Casa Patas (Calle de los Cañizares 10, 91 369 0496), in the bohemian neighbourhood of Lavapiés.
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