Come for the art, stay for the road life

With dazzling light and bright blue skies for much of the season, Madrid will be an energising city even with no world-class museums and the buzzing nightlife. The centre is smartening itself up, too, with new boutiques, delis, cafés and gastrobars opening every week, but it’s the original tapas bars and tiny shops that are the real soul of the city. Wherever you stay, you can usually walk to the major museums, such as the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia, which all have astounding collections, but what could make you smile long after you’ve left is the small things you see on the way as you stroll through the various neighbourhoods.

Madrid is all about spontaneity and even the best-laid plans tend to have forgotten following a few days as you put on the swing of the city. Don’t feel guilty about abandoning your cultural agenda, it really means you’re behaving like a true Madrileño Visit for travsel info about madrid.

Kickstart your system with a conventional breakfast of churro fritters dipped into gloopy hot chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés 5; 00 34 91 365 6546), that has been keeping Madrilenians carbed up since 1894. You might well have to queue but service is quick.

Cut down to Calle Arenal, turn right and immediately left up Calle Maestro Victoria, which leads to the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Plaza de las Descalzas; 00 34 91 454 8800). Originally a palace, the convent was founded in the mid-16th century by Juana, King Felipe II’s sister. It is still home to a small community of nuns and contains an extraordinarily rich number of art and tapestries.

Walk down Calle San Martín and along Calle Bordadores to to the Plaza Mayor to take up 400 years of history. Framed by red-brick buildings and slate turrets, the square is has just been transformed with 1,100 plants and 100 trees and the pavement cafés have had a revamp too.


Dive in to the adjacent Mercado de San Miguel (Plaza de San Miguel; 00 34 91 542 4936) for a fast bite. Madrid’s first gourmet market is celebrating a very successful decade with the arrival of Michelin-starred chefs, including Rodrigo de la Calle’s paella stall and Jordi Roca’s Rocambolesc ice-cream outlet.

Wander down the Calle Mayor to the Puerta del Sol square and be aware of the’kilometre zero’plaque on the pavement facing the Casa de Correos (now the headquarters of the regional government), which marks the state centre of Spain. Have a photo next to the statue of a bear jumping up at an arbutus tree, which is the symbol of Madrid Visit for travsel info about madrid.
• The very best free things to accomplish in Madrid

Have a mooch across the shops as you walk up Calle Preciados to the Gran Vía, the avenue that cuts through the town and was built-in the first 50% of the 20th century – look up at the domes on the rooftops.

In early evening, get right in to the Madrid vibe by going for a tapas tour around the absolute most traditional neighbourhoods, learning a little bit of history and how exactly to order in busy bars as you go. Try Devour Tours (00 34 695 111 832), because they concentrate on family-run places and offers many different routes, taking in the oldest taverns (such as Casa Botín), modern gastrobars and speciality food shops.

Having its maroon wooden façade, marble tables red and velvet banquettes, Café Central (Plaza del Ángel 10; 00 34 91 369 4143), just off Plaza de Santa Ana, is really a much-loved institution that’s favored by all ages and gets packed for the jazz and blues concerts that happen every night at 10pm.

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