Madrid Revelling lasts long into the night in Spain’s capital (it doesn’t really get going ‘til after ten), and visitors are swiftly addicted to its many charms. With grand avenues, opulent squares and palaces and a real sense of stature, it has an imperial but laid-back Latin charm that rarely fails to move.
The shops along Madrid’s main thoroughfares are these days much the same as you might find in any big European city, but away from the high streets you’ll find a strong number of more individual outlets. The Los Austrias district is good for creative gift shops (and also plays home to the excellent Mercado San Miguel, a magnet for food lovers), while Salamanca has some excellent designer boutiques, and Chueca is a fine place to head for independent stores and funky one-off items. Fans of second-hand books will be in clover among the stalls of Cuesta de Moyano, particularly on Sunday mornings.
Food & Drink
Arguably the greatest joy of any trip to the Spanish capital is the chance to indulge in the local food and drink. And from heaving, sherry-fuelled tapas bars to Michelin-starred temples of new-wave gastronomy, Madrid lays on no shortage of choice. Places to look out for include El Sobrino de Botín (Calle Cuchilleros 17), said to be the world’s oldest eatery, and the tiny Delic Café (Costanilla de San Andrés 14). The nightlife in Madrid is the stuff of legend, and it remains almost obligatory to end the night with hot chocolate and churros – Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés 5) is an institution in this respect.
Noche de Reyes
Noche de Reyes, or ‘The Night of the Kings’, is Spain’s main Christmas celebration, marking the day on which the three kings arrived at Jesus’ crib. A huge parade of floats takes place in Madrid, prior to gift-giving the following day.
A fortnight of musical events, ranging from video screenings and gigs to topical debates and impromptu jam sessions. The ethos of the event – individuals standing up for their rights – ties in with the 2 May anniversary of the 1808 uprising against French occupation.
A colourful celebration in honour of the city’s patron saint, the San Isidro festival is an outlet for a large number of street parties, musical concerts, outdoor markets and night-time fiestas – as well as various religious ceremonies.
Festival of Autumn in Spring
A bonanza of theatre, dance, music, comedy and other performing arts, the Autumn Festival (now rechristened as the ‘Autumn Festival in Spring’ since a date change in 2010) has a busy schedule of events and involves Spanish and international artists.
A mecca for photographers (and fans of photography), this annual event has a presence in numerous museums and galleries across Madrid, with exhibitions being held alongside workshops, talks and other functions. It draws big-name photographers from the international scene.
Madrid is the centre of Spain geographically, politically, and to a certain extent culturally, so attracts large visitor numbers. There are hotels by the hundred, with location often key to their appeal. The five-star Hotel Ritz Madrid (Plaza de la Lealtad 5), part of the Orient Express Group, is close to the city’s main art galleries, as is the three-star design property Hotel One Shot 23 (Calle Prado 23). In the upscale Salamanca district, Hotel Adler (Calle Velázquez 33) occupies a 19th-century mansion, while elsewhere a location close to the airport makes Axor Feria (Calle Campezo 4) a notable choice.