For the best weather and fewer crowds, go to Madrid in May, when you’ll find daily temperatures in the 60s. Another good time to go is in the fall, especially October, when the weather has not gotten too cold and again there will not be tourists getting in your way. Summer days in Madrid can be very hot, and although August is very quiet as most Madrileños leave the city for their holidays, you will find that restaurants and shops are often shut down as well. Afternoons in July and August can climb into the 100s, so plan ahead and be prepared if you want to walk through the city’s sights—it might be better to go out for a bit in the morning and then join the siesta after lunch!
Madrid is a large capital city with over five million people living in the greater metropolitan area. Because there are so many small windy streets in the city, be sure to get a good map before you go or upon arrival. You will find that the free tourist maps found in hotels do not often include enough detail. The center of the city is where most of the beautiful architecture, meandering streets, outdoor cafés, elegant art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants will give any visitor plenty to do. Dissecting city center is the Gran Vía, from which you can easily walk to the Plaza Mayor and Royal Palace. Across Castellana Avenue and north you will find the Plaza Castilla and the spacious charms of Parque del Retiro. At the other side of Castellana Avenue is the Paseo del Prado and the not-to-be-missed Prado museum, as well as Recoletos, where you can take a break at some of the city’s best outdoor cafés. While you are in Madrid, be sure to walk from the Puerta del Sol to the Royal Palace along the new Arenal pedestrian promenade; enjoy tapas in the bars of La Latina District; catch some musical theatre at the beautiful Gran Vía Theatre; and taste churros with hot chocolate in the Callejón de San Ginés.
Travel with Kids
Madrid is a welcoming, kid-friendly city. Kids will love exploring the winding streets of the old city with their tiled street-name plaques. There are some fun street names for kids to decipher like Calle de la Sal (“Salt Street”), Calle del Leon (“Lion Street”), and Calle de las Jardines (“Gardens Street”). See how many statues you can find with Spanish horses, from King Felipe III at the Plaza Mayor and Felipe IV at the Plaza de Oriente, to the statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at the Plaza de Espana, to Alfonso XII in the Retiro Park, and Carlos III in Puerta del Sol. Head to Valor Chocolateria or Chocolateria San Ginés for churros and hot chocolate; visit the Museo del Prado (if you can, get a picture book in advance so that children will appreciate and recognize some of the masterpieces); go boating in the park; and try Spanish pastries and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It is fun to stop in the shops around the big plazas—there you will find lots of mini bulls, Read Madrid gear, street tile replicas, bullfighting posters, Spanish style hair combs, and traditional shawls (manton de manila). Madrid is also a great city for the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus. You will cover a lot of ground, and the kids can get a rest from walking.
Madrid has a useful and sophisticated public transportation system. Beginning from the airport, from which you can take the metro into city center, you will find that it’s easy to get around the city. The city bus system is also helpful, and there are plenty of taxis to pick up if you choose not to ride the bus or metro. The Abono Turistico, or tourist travel pass, offers day passes and is available at the Plaza Mayor tourist office. Also available is the ten-in-one metrobus ticket. There have been lots of updates to the metro system in the past decade making longer distances accessible. You will find that the color-coded system is easy enough to navigate as well. Puerta del Sol is the heart of the metro system; be aware that trains can get very crowded during rush hours. Visit www.metromadrid.es for more information. To get to other regional destinations, the train and bus system can also accommodate. Madrid taxis are easily recognizable with black or white cars and a red band with a small insignia of a bear and madroño tree (symbols of Madrid) on the side. When you hail a cab be sure the meter starts when you begin your journey. Having a car in the city is not recommended as parking is difficult to get and there is almost always traffic nearly everywhere.
The Hospes Madrid is a 41-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel in Madrid, Spain. This nice hotel is located right next to the Parque del Retiro in front of Puerta de Alcala. At Hospes Madrid guests are given a singular combination of peace and urban life in the very heart of Madrid. Every room at Hospes is a dream. All rooms are very comfortable and airy, with 29 m2 of space, a king-size bed with Egyptian cotton, turndown service, high-speed Internet, and a plasma screen television. For the ultimate luxury book the 52-m2 Grand Suite, which comes with two bedrooms united by a lounge and views of la Puerta de Alcalá and el Parque del Retiro. Guests can dine at the Senzone Restaurant, where you can savor a balanced combination of the local cuisine along with the most refreshing and surprising dishes. The Senzone Tapas Bar offers an ideal place to take a break and have a comforting and nutritious meal in front of the amazing Alcalá Gate. The Senzone Chill-Out Patio is a space where peace reigns and where the sofas’ comfort and murmuring water invite one to relax with a coffee or drink in a Chill-Out environment, also with a hint of French style. BODYNA is the hotel’s signature spa, which offers an area for massage and spa treatments, a fitness room, a sauna, a pilates room, and an indoor pool. If you need to organize a meeting, a conference, or a business appointment, Hospes can accommodate with services including meeting room rentals, coffee breaks in the morning and afternoon, business lunch (including beverages), and complimentary use of a projector, screen, flipchart, laptop, and wifi.
Vincci Via Hotel
The Vincci Via Hotel is a 116-room, 5-star, luxury boutique hotel located in the heart of Madrid between Plaza España and the Puerta Del Sol. The hotel is also near the renowned Gran Via Theatre, which offers a variety of international music and dance acts throughout the year. Vincci Via Hotel offers an array of accommodations perfect for luxury vacation travel, including several rooms with private terraces and three handicap-accessible rooms. Rooms offer mood adjustable lighting, complimentary Internet, air conditioning, writing desk, blackout drapes, minibar, and pillow menu. Visit the Nammu Corner Areas Spa where you can enjoy private thermal treatments or therapeutic massage. For meeting and events, the hotel offers the Opera room and the Zarzuela room. The Vincci Via luxury hotel has contemporary design that will surprise even the most demanding eye, with a unique twist of theatrical splendor entwined with distinctive design features ensuring that you enjoy Madrid and all its delights from the moment you step inside. This nice, luxury hotel is great for weekend getaways or an extended vacation.
A member of Room Mate Hotels, the Laura is a “temperamental, sexy, innovative” luxury boutique hotel in Las Descalzas District. Just steps from the Puerto del Sol and the bohemian La Latina District, Laura has 36 rooms in a variety of configurations including studio, loft, chic loft, and suite. Located in the Plaza de las Descalzas, Laura is near the Plaza Mayor, the Royal Theatre, the Royal Palace, and Gran Via Avenue. Services and amenities include breakfast buffet, kitchenettes, laundry, safe, air conditioning, complimentary wifi, plasma television with DVD, conference room rental, booking for local attractions, and airport transportation arrangements. Rooms at Laura were designed by Tomás Alía in an avantgarde style that is colorful and comfortable.
Urban Hotel Madrid
Urban Hotel Madrid is a luxury boutique hotel located in the museum triangle formed by the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and the Queen Sofia Foundation. Just minutes away from Paseo del Prado, Puerta del Sol, and El Retiro park, Hotel Urban features 102 exquisite guest rooms decorated with a harmonious mix of materials and an exuberant collection of Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu, and African pieces. With a marked Art-Deco style and avantgarde architecture, the Hotel Urban is a boutique from the 21st century ideal for exacting lovers of luxury who shy from convention. It stands out not only in the hotel panorama but also among Madrid’s dining establishments and nighttime entertainment venues thanks to Europa Decó and the Glass Bar. Jordi Clos, developer and Chairman of Derby Hotels Collection, is a lover of hotels, art, and culture. Renowned in Spain as a collector, scholar, and patron of the arts, he is also known for heading the archaeological foundation that bears his name and the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona. With the Derby Hotels Collection he has created unique, original spaces, bringing together art, luxury, and culture. Each hotel has its own identity, according to its history and location and each houses its own art collection, which makes each hotel a small museum of inestimable artistic value.
Hotel Silken Puerta América
The Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid is an idea of freedom come true, a gathering space merging different cultures and ways of interpreting architecture and design. A masterpiece that awakens guests’ senses, that breaks the mould by using different colors, materials, and shapes, this five-star luxury hotel ushers guests into innovative spaces. The Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid has brought together 19 top architecture and design studios from 13 different countries. Originality, luxury, innovation, and formal freedom define a hotel that awakens its guests’ senses. Each of the 12 floors showcases a different concept in hotel rooms. All play with different materials, colors, and shapes to create spaces that bring together the best in avantgarde design and architecture, where creativity and the freedom to develop each of the spaces has been the hallmark. Try one of the 12th-floor Senior Suites designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. With 95 m², these spacious suites include a hall, bedroom, lounge area, walk-in closet, large bathroom, panoramic views of Madrid, complimentary wifi, light and window control panels, two flat-screen televisions, LOEWE toiletries, SOLAN DE CABRAS natural mineral water, and a selection of ORIOL BALAGUER chocolates.
You will fine dozens of fine restaurants in Madrid. The Spanish enjoy their dinners, often eating quite late and savoring many courses. Take your time and try the many varieties of unique cuisines available in this amazing city. Casa Lucio is a popular choice with politicians and celebrities offering classic Castilian food and a good wine list. Another celebrity favorite is Jockey. For a taste of Basque try Zalacaín, Principe de Viana, or Asador Donostiarra. For flamenco and food, go to La Corral de la Morería, El Corral de la Pacheca, or Café de Chinitas. Las Cuatro Estaciones has great Mediterranean. Goya supposedly worked at Botín, a restaurant dating from 1725 that takes pride on being the oldest restaurant in the world. Try authentic paella at Restaurante La Barraca and La Buganvilla. Other recommended dining options include Pan de Lujo, Txirimiri, Olsen, and La Terraza del Casino.
In Madrid you will find everything from antiques, furniture, home accessories, to fashion, perfume, and arts and crafts. Some local products include leather accessories, cheese, and wine. City center has the best shopping, especially the shops in Salamanca and the surrounding streets. Walk along the pedestrian area near Calles Preciados and in and around Calles Mayor and Plaza Mayor for shops, boutiques, and stores with all kinds of items. The Mercado de Puerta de Toledo mall offers chic boutiques. For arts and antiques head to the Calle del Prado. Gran Via hosts an array of fashionable stores and boutiques that are sure to inspire those who maintain current trends. Pay attention to opening hours as many stores close during siesta in the afternoon.
Madrid’s Avenue of Art includes the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen museums. Inquire about the Abono Paseo del Arte, which will allow you to visit these three on one pass. Here is a list of the many wonderful museums in and around the city:
Museo del Prado
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (MNCARS)
Centro de la Obra Social La Caixa, Madrid (CaixaForum)
Casa Museo Lope de Vega
Museo Lázaro Galdiano
Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativos
Museo Nacional de Reproducciones Artísticas
Museo Panteón de Goya
Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando
Biblioteca Nacional & Museo Arqueológico Nacional
Museo de América
Museo Naval de Madrid
The nightlife is serious (and fantastic) in Madrid. It starts late and goes through the morning hours. You might want to consider a Madrid Nightlife Tour. These coach tours for all ages introduce visitors to Madrid’s nightlife safely and securely. They take care of entry fees and queues. Kids are welcome in most restaurants and cafés, and even some bars. Madrileños know how to party and they love their discos, bars, restaurants, flamenco, Irish pubs (!), and more. The Chueca District is a night hotspot. Some city center favorite destinations also include Café Central off the Plaza de Santa Ana beside the Gran Hotel Victoria, where you can enjoy great jazz in an art-deco setting. Casa Patas is best for flamenco and La Soleá is a smaller venue with flamenco and other traditional music. For soul, funk, and rock go to El Perro. For the best DJs and dancing head for the gay-friendly Ohm/Bash Line. If nightclubs are not for you, there are a number of alternatives in Madrid. You can catch a film at Cine Doré; get an exquisite cocktail at Del Diego; or see the best of new Spanish theatre at El Canto de la Cabra or Cuarta Pared. Whatever you do end your night with chocolate con churros!
Annual events in Madrid focus mainly on three big festivals: The Fiesta de San Isidro (May 15), the Virgen de la Paloma (August), and the Autumn Festival. In May the Fiesta de San Isidro includes arts and crafts as well as book fairs. Focused mainly on the feast day of 15 May but last for several weeks, the Fiesta de San Isidro also features chulos and chulapas (local couples) parading in castizo (traditional) dress. There are feasts, romerías, and music performances in the Plaza Mayor and other places. There are also daily bullfights. In August the Latin quarter transforms into a crowded riot of music, drinking, and kids activities for the Virgen de la Paloma. The 15 August feast day interrupts the August quiet in the city when firefighters carry a decorated float in honor of Madrid’s patron saint through the streets. In October and November the Autumn Festival, or Feria del Otoño, brings live music featuring the best of European and South American musicians. There is a huge variety with chamber music and orchestras as well as zarzuela (musical comedy) and Arabic and Sephardic music from the Middle Ages.