Bookings Consultant Sarah, a two-year Madrid resident and enduring lover of the city, has recently returned from another visit to Spain’s capital with a camera full of photos and a head full of insider tips. Here she shares her favourite ideas for an alternative Madrid city break.
La azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes
This rooftop bar has, in our opinion, some of the best panoramic views in Madrid. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Sierra! There is plenty of space and you can sit at a table or sprawl out on a sun lounger. There is a small charge to access the rooftop (pay at reception).
Andén 0 – Estación Chamberí
Take a step back in time to 1919. Andén 0 is a Line 1 metro station that closed in 1966 and remained abandoned until a restoration project began in 2006. Now, the station has been returned to its former early 20th-century glory. Gaze at old maps, tiled tunnels and historic advertisements, and watch the metro trains whizz by from the glass enclosed platform. There is also a video about the history of the station. Free entry, open Friday-Sunday only.
Catedral de la Almudena
Don’t miss this when visiting the Palacio Real! This modern cathedral, completed in 1993, makes a striking contrast to Spain’s traditional cathedral architecture; the Neo-Gothic interior is brightly decorated with bold, colourful frescos, stained-glass windows and mosaics. There is also a Neo-Romanesque crypt and excavated remains of Moorish and medieval city walls.
Bar crawl along Cava Baja
This is the main street for tapas bar crawling in Barrio La Latina, and is always packed at the weekend. We especially recommend Lamiak, which is great for pintxos (Basque-style tapas) and cañas (small draught beer).
Situated at the lower end of the Paseo del Prado, across from the Botanical Gardens, this exhibition centre has a fascinating rotation of temporary showings that have ranged from artwork by the Pixar creative department to an incredible Miquel Barceló retrospective. Check the website to see what will be on during your visit. If you don’t have time to go, it’s worth passing by just to see the exterior vertical garden.
Las Cuevas del Sésamo
This local hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1950. Enter through the narrow doorway under the vertical red sign and head downstairs to the subterranean bar, whose walls are covered in famous literary quotes in various languages. There is live piano music in the evening, and you can have a go yourself. The bar serves their famous sangria in small or large pitchers. Be warned, this sangria is potent! It is very busy on weekends.
Mercado de San Miguel
This renovated, historic glass-covered market next to Plaza Mayor is a fantastic place to get a real taste of Spanish cuisine, from the 33 stalls selling everything from wine and cheese to the exclusive delicatessens and fishmongers. You can pop in for a snack or two, or spend a whole evening hopping from counter to counter. Great for buying souvenirs, too!
Hamman Al Andalus
Step inside and you’ll feel miles away from the bustling city. These atmospheric Arab baths have cold, warm, and hot bathing rooms, plus they offer massages and Hamman baths. Check their website for specials and packages.
Done with art galleries or looking for something that the kids will appreciate? This museum is the answer! It was specially created by the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind, so unlike most museums, here you can touch everything. Fun for adults and kids alike, it features scale models of famous monuments, 3D reliefs, works by blind artists, and a bit about the history of braille. Free entry, closed Sundays and Mondays.
Templo de Debod
A rather surprising site located just north of the Royal Palace, this Egyptian temple dates back to 200 BC. It was donated by Egypt in 1968 as a thank you for Spain’s help saving ancient temples threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam. There is a lovely park area around the monument, and behind the temple is a viewing platform with fantastic views out over Casa de Campo park.
Many of Madrid’s museums have free entry days or free evening entry – check their websites for details.