You’ve done the Prado, the Reina Sofia, the royal palace… but there’s plenty more to explore in the buzzing Spanish capital. Here’s a round-up of our favourite Madrid haunts, from lesser-known museums to the best rooftop bars.

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid

Sherry and sangria  

Whenever we’re in Madrid, we make a beeline for Cuevas Sesamo on Calle Príncipe. Enter the narrow doorway under the red sign and head downstairs to the underground bar, whose walls are covered in literary quotes. It serves only one thing: its famous (and rather potent!) sangria.
Calle Príncipe 7; metro Sol or Sevilla

If sherry is more your thing, try the wide selection at wonderfully shabby La Venencia, which acted as a Republican hangout during the Spanish Civil War and has barely changed since. Although it’s tempting, don’t take photos or you’ll be told off!
Calle Echegaray 7; metro Sol or Sevilla

Madrileños are obsessed with rooftop bars. Our favourite is Azotea del Círculo, the terrace atop cultural centre El Círculo de Bellas Artes. It has panoramic views of the city, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the mountains beyond. There’s a small charge for access, but it’s worth it.
Calle de Alcalá 42; metro Banco de España or Sevilla

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Azotea del Circulo

Urso Hotel’s open-plan cocktail bar is where Madrid’s high society comes to relax, especially on Thursday evenings when a live jazz band performs. Try the signature ‘Mr Bamboo’ cocktail – a very Spanish mix of sherry, dry vermouth, orange bitter and Angostura.
Calle de Mejía Lequerica 8; metro Alonso Martínez

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Urso Hotel

Delicious eats

Casa Patas sits slightly off the beaten tourist track in the Huertas district, but it’s well worth the trip. The food is fantastic (fresh fish, wonderful paella, tasty tapas), but it’s the live flamenco that really steals the show. Authentic, raw and deeply moving, it’ll change your perception of the dance forever.
 Calle Cañizares 10; metro Antón Martín or Tirso de Molina

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Casa Patas

Another favourite is tiny restaurant Sala de Despiece in the Chamberí district. It’s staffed by talented young academy chefs who fire out experimental dishes from the open-plan kitchen – a spectacle as much as an unforgettably good meal. Get there as the doors open at 8pm or be prepared to queue.
Calle de Ponzano 11; metro Alonso Cano

If you really want to splash out, try La Capilla de la Bolsa, which sits in a restored chapel complete with a Baroque ceiling and live piano music. The vibe is swish and the food outstanding – think imaginative Mediterranean dishes such as a gratinée of sea urchins and swordfish carpaccio with avocado.
Calle de la Bolsa 12; metro Sol

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / La Capilla de la Bolsa

At the other end of the spectrum is Botin. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this is the oldest restaurant in the world and dates back to 1725. Goya worked here before becoming a painter, and it was one of Hemingway’s favourite spots. Try the house speciality, cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig).
Calle Cuchilleros 17; metro Tirso de Molina or La Latina

Markets galore

The historic, glass-covered Mercado de San Miguel gives a real taste of Spanish cuisine, with everything from cheese stalls to exclusive delicatessens. You can pop in for a snack or two, or spend a whole evening hopping from counter to counter.
Plaza de San Miguel; metro Sol, Opera or La Latina

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Mercado de San Miguel

You’ll find a more contemporary take on Madrileño food at Mercado de San Antón, built on the site of an old covered market. The ground floor has stalls selling fresh produce; above are takeaway food counters, a restaurant and an outdoor terrace.
Calle Augusto Figueroa 24; metro Chueca

The infamous El Rastro flea market is the place to go for antiques, bric-a-brac and retro finds, with hundreds of stalls peddling everything from clothes and furniture to old comics and vintage birdcages. It attracts plenty of pickpockets, so keep your wits about you as you browse.
Plaza de Cascorro and around; metro La Latina or Puerta de Toledo

Museums and monuments

You might not expect to stumble across an authentic Egyptian temple in the heart of Madrid, but the Templo de Debod is just that. Dating from 200 BC, it was donated to Spain in 1968 to recognise the country’s help in saving ancient temples threatened by the construction of the Aswan Dam. Behind it is a viewing platform with fantastic views out over the Casa de Campo park.
Calle Ferraz 1; metro Plaza de España or Príncipe Pío

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Templo de Debod

Situated near the Botanical Gardens, La Caixa Forum has a fascinating rotation of temporary exhibitions – past events have included artwork from the Pixar creative department and a Miquel Barceló retrospective. Even if you don´t have time to pop inside, it’s worth passing by just to see the exterior vertical garden.
Paseo del Prado 36; metro Atocha

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / La Caixa Forum

For a huge collection of Spanish fashion, from 17th-century dresses to the latest designer offerings, head to the Museo del Traje (Costume Museum) in Moncloa. It also houses temporary exhibitions covering anything from film costumes to imagined clothes of the future.
Avenida de Juan Herrera 2; metro Moncloa

i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid / Museo del Traje

Last but not least is the former mansion of Valencian Impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla, which acts as an art museum as well as a beautiful example of an early 20th-century house. The Andalucian-style garden at the back is a delight, too.
Paseo del General Martínez Campos 37; metro Iglesia, Rubén Darío or Gregorio Marañón

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i-escape blog / Insider tips for Madrid

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