As a main travel hub to get in and out of Europe Madrid is the perfect place to fly into and experience for a few days before heading off to explore the rest of Spain, Portugal or even Marrakech as we did! Madrid is everything you’d expect culturally and historically as Spain’s Capital, but there is also a budding indie art, shopping, food and craft cocktail scene that gives it an interesting edge. Visual juxtaposition was a theme that kept popping up from interesting modern-meets-historical architecture to big bright displays of street art on century old buildings.
We stayed right in the epicenter of town at Praktik Metropol a very affordable but lovely little hotel with a fabulous roof deck, stunning views of the sunset and in walking distance to everything.
Aside from doing to usual tourist stuff, of which I highly recommend (The San Miguel Market; Prado Museum; Real Jardin Botanico; Palacio Real de Madrid; Templo de Debod) we spent a lot of time exploring the roads less traveled of The Malasaña District. It was the center of the Movida Movement in Madrid in the 1970’s after the death of Francisco Franco resulting in an economic revival and new Spanish identity. Since its counterculture birth it has stayed true to its roots and become an indie hot spot for the best in local boutiques, galleries, coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Last the San Miguel Market is well worth fighting through the tourists. It’s the perfect place to welcome you to not only Madrid but Spain. Stocked with all the local fare you could ever imagine, go hungry and don’t rush.
» Spend a day touring Malasaña
Get up early and grab a coffee at La Bicicleta Café then walk through the narrow streets of Malasaña. All the shops and restaurants will be closed revealing the most beautiful street art murals on the metal doors covering shop windows. Use this time to plot your day in the neighborhood. Plan lunch at La Pescadera and then hit up Le Circus right around the corner after lunch. It’s a fantastically curated boutique. Continue up the street for great local galleries and shopping that will keep you busy all afternoon. For dinner grab a reservation at La T Gastro Bar and then end your night at Kike Keller.
» Not to be missed are the Arbic Baths. Build in a hundred year old original cistern structure under Madrid’s streets they are the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city above. Transition between the three temperatures of tile covered pools, tepid, hot and a cold as well as a steam room while awaiting your aromatherapy scrub down and massage. They book every two hours so call in advance and enjoy!
» Hit San Miguel Market mid morning vs. mid afternoon on your way to the Prado to see an amazing collection of Goya including the Black Paintings and make sure to stop by the stunning Real Jardin Botanico.
» Have a drink at MA•CE•RA. The owner infuses all his own alcohol that he hand picks from around the World. The walls are flanked with the steeping flavours displayed in industrial cages giving the impression of a turn of the century mad scientist’s lair. Best espresso martini I’ve ever had!
All images via STH.