In the Benetton family of Europe’s capital cities, where London is the executive in Savile Row attire and sneakers hurrying to park their sleek electric bike, and Paris is a woman enjoying apéro with an expression of “seen it all”, Madrid is standing somewhat aside, an elegantly but cheekily dressed man, sipping his café solo on a sunlit terrace of the eternal Sunday morning that this city emanates.
Article by Anastasia Sukhanov
Equally attractive to tick-it-all-off-the-list culture obsessives, hedonistic hipsters, the party crowd and a sizeable entrepreneurial community, Madrid is a city that has something for everyone. Only a two and a half hour “AVE” train ride away from Málaga, it’s perfect weekend material for those yearning for some metropolitan finesse.
Madrid is an easy city to visit. Even if you get off the Atocha train station with zero plans, the city will carry you: the vast Retiro Park starts just a couple streets up, so you might as well head there to smooth out the immersion process. The cluster of the main museums is a stone’s throw away as well – getting a dose of art before your first coffee in the capital could never be easier.
Wander among the masterpieces
Madrid’s three major art museums are all within walking distance of each other, from the Prado with its major Velázquez and Goya canvases; to the Reina Sofía, with its modernist prize of Picasso’s “Guernica”; to the Thyssen-Bornemisza, whose permanent collection features Marc Chagall, while the inner garden is the hands-down perfect place to take a quiet break to reflect on the day and plot upcoming escapades.
Don’t forget to pay a visit to La Caixa Forum, conveniently located in the same “golden art triangle” – if not to visit the ingoing exhibition of Egyptian mummies, then at least to marvel at the building itself – an impressive conversion project which includes the walls of an old power station that occupied the site long before gentrification took off.
Head to the rooftops!
Allegedly, madrileños have coined the term ‘terraceo’, to describe the process of hanging out on the terraces of bars and restaurants – and if there is a sport adored by the locals as much as football, it’s definitely terraceo! There is no consensus as to whether the term is applicable to activities of a similar kind carried out on rooftop bars, but a visit to Madrid would be incomplete without exploring its legendary bird’s-eye views.
For a bit of Andalusian taste and a quintessentially capital view, look no further than the Dani Brasserie at The Four Seasons. Opened in 2020, the 200-room hotel is the largest and most expensive hotel in Madrid’s history, with suites costing up to €12,000 a night. Dani García, a native of Marbella with three Michelin stars, made this rooftop restaurant one of the best in the city by combining the best of his globe-trotting cuisine with festive but cozy interiors and, of course, breathtaking views. You can choose between breakfast, lunch, and dinner options but bear in mind that booking in advance by at least a couple of days is advisable for all.
For a totally casual, no-booking and no-schedule option, head to El Corte Ingles on the Gran Vía. The Gourmet Experience rooftop is a delicatessen market / restaurant area, where you can choose from a range of small gourmet restaurants, order your food and drinks, and bring it out to the terrace.
As cliché as it is, Madrid’s busiest rooftop bar is at the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Madrid, one of Europe’s most important private cultural centres. Perhaps not the best place for a full-on meal, it’s perfect for cocktails and witnessing one of the best shows Madrid has on offer – its balmy sunsets.
Celebrate long into the night
“I have never been to a city where there are fewer reasons to go to bed and if I did go to bed, to sleep.” – Ernest Hemingway
No matter the season, Madrid sleeps very little – the nightlife offering is vast and has something for all ages. A good starting point that works for all is Mercado San Miguel, a charming, covered food market where one can have anything from oysters and champagne to burgers and beer until its closure around 1AM.
For a sit-down dinner with a side of passion, pre-book Corral de la Morería, the world’s most famous and prestigious flamenco tablao with the best flamenco programming in Spain. This is an experience that will forever stay ingrained in your mind forever.
Now if you made it past midnight, it is just the time to start heading to Toni 2 piano bar, a true Madrid institution. Toni 2 is essentially a mix of a lounge, piano bar and karaoke joint, where the later it gets, the more packed and progressively wilder the crowds get. The songs range from old American classics to vintage Spanish tunes, all being crooned out by a rotating pair of singer and piano player. During high-season you might have to queue a bit to get in, but the ensuing experience of falling through a music-enhanced rabbit hole is well worth it.
Revive yourself with a market stroll & churros
Sundays in Madrid mean one thing: El Rastro open-air flea market. A great way to explore the La Latina neighborhood, El Rastro gets busy around 11AM, with locals and tourists alike not so much bargain-hunting but browsing and enjoying tapas.
A short walk away, by Plaza Mayor, you can try Madrid’s oldest churros con chocolate at San Gines. Although Marbella now has its own branch in the old town, it’s always good to go back to the roots – in this case, to a building that dates back to 1890s and welcomes many a celebrity including Audrey Hepburn, Penélope Cruz and Pedro Almodóvar.