City Slicker: Madrid

Get the low-down on what to see and do in the Spanish capital, in the first of our new series of urban tours. By Ian McCurrach



Why visit?

Autumn is just the season to enjoy a city break. And few places deserve a visit as much as Madrid. For years the buzz has been all about its great Catalan rival, Barcelona. But the Spanish capital is proving to be just as much fun. This may be the sober seat of government, but Madrileños like to "vivir a tope" (live life to the full) with some determination. In fact, you are likely to see more people on the streets here at 3am than at 3pm, making the most of the lively bars, cafés, restaurants and club scene.

While watching the locals at play in the warm autumn weather is one of the most enjoyable pursuits in this party town, it's not all about soaking up the atmosphere. There's plenty of sightseeing on offer amid Madrid's broad boulevards, grand plazas and stately architecture, not least three of Europe's finest art galleries. Plus there are many new openings for returning visitors to explore.

Don't miss ...

... the spectacular city views from the Teleferico cable car (teleferico.com) in the Casa de Campo, a former royal hunting estate.

... the three great art galleries: the Reina Sofia (museoreinasofia.es); the Thyssen Bornemisza (museothyssen.org); and the Prado (museoprado.es).

... the elegant architecture of the Plaza Mayor, the hub of Madrid life for centuries.

... the vast 18th-century Royal Palace (patrimonionacional.es) with its soaring white façade.

... the Retiro, the city's most popular open space (think Hyde Park), where the whole of Madrid seems to congregate on a Sunday.

What's new?

Las Salesas

Madrid's Meat Packing District, bordering Chueca, is an up-and-coming hot spot. It is home to chic cafés, small sushi bars, the cult Italian trattoria Pulcinella, at calle Rugueros 7, and, for chocolate lovers, Cacao Sampaka, at calle Orellana 4. Don't miss Pescaderia Fernando VI, at calle Fernando VI 10, the city's famous fishmonger, where everyone comes early on Saturdays to buy fresh cod. Word has it that Marc Jacobs will open a boutique here soon near Benny Room, Mage and Tribeca boutiques.

Reina Sofia Museum

The original slab-sided building with glass and steel lifts was impressive enough, but now the museum has added an eye-catching rear by the French architect Jean Nouvel. The new glass and steel extension is arranged around a courtyard, providing an extra 332,000 square feet of space for temporary exhibitions, a library and auditorium. While you're there, don't miss one of the gallery's highlights: Picasso's 'Guernica'. There is also an excellent restaurant and museum store worth visiting.

Details: see above.

Sua

This restaurant in the heart of trendy Chueca serves tasty Basque fusion cuisine. And adding a curious twist, the unusual menu is structured according to the temperature at which the dishes are prepared – so 25C, 50C and 75C. Sua is owned by Madrid's favourite It boys: Rafa and Luis Medina. They've been on the 'Vanity Fair' best-dressed list for two years running, so expect to rub shoulders with a celebrity clientele. And, of course, booking is essential.

Details: sua.es.



Hotel Oscar

The latest addition to the chic Room Mate hotel chain, headed by Enrique Sarasola, Madrid's designer hotel guru. Hotel Oscar has 75 rooms with interiors by Tomas Alia; the design is modern minimalist with bold swathes of bright colour. Situated north of Gran Via, Oscar's restaurant and bar have become focal points for Madrid's cool set. Doubles from €140 (£112) per night.

Details: room-matehotels.com.

Yube

The hot fashionista pit stop. Yube has a wide selection of women's and menswear, including M Missoni, Paul & Joe, See by Chloé, the Olsen sisters' new clothing line and this winter's must-have chunky jewel necklaces by Spanish fashion newcomer Patricia Nicolas (left). Famous clients include actresses Penelope and Monica Cruz as well as Paz Vega and Mexican singer Paulina Rubio.

Details: calle Fernando VI 23; 00 34 91 3197673.



La Casa Encendida

This multidisciplinary space is housed within a large neo-Mudejar building. The focus is on cultural exchange and there are various spaces spread across the venue's four floors. The changing programme features shows from emerging young artists working across all disciplines, including cutting-edge performance art, music, dance and video. There is a shop selling Fairtrade products and a café, popular with young artists and thinkers.

Details: lacasaencendida.com.

How to get there

Easyjet (easyjet.com) flies to Madrid from Gatwick, Liverpool, Luton, Edinburgh from £47 return. Spanish Tourist Office (spain.info), Madrid Tourist Office (esmadrid.com).

Ana Ureña, freelance journalist and broadcaster

"Try my favourite place for merienda – the equivalent of afternoon tea. It's called Embassy and is one of the best patisseries in Madrid. Trays laden with delicious individual mini cakes are passed around the tables so you can pick out the ones you want to have with your café con leche – the Spanish latte."

Details: embassy.es.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe