I have visited Madrid several times and, while it may not have the charm of Paris or Venice, it is a town meant to be lived, not visited. And I don’t mean “lived” as in “live there” but a place “to live life.” Sure, other cities are beautiful and glamorous but I find cities where life is lived to the fullest the best. And such is Madrid. Here are some cool things to do in the Spanish capital.
Drinks at the Westin
The Westin is an extremely well-situated hotel in the best part of Madrid. It has incredible architectural charm – and a great lobby lounge with separate areas to sit, depending on your mood. My favorite spot was right under the colorful and bright cupola. If you don’t get to stay at the hotel, at minimum, go and treat yourself to a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Tapas and drinks at Plaza Santa Ana
Plaza Santa Ana is at the heart of Madrid. Sure the Plaza Mayor officially is “the” plaza in Madrid. But, Plaza Santa Ana is small, manageable and a great spot to sit and watch life, while enjoying tapas and beer/wine. And the great thing is that you can do it from the plaza itself – or from above at the trendy and cool bar at the roof terrace of the Reina Victoria Hotel. There is a charge to go up but it applies to a drink – so as long as you have a drink, entrance is free. And the views of the Plaza at night are awesome.
The Plaza Santa Ana is a wonderful place to hang out. But Madrid is full of neighborhood plazas and other areas where you can find the most delicious spots to have a tapa and a caña (short beer). Madrileños on a typical night out move from tapas bar to tapas bar prior to going somewhere for dinner. A great spot for tapas is near the Calle Cervantes where the are several good establishments. Taberna La Daniela, Cervecería Cervantes and Taberna de la Dolores are all different and great spots to eat, sip, walk, and repeat! And my local friends actually referred me to these places so you know they are good!
The Mercado San Miguel
I could not believe that I had never visited the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid until I learned that it had been closed for years to open finally again in 2009. It is a feast for the eyes – and the palate. The structure itself is about one hundred years old with a style reminiscent of Paris metro entrances. But the main attraction is, of course, the food! Stop there for a bite or a meal – and a glass of wine, ¡por supuesto!
Drinks with a view
Thanks to my local friend, I discovered the “Azotea,” or rooftop, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes building on the Calle de Alcalá. It offers not only a bar but all sorts of comfy spaces to just lounge. It must be spectacular at night but it is great at sunset or just during the day time to admire the views.
And just walking around
Walking about, aimlessly, sometimes yields the best experiences in a city. Madrid is no different. My friends showed me around districts I did not know with small plazas and great places to enjoy food and drinks. This is the best way to get the vibe of a place. You can stroll through parks like the famous El Retiro, grand avenues or tiny old streets.
Also, Madrid is a great town to see monuments and buildings old and new so if you like architecture, walk, I say!
Walking unknowingly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we happened upon the presentation of credentials by foreign ambassadors who crossed the Plaza Mayor (I assume coming from the royal palace) and dropped/picked up the dignitaries in colorful carriages. So one never knows what one will find!
Hope you enjoy Madrid! Have you been? Any places you’d recommend??