Madrid, the largest city in Spain, is located in the center of the country. Its centric location means that there are no beaches nearby, but the lack of sea is compensated by the city’s cultural and gastronomical scenes.
1. The food
Madrid is an ideal holiday destination for foodies. Its ample selection of tapas bars, cafés with enviable views and all kinds of restaurants means that you will be able to try a variety of local flavours no matter what your budget is. If you are looking for some authentic tapas, head to the La Latina district, an area steps away from the city center. Here you will find bars offering Rioja wine, cider from Asturias and Catalan cava. For each drink you order you will be offered a complimentary appetizer which can range from spicy patatas bravas potatoes and croquetas croquettes to salmon-topped bread and a variety of cheeses.
If you are one a budget, then the local markets are the most affordable yet deliciously authentic option. Check out the centric San Miguel and San Antón markets, where you will find stalls selling local products and a variety of rooftop restaurants and terraces offering locally-sourced dishes. Those not on a budget can splurge on a meal in one of the city’s trendy gastrobars: two of the most famous ones are Estado Puro and La Tasquita de Enfrente, located in the very heart of the city.
2. The museums
If you are an art junkie, then Madrid is the city for you. Visit the city’s famous Triangle of Museums, formed by the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen Museums. If you are less into classics and more into alternative art, check out the many art exhibits and temporary galleries near Lavapiés. Check out the Costume Museum near Moncloa and the Chamberi Museum, which used to be an old subway station.
3. The shops
Even if you are on a budget, you will be able to explore the city’s shopping scene. There are high-end shops near the Serrano and Velázquez streets, a flea market near the city centre, all kinds of international brands near the centric Gran Vía street and many independent designers in the nearby Fuencarral district, which is filled with chic boutiques and alternative fashion markets.
4. The parks
Are you a jogger, a runner or a biker? If you are, then spend a morning practicing your favourite sport in the Madrid Rio Park. This recently renovated park is located on the banks of the Manzanares River. Apart from bike paths, there are tennis courts, a skateboard park, football pitches and even pétanque fields. The park has views towards some of Madrid’s most famous landmarks, including the Royal Palace and the Matadero cultural centre. The famous Retiro park is ideal for a boat ride, and the Casa de Campo park has a lake, a theme park and a zoo.
5. The historical city center
Madrid is a city that can, and should be, explored on foot, and if get tired of walking you can always enjoy a bike tour or a Segway tour around the city. If you book a hotel or hostel in the city centre you will be within walking distance of the famous Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor squares, which are filled with terrace bars and traditional markets.
After grabbing a traditional menú del día daily many in one of the side streets head to the Royal Palace, where you will be able to explore more than forty of the palace’s two thousand rooms. The rooms and halls are decorated with antiques, medieval tapestries and paintings by Goya and Velázquez. Do not miss the nearby Almudena Cathedral and the San Francisco el Grande Basilica, two buildings known for their architecture and their views.
A short walk away you will find another main square, the Plaza de España. Crowned with a large fountain representing Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, this plaza is not only a popular marketplace and meeting spot- the square leads to the Templo de Debod, an authentic Ancient Egyptian temple located in the city centre known for its views… and for being the ideal place where to watch the sun set over Madrid.