How to Have a Blissful Stay in Madrid, the Soul of Spain

How to Have a Blissful Stay in Madrid, the Soul of Spain

With world-class art, cutting-edge cuisine, a nonstop cultural agenda and 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, Madrid’s reputation as the “soul of Spain” is well-earned

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Spain’s most ravishing city, Madrid pairs centuries of history woven into
its grand plazas with an energy that is hard to match. Between its
major museums, pristine parks, lively flamenco venues and
Michelin-star dining, this is a city best enjoyed slowly. Our
seven-day itinerary takes in exciting new hotels, centuries-old
shops, palatial architecture, bohemian enclaves, legendary churro
fritters and a Hemingway-approved bar. But be sure to wander off
course, too, and forge your own path like a homegrown

How to spend seven days in Madrid

Two women walk under an ornate arch in Madrid
Madrid at sunset from a rooftop

A historic corner of the Spanish capital, left, and rooftop
sunset views.

Bed down in an artist enclave

Madrid is one of the world’s great art capitals, so you might as
well kick things off with a few nights spent sleeping in a gallery.
At least, that’s how it will feel at The
, an elegant yet delightfully un-touristy 29-room
boutique hotel and art showcase just off Plaza de Colón. Enjoy a
traditional breakfast of churro fritters at Chocolatería
San Ginés
, which has been ticking Madrilenian taste buds since
1894, then spend the day getting your bearings – this is a
metropolis best explored on foot – working your way out from
Centro, Madrid’s historic core. Have dinner at Bodega de
los Secretos
, hidden underground in splendid 17th-century wine

Seek out Madrid’s thriving gallery scene

Load up on breakfast at the Pavilions in preparation for a heavy
helping of culture, starting at Madrid’s beloved Landscape of
Light, a region comprising the grand, tree-lined Paseo del Prado
and El Retiro Park which was last year declared a Unesco World
Heritage site. Gorge on three of the city’s greatest galleries –
the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza – all located on the Paseo del Arte
(Art Walk), stopping for bargain lunch at La
, one of Madrid’s best casas de comida (traditional,
homely restaurants). Just before sunset, head to the roof terrace
of the Círculo de Bellas Artes cultural centre for cocktails, tapas
and fantastic 360-degree views at Azotea del

Arched central gallery at del Prado, Madrid
Rooftop views from Azotea del Circulo

The central gallery at the Prado, left, and rooftop views
from Azotea del Círculo | Photo credit: Museo Nacional del Prado

Do as locals do

Check into one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, The Madrid
, an avant-garde triumph that opened this year, designed
by Ian Schrager, co-founder of New York’s legendary Studio 54. Then
head down to the banks of the Manzanares to see what’s going on at
, a former slaughterhouse, which is now a far more
appealing (and very trendy) complex devoted to modern cultural
exhibitions. It’s also close to the Planetarium and the large,
loved-by-locals Madrid Río Park. Have dinner at Corral de
la Morería
, a Michelin-starred flamenco venue, for a double
dose of great food and soul-stirring performance.

Discover the secrets of Europe’s most liveable city

A day for local haunts and city secrets. Virtually on the
doorstep of your hotel, but tucked away on a little square, is the
lesser-known, 16th-century Descalzas Reales Convent, where you’ll find
works by Titian, Rubens and Velázquez. For lunch, stroll a few
blocks east and step into the 1920s at La Venencia, a
rustic venue that has barely changed since Hemingway was a patron,
and only serves sherry and tapas. Then venture north to the
neighbourhood of Chamberí to visit Platform 0, its historic Metro station, disused
since 1966 and now a quirky museum – and where you can later sway
the night away at Sala Clamores, a fantastic basement jazz and blues

The shop floor at Casa Hernanz, left, and an ornate corridor
at Descalzas Reales | Photo credit: Patrimonio Nacional

Head to its hippest neighbourhood

Drop off your bags at Ocean Drive Madrid, your last hotel of the week. This
design-led boutique stay just opposite the Opera Palace has a
stylish rooftop pool where you can make the most of all that
sunshine. Wander 10 minutes’ north-east for breakfast at the little
café in La Central de Callao, a glorious three-storey
book shop (with an English-language section) that’s a literary
oasis in an otherwise busy area. Then forge north to the hip and
happening district of Malasaña and drop into the workshop of
Javier S. Medina, an artisan known for his “ecological
trophies” – animal heads crafted from bamboo and wicker. Dine at
de la Ardosa
, a cherished, red-fronted tapas bar harking back
to 1892.

Seek out the liveliest nightcap spots

Sleep in this morning, ahead of a late night, then put aside the
itinerary and get lost for the day in downtown Madrid, where major
plazas interconnect with narrow side streets. Aim north, past the
breathtaking Royal Palace of Madrid to The Temple of Debod, a
2,000-year-old Egyptian monument given to Spain in 1968, rebuilt to
align with the setting sun. Later, head to Conde Duque, a bohemian
haven full of cosy watering holes; try La Dichosa or
De Vinos for a stiff drink to kick off your night.
Finally, strap on your dancing shoes for a post-midnight stomp at
Discoteca El Son, one of the city’s best spots for
salsa and Caribbean music.

The Real Fábrica, left, and a plate of the city’s renowned
tapas offering

Hunt down a bespoke souvenir

Blow away the cobwebs with a coffee (or a bloody mary) at your
hotel’s OD Sky Bar, then embark on a day of shopping. There’s
no shortage of big name luxury brands in Madrid, but if you’re
looking for something local to take home, look no further than –
all on the same drag – centuries-old stalwarts like Capas Seseña for
exquisite capes, Casa Hernanz for handmade espadrilles, Casa de Diego
for intricate fans and Real Fábrica, which specialises in everything from
hats and slippers to olive oil and perfume, all sourced from small
workshops across Spain. And make your last meal a blowout at
DiverXO, the
only restaurant in Madrid to boast three Michelin stars.

The Lowdown

Ready to spend a week exploring Madrid? Start planning your
trip at

Gran Hotel Ingles

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