What’s On travels to Madrid
Discover the magic of Madrid…
With its bustling street markets, burgeoning collection of museums, and timeless tapas bars, Madrid is a city with soul. With hidden gems around every corner, history and heritage collide with a new wave of modern eateries and new openings that are transforming this sun-soaked capital into one of Europe’s most alluring and interesting city breaks.
Things to do
Soak up the sights at Plaza Mayor
No trip to Madrid is complete without a visit to Plaza Mayor. Once the centre of old Madrid, the current buildings date back to the late 1700s and early 1800s and among its most striking is Casa de la Panaderia, which features beautiful Baroque-style murals on its façade. Plaza Mayor has played host to markets, sporting events and bullfights, although on any regular day you’ll find lots of restaurants and tapas bars lining the edge.
Row, row, row your boat at Retiro Park
For a mere €8, you can see one of Madrid’s prettiest spots, Retiro Park, from a different perspective: calmly rowing the waters of its picturesque lake. While locals sunbathe by the stunning monument to Alfonso XII or tuck into picnics in the dappled shade, you can bob along on the lake, watching street performers and busking musicians as you go. Top tip: Go early to avoid the queues.
Check out one of Europe’s top museums, Museo Nacional Del Prado
The jewel in Madrid’s roster of galleries and museums is Museo Nacional Del Prado. Steeped in 200 years of history, this art emporium is one of three cultural masterpieces that make up the Paseo del Arte. Alongside housing the world’s largest collection of Spanish paintings, works from Italy and the Flemish region of Belgium can be enjoyed here, with more than 8,600 paintings and 700 sculptures to peruse.
Shop ‘till you drop at Galeria Canalejas
There are plenty of places to shop in Madrid: El Corte Ingles… Gran Via… but the latest addition is Galeria Canalejas, three floors of fashion, fine jewellery and gastronomy. After browsing boutiques of some of the world’s biggest brands – Rolex, Valentino and Giorgio Armani – fuel up at the food hall where there are 13 restaurants to choose from, ranging from Omakase and tacos to Castilian and Galician cuisines.
Where to eat
Mercardo de San Miguel
Tasting your way around Madrid’s array of foodie mercados is one of the best ways to experience this city and while Mercado de San Miguel might not be the biggest it’s arguably one of the best. With more than 30 market stalls to feast around, serving far more than just jamon, tortilla and tapas (although there’s plenty of that too), this historic market – found just around the corner from Plaza Mayor – benefits from a central location, an array of bars serving local wine, cava and beers, and an electric atmosphere.
If you love the jaw-dropping, jungle-inspired interiors of Amazonico Dubai, you’ll be dazzled by the original in Madrid. A duo of oh-so-pretty terraces, a vibrant bar adorned with rich foliage, and a restaurant dotted with comfy booths are all surrounded by Amazonico’s signature vibrant décor. The menu, much like the restaurant in Dubai, presents an opportunity to explore flavours from across Latin America. The Picanha Rodicio is a must-try.
La Plateria Bar Restaurante
When you pass a restaurant where locals and staff are chatting like long-lost friends, enter immediately. La Plateria has got all the makings of a top tapas bar: red awnings, glass cabinets filled with freshly made tapas, a chalkboard menu scrawled with the daily specials. Handily located a short stroll from the Museo Nacional Del Prado, the alfresco seating offers a picturesque spot for people watching, with generous plates of patatas bravas, crispy calamari and Spanish tortilla. Two of you can eat like kings and still get change from a €50 note.
Where to stay
Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
Through the grand doors of the Ritz Madrid have walked royals, dignitaries and celebrities across its high profile, 110-year history. Although it underwent an extensive, three-year renovation to reopen as part of the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group last year, the dazzling opulence still remains, now fused with the modern Mandarin Oriental magic touch. Set within Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art, it’s the perfect base to explore the city’s wealth of museums, and many of the star attractions of the Spanish capital are a scenic stroll away.
With acclaimed Spanish chef Quique Dacosta at the helm of the hotel’s entire culinary portfolio, the five restaurants and bars draw a rotation of residents and visitors. Guests flock to Palm Court for breakfast where meats are carved tableside, and afternoon tea consisting of perfect Spanish pastries, served to the sound of a live pianist. As the sun sets, few spots are more breathtaking than El Jardin. A stylish and atmospheric alfresco restaurant, smartly dressed waiters delicately serve plates of fresh grilled baby squid drizzled with black butter sauce, creamy Puglia burrata on a bed of pesto and tomato confit, and a beef tenderloin served straight from the barbecue, the scent of which could make even the fullest of stomachs rumble.
Guest rooms are suitably grand with bespoke leather headboards, marble bathrooms with a supersized bathtub and crisp linens that include pillowcases embroidered with guests’ initials. But in keeping with the modern upgrade, rooms also come equipped with GHD hair dryers and straighteners, Natural Bisse amenities, and gold smart blinds. Room rates start at Dhs3,334 per night for a superior room.