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madrid guide

by Grace Bonney

image via wikipedia

today’s city guide belongs to beautiful madrid, spain and comes to us from freelance journalist kristen bernardi. kristen is based in madrid and has written for timeout madrid, fodor’s guide to spain, spain magazine and expatica.com, so she definitely knows her way around this exciting spanish city. today she’ll be sharing great places to shop, eat & drink, stay, site-see and go out in each neighborhood. her city guide writing expertise definitely shows and i got excited about madrid just coding her post. i hope you’ll enjoy her tour of the city and take it with you if you’re lucky enough to be visiting in the future. thanks again to kristen for creating this wonderful guide for us!

CLICK HERE for the full madrid guide after the jump!

Design*Sponge City Guide: Madrid

By Kristen Bernardi
Locals often say that the Spanish capital “tiene mucha vida” – literally, Madrid has a lot of life. Nowhere else in Europe are people so devoted to simply enjoying themselves and absorbing the best their city has to offer. Whether you are here to stay or are just passing through, Madrid will enchant you with its combination of rich history, cosmopolitan flair, outstanding weather and sheer zest for life.

When it comes to home design, the average Madrid apartment is often outfitted with a few pieces of solid, ornate wood furniture leftover from the Franco era combined with a smattering of contemporary, Ikea-style goodies. However, there is a host of up-and-coming new designers that are turning tradition on its end, and just as in the States, recent years have seen the independent handmade goods market take off. Madrid also has a quirky fashion sense all its own, and there’s no better way to get a feel for the city than to stop for a café con leche in a plaza and people watch.

This guide is focused on the best sites for visitors, and the best places to go for great design in city’s shops, hotels and restaurants. It is far from an exhaustive list, but it is a design-focused snapshot of Madrid’s five most central neighborhoods – Huertas, Malasaña, La Latina, Chueca and Salamanca – each one with its own unique aesthetic and charm.

Huertas/Atocha (Center)

The center of Madrid is where most of the city’s historic sites are clustered and where tourists and study abroad students gather in droves. But in addition to its must-see art offerings and bustling streets straining with foot traffic, it offers some great shops and restaurants, fun activities and beautiful architecture.


Madrid is home to the world-renowned ‘golden triangle’ of the art world: the Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums.

    solid rotation of temporary exhibitions and a permanent modern art
    collection that features Juan Gris, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Pablo
    Picasso, including Picasso’s masterwork, Guernica. c/Santa Isabel, 52
    (Metro: Atocha)
  • Museo Nacional del Prado ranks as one of the best and largest collections of European art in the world. Must sees: Las Meninas by Velázquez and El tres de mayo de 1808 by Goya. Paseo del Prado s/n (Metro: Atocha)
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza began as one of the largest private collections of art in the world, and it is now a well-edited assortment that spans styles and centuries, from Rembrandt to Degas to Edward Hopper. Paseo del Prado, 8 (Metro: Banco de España)

Real Jardín Botanico – The calm, manicured Royal Botanical Gardens are a refreshing palette cleanser between museums. Plaza Murillo, 2 (Metro: Atocha)

Palacio Real – The king and queen don’t live here permanently, but it is where they host dignitaries and store their fine china. The Royal Palace tour is worth your time, with ornate gilded rooms and an imposing armory. Catch the changing of the guard at noon on Wednesdays, and explore the adjacent Sabatini Gardens or Campo del Moro. Plaza de la Marina Española, 6 (Metro: Ópera/Plaza de España)

Catedral de la Almudena – Located right next to the Royal Palace, this neo-Gothic cathedral was completed in 1993 (brand spankin’ new by Spanish church standards). It features four massive, intricate iron doors and a subterranean crypt. c/Bailén, 8 (Metro: Ópera/Plaza de España)

Plaza de España – A lovely square with statues of Cervantes and his most famous character, Don Quixote. (Metro: Plaza de España)

Plaza Mayor – Madrid’s historic main square has a striking fresco on one of its façades and is lined with cafés where you pay extra for the view that comes with your coffee, but it’s worth it. Every Sunday there’s an antique-coin-and-stamp fair that’s fascinating to walk through, even for non-collectors. Just off Calle Mayor (Metro: Sol)

Círculo de Bellas Artes – Down the road a bit from the ‘big three’ museums, Madrid’s fine arts center has exhibitions, movie screenings, and a café with a beautiful painted ceiling poised above picture windows that look out onto the busy streets. c/Alcalá, 42 (Metro: Sevilla/Banco de España)

Eat & Drink

Quesos-Fiambres González – A cheese lover’s dream. Sample soft, cured and unpasteurized artisanal cheeses with a glass of Rioja. c/León, 12 (Metro: Sol/Antón Martín)

La Venencia – The house specialties are fino and manzanilla – dry, delicate sherries served alongside salty mojama. Admire the dusty bottles behind the bar and pretend you’re Hemmingway. c/Echegaray, 7 (Metro: Sol/Sevilla)

Casa Labra – Serving up cod in many glorious forms since 1860. Very no frills. c/Tetuán, 12 (Metro: Sol)

El Sobrino de Botín – The world’s oldest restaurant (founded in 1620) according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Savory roast lamb and tender suckling pig, attentive service. c/de Los Cuchilleros, 17 (Metro:Sol/Ópera)

The recently re-opened Mercado de San Miguel looks like it could have been plucked out of Portland with its attractive, 30-something crowds mingling at the oyster bar or sampling the cheeses at the glass-and-wrought-iron market’s many vendor booths. It began as an open-air farmer’s market in the mid-1800s, but now it’s a great place to start the evening. Plaza de San Miguel (Metro: Sol)

La Taberna Segun Emma is right next door to the Mercado de San Miguel, and it’s a homey little family-run nook with a simple, modern tapas menu. Try the tosta with jamón, asparagus and brie or the salmorejo (a thick, Cordoba-style gazpacho). c/Conde de Miranda, 4 (Metro: Sol)

For paella, try Arroceria Marina Ventura. Branch out and try the squid-ink-tinted one. c/Ventura de la Vega, 13 (Metro: Sevilla)

Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas is a bit touristy, but the traditional food (roast meats, tripe) and ambiance in these caves tucked under the Plaza Mayor are solid. c/Cuchilleros, 1 (Metro: Sol/Ópera)

La Viuda Blanca – White minimalist décor, affordable, filling lunch & dinner, and a DJ in the evenings. c/Campomanes, 6 (Metro: Ópera)

Chocolatería San Ginés has been the place to get churros con chocolate in the wee hours of the morning since 1894. Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5 (Metro: Sol/Ópera)


ME Madrid – Located on a lovely plaza lined with bars and restaurants, this hotel features sleek, urban interiors topped with an unbeatable terrace. Plaza de Santa Ana, 14 (Metro: Sol)

Hotel Urban – Madrid’s sexiest hotel. Leather-accented cosmopolitan chic with a rooftop pool and a glass-enclosed cocktail bar on the ground floor. Carrera de San Jerónimo, 34 (Metro: Sevilla/Sol)

Hotel Meninas – An affordable boutique hotel in a historic building near the opera house. c/Campomanes, 7 (Metro: Ópera)


The permanent book fair on the Cuesta de Moyano features dozens of stalls stuffed with antique romance novels, reference materials and classics, conveniently located between the Botanical Gardens and Retiro Park. (Metro: Atocha)

Loewe – The flagship store of the luxury handbag and leather goods brand is at c/Gran Vía, 8 (Metro: Banco de España/Gran Vía)

Pepita is Dead is a retro sanctuary with vintage clothing from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s that has – shockingly – never been worn. c/Doctor Fourquet, 10 (Metro: Atocha)

To pick up a paellera (a paella pan), seek out El Alambique, just around the corner from the Royal Palace. They offer Spanish kitchen essentials as well as the occasional cooking class. Plaza de la Encarnación, 2 (Metro: Ópera/Plaza de España)

Cántaro – Two stories of hand-thrown pottery and hand-painted ceramics crafted by some of Spain’s best potters. Made-to-order pieces from tiles to decorative plates are available too, and worldwide shipping gets it home in one piece. c/Flor Baja, 8 (Metro: Plaza de España)

El Flamenco Vive – Flamenco CDs, guitars, sheet music and costumes. ¡Olé! c/Conde de Lemos, 7 (Metro: Ópera)

Azzait Madrid – Spanish olive oils and olive oil products, including candles and body creams. c/Mayor, 43 (Metro: Sol)

Arte Cine XXI – Art prints, classic Spanish movie posters, pop art galore. c/Juan Álvarez Mendizábal, 21 (Metro: Ventura Rodríguez/Plaza de España)

Natura – A chain with several locations in Madrid that carries products with an emphasis on natural materials. Items range from incense and candles to hand-dyed dresses and wooly blankets. Cute, inexpensive jewellery too. c/Hortaleza, 12 (Metro: Gran Vía)

Bodega Mariano Madrueño – This cramped, marvelous wine shop has been in business for over 100 years, and has recommendations for all palettes and budgets. c/Postigo de San Martín 3-5 (Metro: Callao)

Go Out

Las Cuevas de Sesamo – Lethal sangria, literary quotes scrawled on the cave-like walls, and if you’re lucky, an elderly man in a bow tie playing piano into the wee hours. c/Príncipe, 7 (Metro: Sevilla)
Museo Chicote – Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra used to rub elbows at this art deco institution in the ‘40s and ‘50s. c/Gran Vía, 12 (Metro: Banco de España/Gran Vía)

Day or night, Madrid’s Arab Baths are a relaxing, unique spa experience. Soak in the pools, steam in the sauna and get a scrub-down or massage. c/Atocha, 14 (Metro: Sol/Tirso de Molina)

El Cine Doré (La Filmoteca Española) is a gorgeous old movie house that shows a mix of contemporary and classic films in their original versions. Just €2.50 a pop for the best show in town. c/Santa Isabel, 3 (Metro: Tirso de Molina/Antón Martín)

El Sol – Unpretentious people and great live music six nights a week. c/de los Jardines, 3 (Metro: Gran Vía)

Ananda – This high-fashion club is located on a massive terrace in the train station. Positively sizzling in the summer. Avenida de la Ciudad de Barcelona (Metro: Atocha Renfe)

Morocco – ‘80s & ‘90s pop tunes, day-glo walls and a fun, light-hearted atmosphere. c/Marqués de Leganés, 7 (Metro: Santo Domingo)

Café Central – Traditional jazz favorites and young, new artists come together. Plaza del Angel, 10 (Metro: Sol/Tirso de Molina)


What this laid-back barrio lacks in tourist attractions, it makes up for in bohemian character. This is where the 20- and 30-something locals live, love and loiter.


Plaza del Dos de Mayo is the place to be when the sun is shining. Pull up a chair and have a drink al fresco. (Director Alejandro Amenábar is said to frequent Pepe Botella, a bar in the plaza.) (Metro: Tribunal/Noviciado)

Eat & Drink

Marisquería Ribeira do Miño – Roll up your sleeves for a down-and-dirty Galician shellfish extravaganza. Try the pimientos de Padrón as a starter. c/Santa Brígida, 1 (Metro: Tribunal)

A Dos Velas – Cowhide-print booths and an eclectic, international menu with great desserts. Try the swordfish or the solomillo (tenderloin). c/San Vicente Ferrer, 16 (Metro: Tribunal)

Isla del Tesoro – A standout vegetarian restaurant – quite an accomplishment in a city obsessed with jamón. Soothing atmosphere, killer veggie burgers, grain-studded breads and a nice selection of herbal teas. c/Manuela Malasaña, 3 (Metro: Bilbao)

La Musa – One of three Madrid restaurants under the same ownership with affordable, contemporary tapas such as grilled cuts of wild boar and fried green tomatoes with goat cheese. c/Manuela Malasaña, (Metro: San Bernardo)

Just a few blocks away, sister restaurant Ojalá (Metro: Tribunal) features a similar menu, but with hipster quirks like cushions and sand on the floor and cult-classic movies projected onto the walls.

Café Ajenjo – This tucked away little bar has charm to spare, with a giant antique cash register and red velvet booths. The owner is the only usually the one on staff, and if you’re ordering cocktails, he’ll ask if you want something dry (seco) or sweet (dulce) before surprising you with a perfectly personalized cocktail. c/Galería De Robles, 4 (Metro: Bilbao/San Bernardo)

La Mucca – Yummy salads, paninis and thin-crust pizzas served atop butcher-block tables that are surrounded by mismatched chairs. Plaza de Carlos Cambronero, 4 (Metro: Tribunal/Noviciado)


Hotel Abalu – An adorable boutique hotel in the heart of Malasaña with a cupcake-themed café on the ground level. c/Pez, 19 (Metro: Noviciado)


One of Madrid’s main shopping thoroughfares is the pedestrian-friendly Calle Fuencarral. It is loaded with Spanish high-street clothing and accessories chains such as Adolfo Dominguez,MangoFun&BasicsZara, and Sfera. (Metro: Bilbao/Tribunal/Gran Vía)

Mercado de Fuencarral – An alterna-mall with three stories of grungy hipster goodies: Vespa-emblazoned messenger bags, body jewellery, incense holders and Urban Outfitters-esque style. c/Fuencarral, 35 (Metro: Tribunal)

Little Miss Maimun – A quaint shop that features 100% handmade goods crafted by independent artists from Spain to Colombia to Romania. Jewelry, pillows, clothing – you name it, and most of the wares are made from repurposed materials. There are also courses offered in topics like decoupage, bead-making and sewing. Plaza del Dos de Mayo, 5 (Metro: Noviciado/Tribunal)

Palmapapel – Recycled and handmade paper, notebooks, and stationary. c/La Palma, 34 (Metro: Noviciado)

La Pezera – Handmade women’s clothes, hats, brooches and more. c/Pez, 31 (Metro: Noviciado)

Ioli Guide – Divine, made-to-order, ‘30s- and ‘40s-style shoes; felt hats, leather gloves, hand-stitched clutches and more, for men, women and children. c/Espíritu Santo, 1 (Metro: Tribunal)

J&J’s Books and Coffee – An indie second-hand bookstore exclusively stocked with English-language reads, topped with a sweet little bar. c/Espíritu Santo, 47 (Metro: Noviciado)

Go out

Café La Palma – Live music, low-slung booths and mojitos. c/La Palma, 62 (Metro: Noviciado)

Tupperware – Kitsch toys on display behind the bar and tunes ranging from The Ting Tings to Radiohead. Corredera Alta de San Pablo, 26 (Metro: Tribunal)

La Vía Láctea – If these walls could talk, they’d have loads of scandalous stories from La Movida, the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll-fueled heyday of late ‘70s and early ‘80s Madrid. c/Velarde, 18 (Metro: Tribunal)

El Perro de la Parte Atrás del Coche – This dark, basement club can be a bit tricky to find, but once you’re there you can enjoy live music ranging from funk to metal. c/Puebla, 15 (Metro: Callao)

La Latina

La Latina is where madrileños spend their lazy Sundays. The neighborhood is loaded with mellow, affordable bars and restaurants and has several plazas and stretches of sidewalk where you can soak up the sun. Plus it’s home to Europe’s longest-running flea market, which attracts bargain-hunters from around the world.


Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande – A beautiful neoclassical cathedral that houses the remains of several famous artists and politicians. c/San Buenaventura, 1 (Metro: La Latina/Puerta de Toledo)

Eat & Drink

Calle Cava Baja, in the heart of La Latina, is one of the best culinary stretches in the city. There’s not a bad restaurant on this street, but a few standouts are:

    -Txakoli – Big, Basque tapas, nautical décor, standing room only. c/Cava Baja, 26 and 42.
    -Taberna del Tempranillo – A floor-to-ceiling wine rack and marble-topped tables set the tone for delicious tapas like sizzling duck magret.  c/Cava Baja, 38.
    Casa Lucio – The King of Spain himself has been known to order the huevos estrellados here. c/Cava Baja, 35
    Honorable mentions: pizza at Emma y Julia, modern fare at Orixe, and ultra-traditional roasts at Posada de la Villa

Almendro 13 – Expect a loud, crowded, smoky nook with basic tapas and slow service at La Latina’s most traditional bar, which is to say: wonderful. c/Almendro, 13 (La Latina)

The largest outpost of feel-good vegetarian buffet Viva La Vida serves La Latina’s granola crowd. Mostly vegan, all homemade. Fresh salads, stir-fries, casseroles, fritters, cakes, juices, teas and more. Costanilla de San Andrés, 16 [Plaza de la Paja] (Metro: La Latina)


Hotel Ganivet – Opened in 2008, this three-star hotel is the most streamlined and modern in the La Latina neighborhood. c/Toledo, 111-113 (Metro: Puerta de Toledo)


The Rastro is Europe’s largest and longest-running flea market. There’s a lot of junk, but if you make it past the badly screen-printed t-shirts and España-emblazoned ashtrays, you’ll find quality leather goods, embroidered linens, antiques, ceramics and loads of colorful scarves and tapestries. Feel free to barter if your Spanish is up to snuff, and watch out for pickpockets. Sundays only, from 8am-3pm (ish). A good starting point is near Plaza de Cascorro. (Metro: Tirso de Molina/La Latina)

Carmen Sanchez is a jeweller specializing in hammered silver and brightly colored stone designs, with guest artists’ wares showcased as well. c/Cava Baja, 25 (Metro: La Latina)

La Oca – Scandanavian-inspired furniture and accessories. Like Ikea but on a smaller, more homey and slightly more expensive scale. Ronda de Toledo, 1 (Metro: Puerta de Toledo)

Go Out

La Soleá – This is where the flamenco guitarists go to jam AFTER they’ve finished their shifts at the touristy flamenco shows elsewhere in the city. It has no website and no regular opening hours, but if you go by after 11pm on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you’re likely in for a treat.  c/Cava Baja, 34 (Metro: La Latina)

Barrio Alto – Part coffee shop, part bar, all good. c/ Humilladero, 16 (Metro: La Latina)
Coctelería Delic is perpetually packed with young, beautiful madrileños enjoying the evening with delicious, potent mojitos. Costanilla San Andrés, 14 [Plaza de la Paja] (Metro: La Latina)


Barrio Salamanca is Madrid’s most posh neighborhood, where tradition and high-end style are the order of the day. It’s a perfect place to find couture fashion and designer home goods.


Retiro Park – One of the great treasures of Madrid. Row a boat on the lake, play bongos on the park’s curved stone steps on Sundays, stroll by the sparkling Palacio de Cristal or just stretch out on the grass. Nearly 300 acres of greenspace in the center of town. (Metro: Retiro)

Eat & Drink

Teatríz – Originally a theater, this restaurant was re-designed by Philippe Starck, and today it has an international menu as inventive as the décor. Sounds silly, but be sure to check out the hall-of-mirrors restrooms! c/Hermosilla, 15 (Metro: Velázquez)

La Broche – Head chef Ángel Palacios puts together a tasting menu with ultra-modern gels, foams and flower-infused delights. Vanguard gastronomy with the substance to back it up. c/Miguel Ángel, 29-31 [inside the Hotel Miguel Ángel] (Metro: Rubén Darío)

Combarro – This Galician restaurant is constantly topping ‘Best of’ lists in Madrid, and you’ll see why. Superlative food and service. c/José Ortega y Gasset, 40 (Metro: Lista)

If you should ever tire of Spanish food, Tandoori Station has Madrid’s best curry. c/José Ortega y Gasset, 89 (Metro: Lista/Manuel Becerra)


Hotel Ritz – If you can afford it, do it. Central, classic, swank. Plaza de la Lealtad, 5 (Metro: Banco de España)

Hotel Wellington – This converted 19th-century palace has classical accommodations in which to put your feet up after a long day of shopping on Calle Serrano. c/Velázquez, 8 (Metro: Retiro)

Hotel Hospes – A stone’s throw from the Puerta de Alcalá arch, Hotel Hospés is as zen as they come, with peaceful rooms, a spa, ‘chill-out lounge’ and outstanding in-house restaurant. Plaza de la Independencia, 3 (Metro: Retiro)


Calle Serrano is the Rodeo Drive of Madrid. Shop Spanish designers such as Purificación García and Agatha Ruíz de la Prada, or international couture houses such as Carolina Herreraand Giorgio ArmaniLladró, the Spanish porcelain giant, also has a store on this street. (Metro: Serrano)

Before Ikea and Habitat made it to Spain, there was Becara, an upscale pioneer in home design that’s still going strong 40+ years later. It’s a veritable emporium of furniture, textiles, lighting, accessories and antiques. c/Juan Bravo, 18 (Metro: Nuñez de Balboa)

Pepe Peñalver – Bold prints and velvet tapestries. c/Castello, 61 (Metro: Velázquez)

Iciar de la Concha – Furniture, lighting and thousands of textiles. c/Francisco Silvela, 57 (Metro: Diego de León)

Musgo – Part clothing, part home accessories, Musgo offers affordable, fashionable items, from chunky necklaces to sleek picture frames. c/Serrano, 18 (Metro: Serrano)

Biosca & Botey – Cutting-edge light fixtures. c/Alcalá, 111 (Metro: Príncipe de Vergara).

Gastón y Daniela – 100% Made-to-order sofas, ottomans and more that feature clean lines and delectable fabric combinations. c/Velázquez, 42 (Metro: Velázquez)

Casa y Jardín – A Madrid-based brand of furniture and accessories with architectural details inspired by Paco Muñoz. c/Padilla, 21 (Metro: Nuñez de Balboa)

Coco-Mat – 100% ecologically created, hypoallergenic, PH-neutral bedding, seating and accessories. Sounds Seattle, looks Scandinavia. c/Lagasca, 85 (Metro: Nuñez de Balboa)

Go Out

Keeper – Three storys of pulsing, Ibiza-style house music. c/Juan Bravo, 31 (Metro: Nuñez de Balboa)



The Chueca barrio is home to one of Europe’s most electric, thriving GLBT scenes. Enjoy an all-are-welcome vibe, quirky cafés and indie shops.

Eat & Drink

La Bardemcilla – Long before No Country for Old Men, the Bardem family were the Barrymores of Spanish cinema. Their eponymous restaurant has the family’s movie mementos adorning the walls and delicious, homemade croquettes on the menu. c/Augusto Figueroa, 47 (Metro: Chueca)

Momo – An affordable lunch menu full of Spanish classics with a modern twist. Try the moco de chocolate (chocolate booger, heh.) for dessert. c/Libertad, 8 (Metro: Banco de España/Chueca)

Café Oliver – Mediterranean fare, a nice cocktail bar, and one of the few places in Madrid where you can get a decent brunch. c/Almirante, 12 (Metro: Chueca)


Room Mate Oscar – Mod, pop-art inspired furnishings, bright colors and a summertime rooftop balcony in the heart of Chueca. Plaza Vázquez de Mella, 12 (Metro: Banco de España/Chueca)


Casa Postal – Antique postcards, photos and posters. Hunt for treasures in the overstuffed filing cabinets that fill this charming, musty little nook. c/Libertad, 37 (Metro: Chueca)

Calle Pelayo is lined with almost a dozen shoe stores, including a few that feature only ‘display size’ 37 – so if that’s you, you’ll be in hog heaven.

A few streets away, Calle Almirante is a nice stretch of boho clothing and accessories shops such as Sita MurtJesús del PozoZadig & Voltaireday a day, and TCN, which has the latest looks from Catalán designer Totón Comella.

Espacio Sins Entido – A bookstore/gallery/handmade-goods-shop hybrid with works from up-and-coming artists like Lady DesidiaSonia Pulido and Fernando Vicente.

Go Out

Despite the name, Bar Cock is not X-rated. Excellent grown-up cocktails, cozy, green leather banquettes, friendly staff and mile-high ceilings. c/Reina, 16 (Metro: Gran Vía)

Stromboli – Mixed drinks or coffee, depending on the time of day, and chill-out music. c/Hortaleza, 96 (Metro: Chueca/Tribunal)

Other great finds in other great barrios


Museo Sorolla – Spend a blissful hour or two in impressionist painter Joaquín Sorolla’s former home and quaint garden. You will likely want to move in. Paseo General Martínez Campos, 37 (Metro: Iglesia/Gregorio Marañon)

La Casa Encendida – A politically aware, globally minded cultural center that features contemporary art exhibitions, live music, film screenings, workshops and more, plus a great rooftop terrace in the summer. Ronda Valencia, 2 (Metro: Embajadores)

El Templo de Debod – This Egyptian temple is unlike any other structure in the city and is especially striking at sunset. Wander around the manicured park and take in the view of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral from the park’s perimeter. (Metro: Plaza de España/Ventura Rodríguez)

Catch the Teleférico suspended cable car out to the sprawling Casa de Campo municipal park. Paseo del Pintor Rosales (Metro: Argüelles)

Cheer at a soccer match: Real Madrid (the golden boys) or Atlético de Madrid (the working-class heroes).


Gaudeamus Café – Just down a block or two from the curry-scented main thoroughfare of the Lavapiés neighborhood is Gaudeamus – a rooftop restaurant oasis, book store, library, art & cooking school and multimedia space, all rolled into one. c/Tribulete, 14 (Metro: Lavapiés)

Café Melo’s Bar – Arrive at 8pm, when the husband-and-wife owners open the doors. At 8:05pm, there will be wait. Choose from the eight unchanging items on the menu, which include huge, gooey, ham-and-cheese sandwiches (zapatillas) and hand-rolled croquettes. Pay shockingly few euros. Devour. This is a true barrio Lavapiés experience. c/Ave María, 44 (Metro: Lavapiés)

Casa Mingo – This come-as-you-are Asturian chicken and cider house is over 120 years old, and it’s a Madrid institution. Paseo de la Florida, 34 (Metro: Príncipe Pío)


Right next door to Casa Mingo is the 18th-century Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida, where painter Francisco de Goya is laid to rest beneath his own beautiful frescoes. It’s a little gem that tourists rarely see, and entry is free.

Toma – Owned by American chef Mack Kern, Toma is a fantastic little restaurant with a menu focused on seasonal, natural ingredients with unique flavor combinations. c/Conde Duque, 14 (Metro: Ventura Rodríguez/Noviciado)


Hotel Puerta América – Just a few miles from the city center, this rainbow-colored hotel is an architecture- and interior-lover’s haven. Each of its 12 floors was designed by a different architect, and the elite list includes Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Ron Arad and Jean Nouvel. Avenida de América, 41 (Metro: Cartagena)


Nomada Supermarket – This ‘nomadic’ independent art fair began in 2005 as a way to showcase new design talent. Today, it has dozens of artists and crafters from around the world selling their wares. It’s a great place to meet fellow artists and/or pick up one-of-a-kind, handmade goodies. Check website for dates and locations.

Personalized handmade dolls and other works by Madrid-based Argentinean artist Vanesa Carosia are made from found, donated and recycled materials. Quick, get one before they’re the next Ugly Dolls! [online only]

Madrid native Jaime Hayon’s streamlined light fixtures are gaining an international following and were recently showcased at apartmenttherapy.  [commercial only, for now]

Antiguedades Hom – Lovingly restored and hand-painted antique fans that make great gifts or splurge-worthy souvenirs. c/Juan de Austria, 31 (Metro: Iglesia)

Ocho y Medio Libros de Cine – Peruse mountains of books about film or spend an hour reading the celebrity signatures framed on the walls. c/Martín de los Heros, 18 (Metro: Plaza de España/Ventura Rodríguez)

The beautiful, hand-painted paper of De Papel was recently featured in the New York Times. c/Justiniano, 7 (Metro: Alonso Martínez)

Go Out:

El Juglar – Unadorned brick walls and a wee stage that hosts a different kind of music every night of the week. Sunday is flamenco night, but chilled out jazz and soul are standard fare. c/Lavapiés, 37 (Metro: Lavapiés)

Without a doubt, the best thing to do in Madrid is get lost in its winding streets and find those non-descript little shops and cafés that have no website or PR to speak of, but until you find your own favorite haunts, this guide should help you capture a taste of Madrid style.

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  • Most of my family lives in Madrid, I’m there often, and I am positive

    not a single one of us could have written a better list. Nice going!

  • I lived/studied in Madrid for a summer, and OMG this post just takes me back. (I lived with a señora right by the Templo de Debod, actually!)

    Thanks so much for featuring such a wonderful city, and giving me a taste of the home that my corazón aches for.

  • A fabulous list!I’m so glad you included Pepita is Dead, one of my favorite vintage stores in a city with so few of them(and right up the street from my apartment!) Madrid is my other other hometown, so I must chime in with a few more suggestions!


    La Via Lactea:
    rockabilly, 60s, and punk music, cheap drinks, no attitude, outrageous decor with plush booths to cozy up in or dance in the narrow aisles besides the pool tables, this bar is my favorite, and there’s a reason it’s still around after being the mainstay of la movida(the 80s art scene that produced Almadovar and punk bands like alaska y los humanoidos). Fun guaranteed. C/ velarde 18, metro Chueca

    Moby Dick: this dark little music joint in the shadow of the massive Santiago Bernabeo stadium plays host to an eclectic line up indie and underground bands from spain and abroad.
    c/ avenida de brasil 5, metro: Santiago Bernabeo

    A must see is El Corte Ingles, the Spanish answer to Macy’s. A lot of everything, and great rebajas(sales) in the summer. Little secret: go up the cafe on the 9th floor for lovely views of the city and a much-needed coffee break. Metro: Sol

    Mercado de San Miguel:
    one of the oldest covered-markets in Madrid, come pick up fresh cheese, bread, and fruit and have a glass of tinto while watching shoppers hustle and bustle.
    Plaza San Miguel, Metro: Lavapies

    On weekends, take in the book sellers that set up their stalls around el Prado; if your spanish is decent, chat with the sellers about new releases and recommendations.

  • What a beautiful guide! If only we bad this on our trip to Madrid last Summer. It’s is such a beautiful city with a vibrant soul!

  • Vinçon:
    Beautiful building with 2 floors of impressive, well-edited design items for the home. It’s perfect for finding witty, ironic gifts.

  • some things left off the list:

    La Mallorquina right in Puerta del Sol for a breakfast pastry and coffee

    At the Circulo Bellas Artes pay 2E and go up to the roof for a view of Madrid.

    Please be careful about pickpockets anywhere, but especially in the fleamarket or any crowded tourist location!!! It´s a beautiful city, and I would hate for anyone’s visit to be marred by a theft.

  • What a timely resource for me…this morning, my husband told me that he just booked a trip to Madrid for our family this summer.

  • I spent 10 wonderful days in Madrid last month, and it was fun to re-live some of the moments from that trip while reading this guide. I’m bookmarking it for future reference too :)

    A few of my own suggestions –

    Two smaller, somewhat off-the-beaten path museums I enjoyed very much (in addition to the Sorolla museum mentioned here):

    Museo Lazaro Galdiano (terrific jewelry, pottery, textile collections)
    Museo del Traje (the Costume museum)

    The beauty of visiting these museums on a weekday in the off season, is that it’s almost like a private visit. There were no more than 2-3 other visitors in both of these places when I visited. It made for such an intimate and memorable experience.

    Hot chocolate at the Circulo de Bellas Artes Cafe – dozens of varieties (I recommend the hazelnut one).

    I would actually recommend having your chocolate con churros at a little place somewhere away from the touristy areas. I found this treat at San Gines and at a couple of other more popular places overrated.

    Oh, and as mentioned above, a visit to the Retiro park is a must! Watch out for a flock of wild parrots :)

  • THANK YOU!!!!! I’m from Madrid, and I been waiting this guide for a long time. Great selection.

    Just one more thing, for crafty materials you can go to Plaza (Square) marques viudo de Pontejos, full of textile shops and Almacenes Cobian with the best collection in Madrid of beads, cristals, fabrics, clay, and more

  • My favorites are the Mango Outlet in Malasaña for a satisfying bargain bin hunt for stylish woman’s clothing and the Sargadelos gallery (a stone’s throw from the Museo Sorolla) for gorgeous modernist porcelain–everything from dishware to figurines of wee animals and birds (http://www.sargadelos.com/galerias/galeria.php?id=13&lg=cas)

    I’m a web/graphic designer looking to move to Madrid. Still looking for a job–any suggestions?

  • What a lovely and surprising post!
    I am from Madrid but my boyfriend’s from London and I’m moving over to England in just a couple of days. And trust me; Although I love England; I’m going to miss Madrid so much!

    I have been to (most) of the places mentioned on the list and they are all very good.

    So from a madrilian’s point of view; I think Kristen deserves a big, big well done and a “hooray” for her great research :)

    I might suggest some other beautiful shops around the Chueca Area that usually only people from the city know….

    1) Mott ( *It hasn’t got a sign with the name outside of the shop on purpose… so you’ll have to be carefull finding it *) and it’s one of the most beautiful shops in the capital. You can find clothes from indie designers, birthday cards, handmade jewellery, mens clothes and a beautiful and very selected line of very feminine underware.
    You can find the address here: http://mottmadrid.com/

    2) PEZ. This is another favourite shop of mine. It has got a very mediterranean touch and french style. The owners (Patricia and Beatriz) are always very helpful and friendly and they have a beautiful selection of handmade jewellery; very feminine clothes for special ocassions and it’s probably one of the best places in Madrid to buy that “perfect” handbag that we all look for. It has also got a new line of vintage furniture available at their shop.
    The address is: Calle Regueros, 15. Phone number: +34 9131306677.

    3) Oliphant: Simply beautiful… http://www.oliphant.es/

    4) Papelmania: A beautiful stationery store where you’ll find cute notebooks, boxes, handprinted wrapping paper and a lot more…
    The address is: Calle Justiniano, 7. Phone number: 0034 913080152

    5) Ensánchez: Small shop where you’ll find selected handmade jewellery, handbags, sunglasses and some indie spanish clothing brands.
    Here is the address: Calle Argensola,12. Phone Number: +34 913195850

    6) Piamonte: this is probably one of the most legendary accesories and clothing shop in Madrid. It has got 3 shops around the capital; but the best (and biggest one) is on Calle Lagasca 28. Phone number: 0034 915755520.

    7) Isolée: Almost a brand new shop with an amazing selection of clothing, delicatessen food, jewllery, shoes, furniture, perfumes… It’s perfect to find something for your boyfriend!
    You have to definately visit one of their 2 shops. Here is their website: http://www.isolee.com/

    There are a lot more shops and restaurants that I love in Madrid; but I don’t want to bore you too much!

    I hope you come over to Madrid and explore the city that never sleeps….

    María X

    PS: Sorry, I have to add this…

    If you want to go to a beautiful cinema (always plays original version movies) and eat the *BEST* sweet popcorn ever (yes, they have a delicious melted caramel topping…) please go to: Calle del Doctor Cortezo, 6. Phone number: 0034 913691053
    Cinemas Ideal. The address is:

  • Hi all,
    Thanks for the kind comments and great additions to the guide!

    @amhp, the job market right now is tough here, but you could try laboris.net or infojobs.net as a starting point. Good luck!

  • Great list! I have to add my own two cents, though, and say that if you go to the Prado, don’t miss the Hieronymus Bosch painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” You’ll see why Dali might have fit right in in the 15th century.

  • Amazing list! Takes me back to my year in Spain and many weekends in Madrid. Wish I could book a flight right now…

  • This is perfect! I’ll be spending my summer in Spain studying Spanish and I’ll definitely use this guide for my time in Madrid.

  • I recommend also a bar – restaurant called” Calle 54 “, designed by Javier Mariscal. It is a jazzclub that recalls the mythical jazzclub of New York and where beside having dinner they can take glasses and coctails and listen to Latin jazz and musical miscegenations of maximum quality.
    In the gastronomic thing, Club 54 offers two options, the Bistro by day (from 13 to 20h) in the one that can eat up to very good price salads, pastas, pizzas, sándwiches and some meats and fished; and the Bistro in the night that offers a more elaborated letter of creative cuisine with traditional and healthy base.
    Is in Paseo La Havana, and to lodge I recommend the Hotel NH La Havana.
    Underground Santiago Bernabeu (Line 10) .
    Also is indispensable a visit to the Retiro park where is posible to take a walk in boat in the lake.

  • Madid! La mejor ciudad en todo el mundo! After living near Cuatro Caminos for two years, I would love to go back with my family and work in Madrid for a few years.

  • Awesome!!! I live in Valencia(Spain)and was planning to go to Madrid for a weekend soon!!! this comes in soo handy!

  • Yay I was so excited to see Madrid, I studied spanish one summer in college there and loved it. good places for breakfast were…Los Viñedos
    Calle de la Virgen de los Peligros, 7, 28013 Madrid, Spain

  • Los Viñedos had good tortilla espanola and Faborit is just down the street Calle de Alcalá, 21
    28014 Madrid. They had cheap breakfast that included a pastry, fresh squeezed juice, and awesome coffee all for a couple euros. Better and cheaper than starbucks next door.

  • WOW! I am from Madrid, and unfortunately expatriated since 2002 (well, OK, it’s not so bad, but I miss home) and with all the additions from the comments this is a seriously good guide.
    I’m going to have to take it with me this summer!

  • Oh my goodness. I am moving to Madrid in 6 months- this list has gotten me SO excited. I am printing it and putting it up by my desk- it will drive me crazy in such a good way.

  • must recommend the hotel silken puerta america – location uninspiring, exterior excrutiating, interior absolutely incredible. staying here, in a beautiful, relaxing kathryn findlay designed room (but sneaking around checking out the other floors) was a phenomenal design experience.

  • You get MAJOR points for recommending el Museo Sorolla. Unfortunately, most Madrid guides leave out this little gem. I lived in Madrid for years and used to go there often. It’s such a special place!

    On the topic of nightlife (the most important thing in Madrid) I definitely agree with Ananda, but only if you get a table in the outside area!

    For eating, Lateral in Salamanca is always fun for people watching. Not the greatest tapas in the world, but a chic locale. Oh, and Plaza Santa Ana in the summer is a nice place to go with a large group for a bottle of wine. It’s touristy, but still fun!

  • I´m from Madrid and I have to say it is a great gauide, so update and really interesting.

  • Great guide! I am from Madrid and I live here and I think it is such a good guide. I would add that there are good outlets quite near Madrid, called Factory ( I recommend the one in San Sebastiáin de los Reyes).
    I also recomend you to try Horchata, delecious drink specially for summer (suitable for veagn and vegetarian). There is a great place for Natural Horchata in Alcalá street called La Alboraya. One of the few that prepare daily horchata.
    Last, a gothic disco called Dark Hole (good name for a gothic place isn´t it?) near Gran Vía street (Calle Mesonero Romanos).
    Art lovers? just walk around the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and the beautiful Salamanca neighbourhood, as the guide suggests, Goya and Serrano streets are great.
    Last, try to visit nearby cities, I absolutely recomend: San Lorenzo del Escorial, La Granja in Segovia and Toledo, you won´t regret!
    Enjoy Madrid!!

  • hello!
    Thank you for this wonderful list… soon I will go to Madrid and bring this with me.

    I am looking for a room to stay a few monthes in Madrid… I am textile designer and I will have a very interesting studies in there.

    Does anyone know a good place to stay or rent for a few monthes?

    Thanks so much.

  • wonderful list, I have been living as an exchange student in madrid for the past 9 months, and my last month here starts now, so I will rely on this guide to go to the places I sadly missed so far :D

    anyway, I do have a few very important additions :)


    a lovely shop at plaza san ildefonso in malasaña (metro: tribunal)
    beautiful, playful, quirky gift ideas, home decoration, jewellery…
    with a lovely english owner, and I’ll even be working there on some days this month hooray :)


    my absolute favourite place to go for drinks in madrid, in malasaña. calle del barco (metro gran via)

    as the name indicates, very cosy atmosphere with lots of pretty lamps scattered everywhere, mismatched chairs and sofas and cute tables.
    they also do tostas if you’re hungry, and you will never have to wait for more than a few minutes until they refill your free bowl of crisps or popcorn ;)

    also, most importanly, the FRIENDLIEST STAFF you could possibly imagine. I just want to hug them everytime I go :)

    (this is also what sets them apart from a lot of similar places going with the kind of hip vintage vibe in madrid nowadays)


    in calle espiritu santo, also in malasaña. hipster retro chic, VERY good mojitos.
    can get quite crowded though and some of the waitors are a tad unfriendly. although i generally like it, they do sometimes make you feel like they have enough costumers anyway and don’t really care. sometimes teh hipster vibe just gets too much for me ;)
    but as I said, the decor and mojitos make up for it :D

    I hope you’ll enjoy madrid and these places as much as I did and will continue doing for my last 4 weeks in spain!!! :)

  • Great info guide especially as I’ve just moved a few miles from Madrid. Anyhow, do you know a good cheep artist materials shop near a metro station.


  • Hello Kristen,
    I work for Home & Garden Television (HGTV) in the US and we are bringing a brand new design show to Madrid that features the homes and lives of American expatriates. I was hoping to speak with you to gain a little more insight about the area specific to what we’ll be shooting, as well as ask you if you know any Americans living in Madrid who may be interested in being on our show. Please email me at jhoffman@highnoontv.com. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Kind regards,
    Jenna Hoffman

  • could anyone put up something about BARCELONA!! ive heard so many people say “it’s my favourite city in the world”.

  • Is end of December/beginning of January a bad time to visit Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba,Barcelona?

  • If you have time please visit Anmoder (www.anmoder.com) a fantastic combination of antiques and contemporary art. I am sure you will enjoy.

  • I just looked to see if anyone has ever done a travel guide for Barcelona. I don’t see it on he list. Hopefully, this could be an encouragement to someone who knows the city well. Thank you.

  • This guide it´s a bit old and too turistic, apart that many of the places have closed. You should refresh it or even put somes spots where the locals go.

  • I wouldn’t follow this guide of Madrid if I were to go today. As Olivia says, you can tell it’s been written years ago. As many other commented, Madrid is now blasting and full of all sorts of new museums, shops, bars and interesting things going on, much more than Barcelona. There are some very good places recommended by many of you.

    • Elena

      Our Madrid guide is indeed in need of an update and we’ll work on finding someone to help with that. It was written in 2010 so I’m sure there are many new places to add and update.


  • Climb to the rooftop viewing balconies of The Cibeles Building in La Catellana Ave. it’s the 8th Floor. Great views of Madrid. There’s a Cafe in the 6th floor too and the entry ticket of 3EU goes towards a drink. Nice open deck views and tables to sip and sigh…