Though the capital of Spain, and the third largest city in Europe, Madrid is often overlooked as a city break destination thanks to Spain’s abundancy of cultural vibrancy. Passing it over however would be to miss a cosmopolitan city brimming with gastronomic delights.
1. The Food
My stomach is the driving force behind most of my city breaks; it’s a chance to indulge my basic desires in a heady, unfamiliar environment. Thankfully, Madrid’s not short of exceptional dining experiences. There are endless tapas bars, bodegas and cervecerias to eat, drink and relax at like a local. As with most cities, the most historic quarters tend to offer up the most authentic dining experiences, while the trendy areas offer up a mixture of the traditional and the avant garde.
If you’ve got a hankering for something authentic head to Las Letras (the literary quarter) and straight to Alimentacion Quiroga, a contemporary local bodega. Stop here for a pre-dinner bite and don’t delay in ordering a slab of its gorgonzola dolce with a glass of red. Next, head to the charming cobblestoned road that’s home to Casa Gonzalez, where you’ll discover yet more authentic Spanish wines and cheese, before visiting the Plaza Espana where a more contemporary experience awaits.
Botania has managed to elevate a simple tomato salad to epicurean ambrosia. Smothered in balsamic vinegar, oil and salt with chunks of fresh asparagus, you won’t be able to help yourself mopping up the remnants with freshly-baked olive bread. Trust me. Opening its doors at 8:30pm, Madrid’s cosmopolitans promptly descend on to the restaurant, filled with leafy green foliage, smooth gold lines and a Seventies-inspired interior that oozes cool.
Dos Cielos is also well worth a visit. Run by the Hermanos Torres, get ready for an indulgent dining experience that marries big flavours with a delicate touch. The pretty plates would probably be all over Instagram if you weren’t too busy scoffing them among Madrid’s elite. The area of Cheuca, the city’s LGBT neighbourhood is also a great place to hang out during the day, with lots of bars and countless restaurants. You could head to the Mercado de San Anton, but don’t. Instead opt for El Cisne Azul, one of the more traditional restaurants in the area that specialises in mushroom dishes. It’s worth the inevitable wait.
2. The Accommodation
Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques is tucked off the bustling streets of Madrid, with an elegant facade that mirrors the understated opulence inside. The rooms are sumptuous, yet practical, the kind that always have a spare adaptor on hand. Fluttering with voyeurism, a theatrical pull of a cord swishes open a velvet curtain to reveal a bath tub in a glass room – it has a touch of Bond about it that’s a sybarite’s dream.
If you’re racing to Madrid in a supercar, VP Plaza España is a great choice. Sleek and cool, with complimentary Veuve Clicquot chilling in the mini bar, the hotel boasts the best rooftop views in Madrid. As the sun sets over Madrid’s skyline, recline and sip a margarita or two, before heading down to explore the city’s vibrant bar and restaurant scene.
3. The Culture
Madrid has a whole plethora of museums, street art and music venues to keep you busy. The Museo Del Prado is the city’s largest museum and can prove a little daunting unless you have a focus. It’s a must-see for art aficionados, housing the largest collections from Rubens, Velázquez and Goya. The Museo Reina Sofia is perhaps more achievable for a day’s visit and for me more enthralling. With paintings from the likes of Dali, Miro and Picasso all on display, you will be transported into an era when art was developing at an exciting rate and artists were constantly pushing boundaries.
If you’re visiting over a weekend head to the El Rastro flea market on Sunday, where street sellers mix with upmarket mid-century modern furniture stores to create the largest market in Madrid. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, stop in Allioli for some Valencian-style paella and a cold cerveza.
Tucked away in Las Letreas, Le Venencia is a sherry lover’s dream. An old leftist haunt, it hasn’t changed at all since the likes of Ernest Hemingway used to drink over prose here. It’s a great place to get to know one of Spain’s favourite drinks and the interior is simply stunning, with the walls and casks developing a rich patina over the years that only age can achieve. Afterwards, head out for some music at the jazz haunt, Café Central. Its shabby art deco charm is the perfect setting to soak up an intimate performance over some drinks, which the friendly bar staff generously free-pour – now that’s my kind of bar.
4. The Flight
You can organise a trip to your heart’s content but all too often you’re held hostage to the whims of airlines, airports and the general hell of air travel. That is, unless you fly private. We don’t mean dropping £10 million on your own jet but chartering with LunaJets.
LunaJets simply offers the best prices for jet charter in the world. With access to over 4,800 aircraft, empty legs, volume buying and hourly rates, they can ensure you get the ideal flight for you, whether that’s a cultural hub or an island in the middle of nowhere. Give them a call, tell them where you want to go and let them do all the legwork. Just make sure you’re packed. More details at www.lunajets.com