Madrid is a city that radiates energy like no other. Walk the streets any day of the week and it’s impossible not to be excited by its vibrancy – the capital is jam-packed with places to see and things to do, with a tapas restaurant on every corner for re-fuelling in between. Or you could just find a perch in Plaza Mayor and watch the world go by. What’s not to love?
Enjoy the many plazas
Whether you want to grab a coffee, do some people-watching or just rest your feet, spending time in one of the city’s plazas is a must. Plaza Mayor (main photo) – a grand, arcaded square surrounded by cafes and bars – is one of the city’s finest. Look out for the beautiful Arco de Cuchilleros (Cutlers Arch; above), one of the most special places in Madrid, located on the south-west corner. Its official name is Calle de la Escalerilla de Piedra, but locals refer to it as Arco de Cuchilleros due to the fact that several centuries ago, there were many cutlers’ workshops here to supply knives to the butchers in Plaza Mayor. Look out for the grand, four-storey Casa de la Carnicería building in the centre of the plaza – this was the former meat market. It now houses city offices.
Eat tapas like the locals
We love eating tapas – it’s tasty, social and often good-value – hence you’ll find streets and streets of tapas restaurants in Madrid. One of the best things to do is browse the menus and get a feel for the atmosphere of each place. Can’t decide? Head for Rosi la Loca (below) located near the famous Puerta del Sol square. It is a typical tavern that mixes tradition with the avant-garde, in both its decor and menu. It’s renowned for its croquetas de jamon (ham croquette) and ceviche de sandia (watermelon ceviche). We locals love this creative place and its bizarre decorations. After the tapas, make sure you ask for a good cocktail.
Experience the city by night
Madrid comes alive at night. Many Spanish like to eat late and you’ll often see families dining out together well into the night. After dinner, stay out to experience the vibrancy of the nightlife. Since the 1980s, Enbabia Bar (Nuñez de Arce, 9) has been one of the most emblematic places in the city – a party place in the heart of Old Madrid, in the Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter). The bar was opened during the golden age of the capital’s burgeoning nightlife scene, when it seemed that Madrid never sleeps. You’ll find it buzzing with people, no matter the day of the week.
Museo del Prado (below) should be top of your list – it is Spain’s national art museum and showcases one of the world’s finest collections of European art from the 12th to 20th centuries. With around 1,300 drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures on display, you’ll need to allow plenty of time for your visit. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, regarded as one of the world’s most important private art collections, is another must-see. Both of these are classics. But for something a little more under the radar, visit Museo Sorolla. It features work by the artist Joaquín Sorolla, and occupies what was the artist’s family home from 1911 – it’s remarkably well preserved. You can step inside his well-lit studio, where the walls are adorned with his canvasses.
– TEXT BY NICOLA ISEARD
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.