I went to Madrid for the weekend and discovered the citys colourful nightlife

I went to Madrid for the weekend and discovered the citys colourful nightlife

When it comes to embarking on a holiday abroad, Spain is a classic go-to for jetsetters. Whether it’sthe stunning cityscape of Barcelona or thebeachy shores of Marbella, Spain is the UK’s number one most visited holiday destination. And one gem that is well worth the visit is Madrid – the country’s capital.

With a mixture of modern high rise buildings and ornate churches and mediaeval buildings, Madrid has plenty to offer. From esteemed art galleries to museums and palaces, the sun-soaked capital (which is known for its dry, hot summers) has something different lurking behind each corner, and has even taken the fancy of celebrities including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz.

So, with that in mind, OK! takes a look at all that the city has to give…

Urban vibe

Filled with ornate churches, world-famous art galleries and dazzling architecture, it’s no surprise that Spain’s capital is a popular mini-break destination. You can visit Europe’s largest palace, the Royal Palace of Madrid, in the morning, lust over designer labels in the Galería Canalejas following a lazy lunch, then enjoy the colourful nightlife after sundown. But one local advised us otherwise, “The best way to really experience Madrid is by sitting in a bar with a glass of vermouth, just taking in the atmosphere.” Sold!

Authentic eats

The best spot for people watching is the city’s Literary Quarter, with its narrow, paved streets lined with traditional, quirky restaurants and shops. Here you’ll find all the good tapas bars (head for those with tiled fronts, which are the most authentic).

You’ll also find Plaza de Santa Ana, where Ernest Hemingway used to drink and which is now filled with open-air eateries and has a buzzing vibe. Look out for the Museo del Jamón cafés dotted around the city, instantly recognisable by the hams hanging from the ceilings. If you are vegetarian be prepared to eat a lot of patatas bravas. Even the posh restaurants have limited meat-free options.

When it comes to meals, eat like Madrileños and skip dinner. Instead go for the lunchtime “menu of the day”, which is excellent value, then have tapas in the evening. If you’re still hungry later at night, pick up churros and hot melted chocolate from one of the 24-hour churros shops. Chocolatería San Ginés is perhaps the most famous.

Hidden gem

Our accommodation, Gran Hotel Inglés, is in the Literary Quarter, conveniently located yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle. Dating back to 1886, it’s the oldest hotel in Madrid, and was a hotspot for artists, politicians, bullfighters and other members of the city’s elite at the start of the 20th century.

It has recently been restored to bring back some of that old-fashioned elegance, giving guests a luxurious experience that still honours the hotel’s heritage. Bedrooms blend tradition with modern luxury – ours had a roll-top bath at the end of the bed, wall-to-wall windows and, in the closet, wallpaper made of letters and photographs from the hotel’s past.

The bar fully embraces art-deco glamour, with smartly dressed bartenders who can make anything on (or indeed off) the extensive cocktail menu, and keep bottles of cava on ice. The hotel’s Casa Lobo restaurant serves traditional dishes with a modern fine-dining twist, accompanied by live music at night.

If you’re after further evening entertainment, head to one of the city’s flamenco bars. They are quite touristy, but it’s an exciting way to experience the high-energy Spanish dance.

See the sights

Skip the modern Almudena Cathedral (locals hate it, apparently) and hunt out historic churches like the Royal Basilica of St Francis the Great and the baroque Church of St Andrew the Apostle. Visiting the city’s two most famous art galleries – the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre – isn’t feasible in one day, so we opted for the latter and spent an enjoyable few hours engrossed in the collection of 20th century art, including Picasso’s Guernica, huge and haunting.

Stroll down the Cuesta del Moyano, a promenade lined with stalls heaped high with vintage books, to the Royal Botanic Garden and El Retiro Park. Large and lively, there’s something happening in every corner of this vast green public space, from rose gardens and Tai Chi lessons to musicians and performance artists.

How to Book

You can book at stay at Gran Hotel Inglés on booking.com. B&B prices start at about £385 (€434) in a Deluxe room, based on double occupancy.


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