It was raining heavily when I landed. I went straight to the hotel and after leaving my bags went to explore the city. It rained throughout the next 2 days of my stay in Madrid and I hardly enjoyed the view half covered by umbrella. After my first visit to Madrid I was telling all my friends that I prefer Barcelona (where I lived for a a few months back in 2011) to Madrid.
Few years later I booked my flight to Madrid for the end of July. I was going to Malaga for vacation and I decided to stop over in Madrid (as there is a Google office there) and work from there for a few days. On my way from the airport to the hotel I was watching the lights, people enjoying sangrias in street cafes, unique Madrid architecture, shops and galleries. All these blended into hot summer air when I stepped out of the cab in a narrow street in Malasaña and made me a bit dizzy. It was my first vacation after long 8 months living in cold Ireland and being used to 30 degrees kind of summer I felt like I am home. And it was not just the temperature or the long expected break that made me fall in love with Madrid from that moment, something changed and I realized how much I would love to stay in this city forever.
I love Madrid for how the modern trends and styles are mixed into its centuryies old spirit, for effortlessly stylish and genuinely friendly people, for the endless amount of new restaurants, shops, art exhibitions and events that swamp you completely and make you come back again and again. Although I have just started my “relationship” with Madrid, I would like to share a number of the places that inspire me and allow me taste Madrid as it really is. Here we go. No intention to provide a guide to the city here, but just showing my Madrid moodboard.
Where to stay?
Every time I am in Madrid I try a new place to stay in. One of my favourite spots is Hotel Totem. As much as Madrid is a mix of cultures and styles, this hotel blends the minimalism in room design with the chic retro lobby and bar area, flavoured with the tunes from DJ Joao Ribeiro which makes it a favourite trendy spot for night cocktails.
Where to see art
One of my favourite places to see art in Madrid is …. its streets. There you can see the real art, that remains unchanged in its lines and shapes for decades maintaining the spirit of the city and at the same time is altered by the people, events and years that make this art more real. Art is self expression, a method to put ideas (sometimes really crazy ones) into visible and palpable forms. Los madrileños are doing it consciously and subconsciously every day by the way they talk, walk, dress, communicate, spend the weekend, work, basically everything they do. And when in Madrid I enjoy just walking in the streets and observing this city-human day to day interaction.
Of course there are plenty of art galleries in Madrid with constantly changing collections. One of the most beautiful museums is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. When I was there in November they had an amazing exhibition Bvlgari Rome where the famous Italian jewelry house presented its iconic pieces together with amazing photographs of the muses of the house which inspired the creation of the jewelry.
Very hungry …
Where to go when you are hungry in Madrid? I first narrow down the choice by picking with going to one of the food markets or to a restaurant. From all Madrid markets I prefer Mercado de San Miguel. Although my friends living in Madrid think its too touristy, it does not make the food in it any worse. My must-eat are the fried seafood served in a standing bar, pimientos de padrón, burrata (with fig jam and parma ham toppings) and of course, jamon!
For breakfast or dinner of course I prefer to go the restaurants. I prefer to eat very in very authentic places with Spanish food and I have a few amazing places that I like to come back on my trips. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for me, so I never skip it. If you enjoy rolling out from the table on a Saturday morning so full that you need a nap after (but I never do one as in Madrid I don`t want to miss a thing) I recommend you La Habanera – one of the best restaurants owned by Larrumba group (btw, check out their other restaurants). For those obsessed with the green palm leaves print and Caribbean style, La Habanera is a perfect spot. The menu is a mix of healthy and “cheat day” kind of meals among which the most delicious is the breakfast set for two. I mean, just look below:
Celso y Manolo
For very authentic tapas head to Celso y Manolo. For a very reasonable price they have amazing set of tapas which are all worth trying. The ambiance is very relaxed and casual and there are almost no tourists in Manolo.
Juana La Loca
This place was recommended to me by my friend living in Madrid. He told me it has an amazing foie gras and fish dishes. I must say this is one of the best places to eat in Madrid. Be sure to try tortilla in Juana La Loca, it just melts in your mouth and una ración is never enough…
Just one glass tonight
Although the best way to have drinks in Madrid is stroll from one bar to the other (so that you might not remember all the names of the places the next day), there are a few iconic ones where they serve amazing cocktails. My favorite place with vintage but not too sleek interior and sophisticated cocktails is 1862 Dry Bar. Perfect for endless talks with your friends and a bit more limited amount of cocktails per night.
Churros are something the Spanish people eat for breakfast. But because there is a place that is never closed (and by never closed I mean it is open 24/7, 7 days a week, all year). So when you are heading over home after a night out, tired and happy, what can make you even happier is a portion of hot churros with liquid chocolate. Head over to San Gines – the oldest churros cafe in Madrid.
To be continued…..