Where to eat and what to do if you find yourself with 24 hours in Spain’s grand capital, Madrid
9.00am: Wake up to churros con chocolat
When in Madrid do as the Madrileños do and start the day with a piping hot plate of churros, a gloopy cup of dark chocolat to dip them into and a steaming café con leche. And where better to do that than the charming cream and green halls of Chocolatería San Gines, which has been churning out churros since 1894. Sinfully thick chocolate, slightly salty crisp dough – there are few more perfect ways to start the day.
In and around the area: Madrid’s monumental plaza - Plaza Mayor - is perfect for taking a stroll or gawking at buskers, artists, protestors and football fans, while the little shaded shops lining the square are good places to pick up some trencadis curios, mini Velazquez meninos, matador aprons and other take-away tat.
11.30am: Taste some tapas
No one goes far in Madrid without being hit by the urge to graze and there’s plenty of grazing to be done at Mercado de San Miguel – the buzzing covered market where you can have your fill of all sorts of tapas, sherry, wine and desserts and still find loads more you wished you had tried. From croquettas de jamon iberico, to Galacian octopus, truffle arancini and crispy fried langoustines,
grab a glass of syrupy sweet Pedro Ximenez, a dry sherry or a glass of sangria
and taste your way around as many stalls as you can get through.
In and around the area: The pretty Plaza de la Ville; Palacio Real de Madrid with its sweeping colonnaded courtyard; the glowing stained glass interiors of Almudena Cathedral and people watching among the statues and gardens of the grand Plaza de Oriente.
2:30pm: Lunch at a legendary spot
The world’s oldest restaurant and high praise by Ernest Hemingway to boot (he called it “the best restaurant in the world” in The Sun Also Rises), if that’s not enough to tempt you into the tiled dining halls of Botin, then the row-upon-row of roasted suckling pigs (cochinillo asado) should do the trick. A moist chunk or pork, crispy crackling and a swig of Spanish wine – delicioso!
In and around the area: You’re in the original land of the siesta so follow the lead of the locals and head back to your hotel for a nap. If you are feeling a little more energetic, grab a metro to the lungs of the city - Retiro Park - and spend the afternoon rowing on the lake, strolling down the pretty paseos or visiting the Palacio de Cristal. (And if the urge to nap is too strong after all, you can always crash on the lawn under a canopy of trees.)
7:30pm: Drinks and duende
Head to Villa Rosa, settle back with a drink and catch some of the country’s best
flamenco dancers whip up a storm at this charming restaurant tucked along one side of Plaza de Santa Ana. With its colourful Andalusian-tiled interiors and intimate stage, you can see why some of Madrid’s most famous inhabitants, movie stars and even King Alfonso XIII himself often headed here to catch the moving magic called duende that is the mark of a great flamenco tablao.
9:00pm: Kill the night with a tapas crawl
Don Ernesto (that’s what the Spanish called Ernest Hemingway) put it poetically when he said “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid before they have killed the night” and you can take a fair stab at it with a tapas crawl in some of Madrid’s most famous tapas quarters like Huertas. Head to Casa Alberto for some typical Madrileño dishes such as oxtail stew and pig’s ears and other favourites such as boquerones, croquettas, meatballs, patatas bravas, chorizo and more. Then wander down to La Casa del Abuelo for fried langoustines and melt-in-your-mouth gambas al ajillo. Just make sure you pace yourself so you can try several tapas bars.
In and around the area: Wander down to Puerta del Sol for an obligatory picture next to 'El Oso y El Madroño' - the statue of the bear eating from a Madroño tree that is the symbol of the city, and a chance to step onto the kilómetro cero – the plaque that marks the symbolic centre of Spain.
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