If you’re looking for a culture-rich city break then Madrid is the place for you. As the third largest city in the EU (smaller than only London and Berlin) the sprawling Spanish capital is brimming with global art institutions, countless Michelin-starred restaurants and breath-taking panoramic vistas.
Although the city may not be home to megalith global landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum – Madrid’s rich cultural heritage oozes from every inch of its manicured boulevards and pastel-coloured buildings.
There’s an inimitable energy that buzzes through the veins of Madrid that you could never quite put your finger on nor describe to someone. Once the sun sets, the city truly comes to life. With hole-in-the-wall tabernas opening up shop close to midnight and restaurants reaching full capacity close to 1am, when planning your trip, it’s almost essential that you adopt a fluid and easily adaptable itinerary. As the gateway to Andalusia, Madrid truly embodies the traditionalism of the Spanish estilo de vida (way of life).
Gran Meliá Palacio De Los Duques
Gran Meliá De Los Duques is the diamond in the crown of the historical heart of the city. The property—which was previously a palace and home to the Dukes of Granada de Ega and Villahermosa—is designed in complete dedication to renowned Spanish artist Velázquez. Sweeping marble-lined lobbies with modernist chandeliers are complimented by a carefully curated library packed full of contemporary art and fashion coffee table books – the perfect combination of old world meets new world.
If you’re looking for an elevated experience, be sure to book a RedLevel stay. RedLevel is essentially a luxury boutique hotel located within the hotel. Benefits include a private check-in reception area (complete with complimentary open bar) and access to a private dining area that’s refreshed throughout the day with juice, drinks, champagne, premium breakfast and mid-afternoon snacks (think delicious ceviche and mouth-watering chocolate mousses) inclusive of the price.
RedLevel deluxe rooms are the perfect choice for a weekend stay. With sprawling floor-to-ceiling windows, plunge bathtubs and waterfall showers (complete with Clarins products) – you might never want to leave your room. During summer months the hotel is the perfect choice for one key reason: the rooftop. With unbeatable 360-degree views of the historic part of the city and an infinity pool that seemingly melts in to the horizon – it’ll be difficult to find a reason to leave the property.
A RedLevel Deluxe Room at Gran Meliá Palacio De Los Duques start from €510 per night.
If you’re looking for an expansive menu (packed full of vegan and vegetarian options) then Café Murillo is perfect. Located a mere two-minute walk from the Prado, Murillo—which has been running since 1927—really doesn’t mess around on portion sizes (be warned, the patatas bravas will put you in a food coma so be sure to share dishes). Sit at an outside table after a long day of art consumption and walk off a heavy lunch in the park afterwards.
Be warned – if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, 47 Ronin is not for you. However – if you love seafood, this place is unbeatable. With super-slick modernist Japanese interiors, 47 Ronin is an immersive Japanese seafood experience from the moment you step through the door. Every single dish is instantly Instagrammable: think scallops cured in kombu with spicy roe hollandaise oozing with dry ice or sea urchins served on a bed of burnt orange shellfish. Book in for the tasting menu experience, you won’t regret it.
Serving up a delicious combination of Spanish and French gastronomy, Montmartre is the perfect spot for wine aficionados. The decor is immaculately curated (you’ll want to steal the dining chairs in .5 seconds) and the ambience is perfect for a romantic dinner. Try the sea bass and be sure to ask the sommelier about the wine from his home town – it’s delicious.
The Prado is to Madrid what the Uffizi is to Florence. As the crown jewel of the city’s art collections – no visit to the city is complete without heading to the Prado. With endless rooms filled with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools (standout pieces include Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808) the collection is comprised of over 8,600 paintings and 700 sculptures.
If modern art is more your thing, pay Reina Sofia a visit. This is where you’ll find Picasso’s famous Guernica as well as endless works by Salvador Dalí and a film by Louis Buñuel.
These immaculately landscaped gardens are the perfect place for a sunset drink and picnic. Take some snacks and a good bottle and stay until long after dark – the place is buzzing in to the early hours.
The perfect way to end a trip to Madrid is with a rooftop drink. Head to ME’s radio bar—located in the buzzy neighbourhood of Plaza de Santa Ana—and drink beneath the stars. On a Sunday night the hotel hosts a dance party that draws in the local fashion and art crowd (forget Friday nights… in Madrid it’s all about a Sunday).