48 HOURS IN Madrid
SPAIN’S CAPITAL CAN EASILY TRUMP POPULAR BARCELONA, WRITES NICCI COLLIER
madrid is the Spanish secret I’d like to keep. Often sidelined by beachside Barcelona (the country’s wonderful second-in-command and Catalan port), Castilian Madrid is sunshine personified. It is the scent of exquisite leather from shoe, bag and belt boutiques lining cobbled streets and alleyways. Madrid is tomatoes – and not just any tomatoes: the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes, sliced onto tostas and drizzled with olive oil. Madrid is Raphael’s ‘Portrait of a Cardinal’ at the Museo del Prado and Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ at the Reina Sofía. Madrid is a giant who slumbers each afternoon to escape the heat.And awakes each evening in plazas and courtyards with young and old gathered animatedly around jugs of sangria and platters of chorizo and serrano ham.
EAT THIS, SIP THAT
You’ve paired your wine with cheese and chocolate; now try it with your other love: books. Tipos In fames (Calle San Joaquin, 3) is a ‘book bar’ where you might read Joan Lindsey’s Picnic at Hanging Rock while sipping on a crisp Australian white. Genius. Expose your palate to the unforgettable flavours of Spanish tapas at the chic Mercado de San Miguel (Plaza de San Miguel). Take your pick of plump olives, salty jamón ibérico or flavourful empanadas. La Bicicleta Café (Plaza de San Ildefonso, 9) is a hip spot with a passion for bicycles, art and good coffee in equal parts. Join the locals crowded into Museo del Jamón (Calle Gran Via, 72) for beer and delicious, budget-friendly bocadillos with jamón and queso (ham and cheese rolls).
SHOP HERE, BROWSE THERE
Madrileños love to shop. At Loewe for leather and Camper for shoes; or at Spanish heroes Zara and Mango (and owner Inditex’s other champions: Bershka, Pull & Bear, and Massimo Dutti). Find them all in the Puerto del Sol area and along Gran Via. For luxury shopping, stroll Salamanca’s grid of streets; for quirky boutiques and edgy fashion, head to Calle Fuencarral. Pop into Do Design (Calle Fernando VI, 13) for clean, minimalist items. Although big chains have, sadly, replaced many specialists, you’ll still find stores selling only gloves or espadrilles – try Calle Toledo behind Plaza Mayor.
PAUSE HERE, PARTY THERE
A tour of the Spanish Royal Family’s official (but not actual) 2 000-room residence, Palacio Real de Madrid (Calle Bailén), is fascinating. Dance floors famously fill up around 2am. Think local: schedule an afternoon siesta, 10pm dinner, then drinks and head to Club Joy Eslava (Calle Arenal, 11), the genre-specific dance floors at Kapital (Calle Atoch, 125) or Ocho y Medio (Calle de Barceló, 11). Churros con chocolate is an obligatory end to any such night (or morning). Get yours at the 24-hour Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5).
With larger-than-life wall frescoes of male torsos (funky, somehow, not tacky) and a rooftop bar, the Room Mate Óscar Madrid (Plaza Vázquez de Mella, 12) is downright sexy. And super-central. Win.
Chic shopping at Massimo
Dutti. Left Sunny Madrid.
On sale at Do Design.
The quirky, fun La Bicicleta Café.
Left Street art. Right Loewe A/W ’13/14.
The Room Mate Óscar Madrid hotel.