Soak up arts and cul­ture in Madrid

WORDS AND PHO­TOS DO­MINIC EL­LIS

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Contents -

Art, plazas and tasty chur­ros all make for an en­joy­able short stay in the Span­ish cap­i­tal 1 Royal Palace of Madrid

From my ninth floor ter­race at Barceló Torre de Madrid (Tried & Tested, Oc­to­ber is­sue), the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the Span­ish royal fam­ily looks im­pres­sive but it’s only close up that you grasp the sense of scale – it spans 135,000sqm, con­tains 3,418 rooms and fea­tures art from Car­vag­gio, de Goya and Velázquez among oth­ers.

The ad­mis­sion fee is a rea­son­able €11, though if you want to see all it, you might not have much time for any­thing else – but you can’t visit Madrid and not see the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area.

2 Museo Reina Sofia

Spain’s na­tional mu­seum of 20th cen­tury art, now into its 26th year, was orig­i­nally the city’s first Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. It boasts a range of gal­leries and the big­gest draw is Pablo Pi­casso’s mu­ral-sized Guer­nica which is a re­mark­able sight – wor­thy of its own gallery – and made all the more fas­ci­nat­ing by pho­tog­ra­pher Dora Maar, who doc­u­mented the cre­ative stages that went into it. Cu­bist fans won’t know where to turn and on a short visit, you need to be se­lec­tive. I missed the 8,000sqm ex­pan­sion which houses an au­di­to­rium, book­shop and restau­rants.

3 Prado Mu­seum

The Prado has free open­ing times (6pm-8pm Tues-Sun, 5pm-8pm Sun­days) but ex­pect long queues, so it’s ad­vis­able to visit any other time and pay the €15 en­trance. The worl­drenowned mu­seum, best known for host­ing Las Men­i­nas by Velázquez, will mark its bi­cen­te­nary next year (it opened Novem­ber 1819) and cel­e­bra­tions in­clude a new ex­hi­bi­tion space, Salón de Reinos (Hall of Realms), which is be­ing de­signed by Sir Nor­man Foster. Ho­tel Ritz Madrid (Man­darin Ori­en­tal), lo­cated op­po­site, is ex­pected to open late 2019 af­ter a ma­jor restora­tion.

4 Plaza Mayor

It’s a tourist trap but, like the Royal Palace, noth­ing says ‘I’m-in-Madrid’ more than a walk round Plaza Mayor, which was built dur­ing Philip III’s reign. Sur­pris­ingly, for such a pop­u­lar spot, the F&B around the vicin­ity is af­ford­able and fill­ing. Or­der the lo­cal spe­cial­ity Bo­cadillo de Cala­mares (fried squid sand­wich, €5) at La Cam­pana, or wan­der through to Mer­cado de San Miguel where to­day it’s stand­ing room only. I en­joyed the fresh an­chovies in olive oil and more hearty op­tions in­clude meat and cheese em­panadil­las, yours for the princely sum of two eu­ros.

5 Bite into chur­ros

Lo­cals and tourists are queu­ing round the block when we ar­rive at Cho­co­la­te­ria San Gines, which has been go­ing since 1894. That’s a long time to be sell­ing chur­ros – the de­li­cious fried-dough sticks which you dip into cho­co­late – and this venue is con­sid­ered among the best. We find the last ta­ble in the cor­ner and it’s so busy the waiter is adeptly car­ry­ing seven cof­fees. The walls are lined with the great and the good who have popped in to en­joy the sweet treats. It’s a short walk from Puerta del Sol which to­day looks all the more mag­nif­i­cent, framed by a rain­bow.

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