Madrid: eight things to do

By Patricia Gosálvez for The Club magazine

Photography by Getty Images

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With museums, markets and plenty of mouthwatering food on offer, it’s impossible to get bored in Madrid. Local writer Patricia Gosálvez picks eight things to do in the Spanish capital on a culture-rich city break.

1. Food markets

Escape the crowds and head to Mercado de San Fernando in multicultural Lavapiés, where old ladies buying groceries rub shoulders with hipsters tucking into artisan beer and crispy gyozas at sushi stall Yankenpon Washoku.

2. Madrid Rio

Rent a bike at one end of the award-winning Madrid Río riverside route – more than 10 kilometres of 1970s ring road that has been reclaimed to regain the Manzanares river for the city – and cycle past parks, artificial beaches, outdoor cafés and signature bridges by architect Dominique Perrault and artist Daniel Canogar. End the ride at Matadero, the city’s former slaughterhouse, for a contemporary art exhibit or a light lunch at the cantina.

3. Up on the roof at ME Madrid

When the sun goes down, indigo light floods the sweeping rooftop terrace of ME Madrid hotel and a relaxed lounge atmosphere is set by minimal DJ sets, cosy booths and well-crafted drinks. The fashionable hotspot is a favourite for locals and guests alike – you may even spot a Spanish celebrity or two if you’re lucky. Take in panoramic views of Madrid and Plaza Santa Ana as you sip one of the hotel’s signature cocktails – try the Cointreaupolitan (a fruity mix of Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime) – and admire the hotel’s majestic 1923 architecture towers above.

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4. Coffee break

In her infamous speech before the Olympic Committee, Mayor Ana Botella stated that ‘there is nothing quite like a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor’. But who wants to have a €3 coffee surrounded by tourists and entertainers dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants? For a trendier and more relaxing experience, seek out Café Federal – originally from Barcelona – in beautiful Plaza de las Comendadoras.

But who wants to have a €3 coffee surrounded by tourists? For a trendier and more relaxing experience, seek out Café Federal

5. Bargain shoes

The middle stretch of Calle Augusto Figueroa is high-heel paradise: a space less than 150 metres is home to over a dozen shoe shops including Barrats 1890 and other good quality Mallorcan brands. Bargain hunters can also head out to Las Rozas Village, just book a place on the Shopping Express.

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  • Mercado de Motores © Josetxu Miguel

    Engine market

    Explore stalls from over 200 artisans, designers and chefs nestled between the vintage locomotives of Madrid Railway Museum. Open every second weekend of the month, 11am–10pm. Admission is free.

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  • Freshly ground coffee at © Federal Café
  • Museo del Romanticismo © Paola di Meglio

    Like a true romantic…

    The museum is open every day except for Monday and some holidays. Admission is €3. Nearest Metro stops within walking distance are Tribunal and Alonso Martínez.

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6. Quirky museums

Madrid has great private collections but for a morning of time travel, visit the beautiful Museum of Romanticism, founded by a marquis in the 1920s. Furniture, art, jewellery, toys and even King Fernando VII’s toilet, are displayed as they would be in a mansion. The best part – it has a secret garden café where you can eat cake and sigh like a true romantic. And complement your quirky museum with a big-hitter: visit the Museo del Prado to get your fill of Velázquez and Goya.

7. Go pop

Two of the city’s most interesting pop-up markets take place in train stations. Mercado de Motores, a glossy flea market where you can find artisans, designers and collectors selling their old LPs or Prada bags, takes place every second weekend of the month in the 19th-century Museo del Ferrocarril station. And Nomada Market, an independent design fair, takes over the top floor of Madrid Chamartín station four times a year, with finds ranging from €5-€100.

8. Visceral revolution

Offal is big in this city, and you’ll find dishes such as gallinejas (sheep’s intestines fried in their own fat) and carrillera (pork cheeks) everywhere from classic tapas bars to fancy restaurants such as Viridiana, where master chef Abraham García explores different cuts of meat, from the pig’s snout to the bull’s tail.