STYLE AND CULTURE
STYLISH CITY: MADRID
By Amelia Bell, 6 April 2019
Aside from stopping off at the main sights – bustling Gran Via, Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor and so on – if you want to experience Madrid like a local, head to Malasaña. By day you can spend hours weaving your way round the tiny cobbled streets dotted with quirky vintage shops and take to the lively plazas to people watch over a glass of tinto. But, by night (and nights in Madrid start at midnight and end in the early hours), you can rub shoulders with Madrileños at the city’s coolest bars – a visit to Passenger and Tupperware are an experience in themselves.
Madrid is a cultural melting pot with an art scene to show for it. Take your pick between the modern Museo Reina Sofía art gallery (where you can see Picasso’s famed anti-war statement Guernica) or El Prado's renaissance masterpieces before hitting up La Latina’s Cava Baja – a street dedicated to tapas – to refuel. Here you can hop from bar to bar to try authentic Spanish cuisine (napkins strewn on the bar floor are a good sign, FYI). And, if you’re lucky enough to be here on a Sunday, El Rastro – a market filled with a lively crowd and street performers – epitomises the energy and buzz for which Madrid has become famous.
If Malasaña’s the place to party, then next door barrio Salamanca is your go-to for unwinding. One of the more sophisticated corners of the city, lined with pristine shops and cute cafes, you’ll find great hotels and Airbnbs to escape the fast pace of urban life. A great choice is Bless Hotel Madrid, which strikes a balance between modern and traditional. You can take sanctuary on its terrace and watch the world go by (terraces are one of Madrid’s hidden gems – Círculo de Bellas Artes has a pretty impressive view of the city, too).
But it’s not all rest and relaxation here – there's a casino-themed bar that's definitely worth a visit for a cocktail in a setting reminiscent of a James Bond scene, as is the hidden bowling alley that comes alive at night. Just down the road you’ll find the famous Retiro Park – the picture-postcard view of Madrid made more picturesque by musicians playing classical guitar on repeat – as well as Chueca right on your doorstep. Be sure to make a stop off for a gin and tonic at the top of Mercado San Gines, and grab yourself some tapas on your way up.