A weekend of food & drink in Madrid
Due to covid causing us to cancel our plans to drive through France to Barcelona (where we will be based for the start of 2022- blog to come on this!) - Madrid was a last minute booking that I actually hadn't given too much thought or research until we got there.
Madrid is the perfect long weekend getaway and I cannot recommend it enough. The perfect place to experience Spanish culture, food and wine and hopefully get some sunshine!
I hope you enjoy my Madrid travel guide as much as we enjoyed experiencing it!
The flight was super easy, cheap and quick. We got a cab from the airport which seem to all have the rate of 30EUR to get to the main centre- all very smooth and easy as well.
We found this quite a challenge - possibly because we left it so late and it was New Years! We ended up getting an AirBnb that wasn't great but it was in a great location, Malasaña - I would definitely recommend staying in this area, so many cool bars and restaurants and walkable to everywhere (be prepared for lot of walking!).
Everything seemed pretty affordable coming from London - we were often pleasantly surprised every time we got the bill. There were places you could get really really good 2EUR coffees and 3EUR vermouths - see below for details.
No Cash needed. Everywhere took cards. However remember to tip when you pay
Ubers were easy, cheap and readily available.
Walk everywhere- pack comfortable shoes! We did days of nearly 25,000 steps!
Eat late - as with everywhere in Spain be prepared for later dinners (9- 11pm although you can definitely find places that are open earlier - I'm not great at saving myself for that long!)
All Cuisine - there is plenty to chose from if you don't fancy tapas every night - it's a foodie paradise!
Quiet mornings so make the most of it! It's great if you are a morning person like me and want to go for a run or potter around the streets before anyone else is up!
Limited public loos (& none had loo roll so pack tissues!)
Where to walk
El Retiro Park
LOVED this place, the loveliest park to wonder on a sunny day. Theres loads to see here, various grand buildings/ monuments, fountains, picturesque area and a huge artificial lake where you can hire row boats in the warmer months. You could spend hours in this park.
Casa de campo Lake
Perfect spot to escape the city. The park is ideal for a long run or cycle (20km to do the outside of the full park!). Lots of restaurants and cafes surrounding the lake to stop for a glass of wine or vermouth.
One of my favourite things about Madrid and similar cities is the lanes and little cobbled streets you can get lost in. It's best to not give any direction or location for this as they are easy to come across and best not to plan. That way you can be more present and discover places that aren't necessarily on my list but look like they are worth a visit. My advice would be though to save anything in your maps that you come across and want to come back to because we made the mistake a couple of times of not being able to re-find somewhere the following day!
Plaza de Oriente
This is a great place in the corner of Madrid to get some space and tranquility and escape the hustle and bustle of the city . After one of our big days on our feet we came here to lye out in the sun in the gardens and rest our tired legs! Here you will find The Royal Palace and The Royal Theatre which are both rather spectacular looking buildings. There are a few cafe terraces in this square if you wanted to stop for some food/ drink- apparently Cafe de Oriente is the best spot.
There isn't too much to do in this square but it is pretty grand and a nice open space in the middle of the city, another good one to stop and soak in the sunshine. At Christmas this is where they hold the Christmas markets. St Miguel Market is just around the corner so a good option to bring your food back to if the market is too busy.
Temple of Debod
I really recommend venturing out to this spot on the edge of the city (not far from Casa de campo Lake and Plaza de Oriente so great ones to combine in an afternoon/ evening. This is a great place to watch sunset if you don't want a busy, loud rooftop vibe. Pack a little picnic and/ or some beers and you are set.
Puerta del sol
We avoided this place as much as possible! Especially with it being New Year celebrations and the place everyone goes. It's the main (most famous) public square that you will no doubt walk through, but it felt very touristy and not a spot you'd want to spend long in!
Where to eat
Chocolateria San Gines @chocosangines
An absolute must! Very much a tourist hot spot, but with good reason! The yummiest churros/ hot chocolate of all time. It is that good that it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! There was a bit of a queue but it goes very quickly and is so worth it.
Taberna El Sur
This came from a friends recommendation, there was also a gazillion Tripadviser excellent reviews to support this too! Such a cute little traditional Spanish restaurant with a real local, relaxed atmosphere.
Il Pizzaiolo @pizzaiolo_madrid
This was one of our nights off from tapas and oh my goodness it was so good. If you are a pizza fan like me you have to go here. Cheap and delicious pizzas and such a fun, buzzy atmosphere with a rather eccentric Italian waiter (or possibly owner?) adding to the whole experience.
St Miguel Market
We went here on a weekend and there was barely any room to breathe - the chances of finding a seat were very slim. It's a great spot though and it's a brilliant way to sample some traditional Spanish food if you can find a quieter time then it's definitely worth the trip (possibly when it opens at 10am for some early morning tapas!)!
Saint Ildefonso market @msanildefonso
This was such a cool street market which was very close to where we were staying. It was also way less touristy and busy as St Miguel Market. A great spot if you want to taste a few different (not necessarily Spanish) cuisines - there's 20 very varied stalls here and you can also you can get a large, rather excellent glass of vermouth for 2.50EUR! Plenty of veggie/ vegan options.
Cafe Federal @thefederalcafe
I have an awful lot of love for this place as I have been previously a number of times in Barcelona - I only wish I had known about it when I visited Valencia too! It's my go to coffee spot. We went to Cafe Federal a number of times (as opposed to Federal Cafe) as it was close to our accommodation. We had an excellent brunch (the shakshuka is a must!) after queuing for 15 minutes on a Saturday morning - it was super busy though and the service wasn't the best but the food and coffee more than made up for that.
[pic of brunch]
Honest Greens @honestgreens
If you are after some fresh, healthy fast food then Honest Greens is your place. The food is so so good - I could happily live off food from this place (luckily there is also an Honest Greens in Barcelona where I am on to next - blog to come!). They also do scrummy looking breakfasts too.
Bipolar Case De Comidas @bipolarmadrid
This is actually where we ended up going for a special New Years Eve feast (including the 12 grapes at midnight!) so it was a slightly different experience to a regular Friday night. However I can say that it was a really special experience and the food and service was top notch.
The Fix @thefixmadrid
The Fix is a super cool, trendy little spot which is known for its coffee and brunch. The avocado on toast (with all the sides) was so yummy and unlike any I have ever had.
Where to drink
Salmon Guro @salmonguro
Super cool and vibrant cocktail spot (possibly too cool for me!). Don't expect to drink out of a glass in this bar, it's all about the experience of drinking out of a dragon that has smoke coming from the glass! The fact that the cocktail menu titles the drinks prescriptions says it all really! Really fun, buzzy place though and I've definitely never experienced anything like it, so for that alone it's worth a visit!
Viva Madrid @vivamadridtaberna
This bar is just around the corner from Salmon Guro and same owners (I believe) but very different vibe. Much more chilled, really cool interior and the sort of place you could spend ages drinking cocktails or wine (out of actual glasses!).
The Hat @thehatmadrid
Absolutely loved this spot, much more my vibe than a fancy pants hotel rooftop (that was to come!). We went on a super sunny and warm (so welcome after English winter!) Friday afternoon and I honestly could have stayed there all weekend. It definitely helped that it wasn't busy and the vermouths were 3EUR! You wouldn't go here for the view necessarily as it isn't as high as some of the other rooftops but definitely go here for a chilled afternoon of drinking in full sun (which can be hard to find in central Madrid).
This is more of the fancy rooftop (Sky Bar & Lounge) where you can expect to pay more for drinks because of the incredible view. Amazing spot for sunset with 360degree views of the city. I have to say that it really does depend on your seats here though, we were originally put on some quite terrible seats where I could barely see over the wall - but me being me I made sure to jump on the most prime seats within a few minutes (like the best on the rooftop for sure).
Pl.del Dos de mayo
Described as the heart of the Malasaña area (where we were staying). It's a very traditional square filled with cafes and terraces. This was were we came on our first evening here when we were desperately in search of sunshine, tapas and beer (we had all these things!). It always seemed full of happy people drinking at all times of the day. Not the place to go to get your foodie/ Instagram fix but a good one for afternoon drinks and snacks if you are in the area.
We just happened across this place on our last evening and I loved it so much, was just sad we didn't get to spend more time here. Almost like a cafe in it's laidback nature but with great wine and such a cool atmosphere with bikes and bike parts hanging all over the place.
Bodega de la Ardosa @laardosamalasana
This is a massively popular spot and it was quite stressful to try and get a table to begin with, let alone seats. However persevere as it really is worth it when you get a spot. Really old traditional Spanish Tapas bar - the food, wine and vermouth was spectacular (This is the spot to try a Tortilla de Patatas - so good!). You also have to crawl under the bar to get to the back room which adds to the fun of the place!
Walking - We walked and walked and walked some more during this long weekend. It's the easiest way to get about whilst discovering places. Make sure you take a comfortable pair of shoes and prepare yourself for being on your feet a lot (in between all the eating and drinking of course!).
Running - Madrid isn't necessarily a city made for running because of the busy streets and narrow lanes. However we made it work by getting up early (which really wasn't early by Spanish standards!) and ran through the lanes to El Retiro park. I love exploring a city this way as you can cover the distance much quicker!
Pilates - The beauty of G-ILATES On Demand is that it can be done from anywhere. I managed to rearrange our Air Bnb to get a class in (I've become quite good at doing this!). There's plenty of outdoor spaces that are asking for some Pilates, so rent your class and away you go. Click here to rent a Pilates class.
Thank you for reading this blog. Please let me know if you find this helpful when you visit Madrid and if you have any places that I should add on here. There was plenty of places we were unable to fit in to this weekend - you can only eat and drink so much!