Local correspondents help you get the most out of a stay in the Spanish capital, where the heart of lively, modern Spain beats inside a city rich in Old World architecture and culture.
6:00 p.m. After unpacking, hit the streets of one of Madrid’s coolest neighborhoods. Chueca, the gay village of Madrid, has undergone a transformation from being one of the seediest places in the capital to becoming one of Spain’s trendiest spots. Stop in at the main square and enjoy its cosmopolitan and extravagant atmosphere.
Just a short walk away from Chueca, you will find some of Madrid’s most fashionable shops in noisy Fuencarral Street. If you fancy a coffee, then the old Cafe Comercial (7 Glorieta de Bilbao) is definitely the right place. Dating from 1887, it was once a regular meeting place for writers and thinkers.
8:30 p.m. Take a late-night stroll around Malasana and explore the neighborhood that once was the heart of the Movida Madrilena, an explosion of sex, drugs and music which took place in the Spanish capital in the 1980s.
Dine at Nina (10 Manuela Malasana Street, 35), a Mediterranean cuisine restaurant with minimalist decor. Try its famous grilled fresh foie-gras.
10:30 p.m. Madrid is famed for its vibrant nightlife. If you want to go clubbing before heading back to the hotel, then check out the Via Lactea (18 Velarde Street), an alternative pub, or the Pacha (11 Barcelo Street) nightclub. But don’t stay out too late. There will be plenty of sightseeing tomorrow.
9:00 a.m. Have a good breakfast at Chocolateria San Gines (5 Pasadizo de San Gines) and try its famous “chocolate con churros,” Spanish style doughnuts with hot chocolate. Officers met here to conspire against occupation by Napoleon’s troops in 1808.
10:00 a.m. It is time to see the sights. Madrid is a city for walkers so take a stroll around the oldest neighborhood of the city, more commonly know as “Hapsburg Madrid.”
Start at Plaza de Oriente, a huge square surrounded by gardens and next to the Royal Palace (Bailen Street, 8). Although it was first a Muslim fortress, the palace, as we know it today, was built in the 18th century.
Madrid’s cathedral is right next to the palace. Its construction began in 1879 but it was not finished until 1992. From here you can enjoy an amazing view of Madrid’s skyline.
12:30 p.m. Walk up Mayor Street until you get to Plaza de la Villa. The city council is located in this cozy square, in a baroque style building dating from 1696. From here, you can easily get to Plaza Mayor, the most popular and picturesque square of Madrid. In the middle of the square you will see a statue of Felipe III, the king who ordered its construction in the 17th century. 1:30 p.m. Just a few minutes walk away you will find the Puerta del Sol. Always filled with life, this square is the very heart of Madrid and all road distances in Spain are measured from here. It is a common meeting-place for locals and a must for seeing in the New Year.
2:00 p.m. It is lunchtime. Take a break and gather energy at Sobrino de Botin, which bills itself as the oldest restaurant in the world (17 Cuchilleros Street, 30-40, www.botin.es). Writers including Hemingway have sung its praises over the centuries and 18th century artist Goya once washed dishes here. Try its roast suckling pig.
4:00 p.m. After lunch, it is time for some shopping. The Gran Via is lined with a variety of shops. This central boulevard celebrates its 100th anniversary in April 2010.
6:00 p.m. Have a coffee at the Circulo de Bellas Artes, a cultural institution which hosts exhibitions (42 Alcala Street, www.circulobellasartes.com). Don’t forget to go up to its roof-top terrace to enjoy one of the greatest sunset views in Madrid.
8:00 p.m. You can’t leave Madrid without having tasted its tapas. Founded by the highly regarded chef Paco Roncero, Estado Puro (4 Canovas del Castillo Square, 25, www.tapasenestadopuro.com) offers a variety of original snacks.
10:00 p.m. Have a drink at Santa Ana Square and enjoy the night in Huertas, the literary neighborhood of Madrid, where you will find some of the best bars and music venues in the city.
9:00 a.m. Grab the newspapers and have breakfast in Retiro Park. Take a break from city life and walk around its gardens.
11:00 a.m. Prado Museum: the jewel of Madrid. Although there are plenty of museums in Madrid, the Prado is the most important (Paseo del Prado, free on Sundays, www.museoprado.es). In late 2007, it opened a new wing, which is really worth seeing. The museum contains over 7,000 of the world’s finest paintings. Famous Spanish artists such as Goya, Velazquez and El Greco are represented here.
1:00 p.m. Take the metro and get off at La Latina where you will find the most famous street market in Madrid. On Sunday mornings, this is the place to be. Have a look because there are always good bargains.
Before having lunch, go to San Miguel Market (San Miguel Square). Recently refurbished, it is one of the oldest covered markets in Madrid and another great place for a drink and tapas or buying Spanish delicacies to take home with you.
3:00 p.m. Have a late lunch at Casa Lucio (35 Cava Baja Street, 40-50, www.casalucio.es). Many celebrities and politicians have tried its famous scrambled eggs. Reservations are a must to claim a spot in which to relax and enjoy the food and atmosphere while you contemplate all you’ve seen on your visit.
Editing by Paul Casciato