We won’t claim to be the first to notice it, but we can definitely confirm what’s in the air: Madrid, the late-night city of Dalí, Hemingway, and Picasso, and those twisty '80s melodramas by Pedro Almodóvar, is having a moment. A new generation of determined Madrileños are reshaping the Spanish capital and we have the intel on how to make the most of a long weekend in a city where the clock ticks to a different beat.
If you’ve deplaned in the a.m., fortify your daytime jaunts by grabbing churros and a thick, steamy hot chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés, or have a leisurely café bombón—a traditional preparation sweetened with condensed milk—at the legendary Café Comercial, which opened in 1887 (until it shut down in 2015, but made a well-received comeback in 2017 thanks to Grupo El Escondite) and is renowned as the stomping grounds for Spanish literary giants including Antonio Machado and Camilo José Cela. Historic elements like mirrors, the century-old bar counter, floors, and lamps (which are protected by the city) remain untouched.
The Urso Hotel
There are many great places to stay in Madrid, but our favorite spot, The Urso, is definitely one to check out. Having opened just last summer—and claiming status as the city’s first 5-star boutique hotel—the hotel is housed in a former paper factory built in 1913. While the décor is quietly handsome, The Urso’s ground floor pop-up restaurant adds a youthful touch, offering month-long residencies to intrepid Spanish chefs from the country’s many regions. We’re also partial to the refined Hotel Unico and the Gran Hotel Ingles, which just got a gorgeous new renovation at the hands of the Rockwell Group.
Plaza Mayor. Photo by @v.ictor_g
Madrid boasts a huge array of museums that demand a visit, most notably the Prado. Here, you’ll find masterpieces by Spanish painting heavyweights including Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya. The Palacio de Liria, housed in a neoclassical palace, is another collection well worth the trip, blending Old Masters paintings with Roman sculpture and fascinating archaeological finds. The Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, literally the "Monastery of the Royal Barefooted," is also housed in a palace, and offers an opportunity to check out rare works from Titian, Rubens and Brueghel the Elder, to name a few. If it’s a beautiful day—and, with Madrid’s eternal sunshine, it usually is—head to Retiro Park, where you can check out the park’s huge manmade lake and crystal palace and make friends with a resident peacock or two. From there, walk down to the Reina Sofía museum (housed in a former 18th-century hospital), where you can admire Picasso's Guernica as well as works by Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. The well-Instagrammed Plaza Mayor and the charming botanical gardens at the Atocha Train Station are also worth the trip, if you can squeeze it all in.
When the lunch bell chimes, head to Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid’s first gourmet market, and check out the unmissable paella stall. If some expertly purveyed charcuterie and conservas are on your to-do list, find classic Spanish nibbles at their best at Casa Gonzalez. If your near Gran Via and want the classics done with contemporary polish, head to Angelita Madrid for pisto paired with a killer selection of wines. For more local cuisine done properly, the fresh and unpretentious La Sanabresa is a good call, and the ultra-authentic, Anthony Bourdain-approved Casa Salvador is like time-travelling to Madrid in the ‘40s.
Dspeakeasy —a bustling bistro that reinterprets classic Spanish flavors—is chef Diego Guerrero’s newest baby, after earning two Michelin stars for his Dstage restaurant. Gofio, named for a flour made from roasted beans, features elevated cuisine from the Canary Islands, and if you feel like stretching your taste buds further across the border, Hortensio offers a delicious menu based on French cuisine and preparations. For fine dining with an intensely experimental twist, David Muñoz’s infamous three-Micheline-starred DiverXO is a required stop for any hardcore foodie. For elegant preparations of local favorites, Sacha's deft menú and inspiring wine selection is unbeatable, while the charming El Cisne Azul specializes in innovative preparations of seasonal mushrooms.
Bodega de la Ardosa
For a quick pick-me-up before heading out, an espresso at Misión Café is required quaffing. For classic Spanish tapas bars, Casa Camacho and Bodega de la Ardosa in Malasaña (aka the Williamsburg of Madrid) are old school in the best sense, and the pleasingly dive-y Casa Revuelta—right off Plaza Mayor—is a great spot to grab a “caña,” aka a small beer. For more high-toned cocktails, Salmon Guru, Del Diego, and 1862 Dry Bar are the front-runners for exquisitely made craft beverages. In Madrid, the night goes until 6:00 a.m. so plan on watching the sunrise while walking back from the clubs. For late-night revelry, the dark, crucifix-adorned Santos y Desamparados draws a coterie of famous faces with its inspiring drinks and friendly service.
Malasaña barrio, photo by Julia @flytographer
Start your Sunday morning with a visit to El Rastro—one of Europe's most legendary flea markets, located in the artsy Lavapiés barrio. At the market’s approximately 3000 open-air stalls, you can spot hidden gems while honing your bargaining skills (and they ship, for a cost). Be sure to keep an eye out for flamenco souvenirs, vintage postcards, and iconic furniture including designer chairs by the likes of Marcel Breuer, Panton, or van der Rohe. For vintage lovers, the little shops on Calle de Velarde, including Magpie Vintage, are a must. And remember: most shops close for siesta mid-day, but open again in the evening and stay open until quite late (great for tipsy impulse buys that you won’t regret later). If you look good in hats, check out the handmade offerings from designer Irene Obeso Martín at her atelier Cabeza de Calabaza in the Malasaña barrio. For traditional espadrilles, head to Casa Hernanz, who’ve got it down to an exact science: they’ve been shodding Madrid since 1840. For housewares, Hijo de Epigmenio features handmade Spanish ceramics and traditional Ikat fabrics from Mallorca. And the new Real Fábrica Española is the spot to beat for Spanish-made items like olive oil and kitchenware—pick up a selection, so you can keep Madrid magic in your life long after your sleepy flight home.