Less than a three-hour flight from the UK takes you to the laid-back streets of Spain’s capital. With sights, sun and plenty of sangria, Madrid is the perfect place to while away a weekend. Our favourite time to visit is from April to May and in October. During these months, the winter weather has passed and the summer heat has cooled, but temperatures still reach a pleasant 22 degrees – perfect sightseeing weather.
What to do
Madrid is home to some of the world’s most famous works of art. Picasso’s Guernica, housed in the Reina Sofía Museum, is a real wow, even to the untrained eye. And the Prado Museum is renowned for its classical and religious masterpieces. Art lovers will be in heaven– you could spend days here and only scratch the surface.
When you manage to drag yourself away from the museums, stroll to El Retiro Park – row on the lake, wander around the Crystal Palace, and visit the Rose Garden, which features over 4,000 blooming roses in different colours.
Sundays in Madrid are best spent with the locals at the El Rastro flea market. From traditional Spanish fans to edgy sunglasses and cool linen dresses, the market has stall after stall of bargain buys. El Mercado de Motores is open Saturdays and Sundays and is one the hippest markets in Madrid, with amazing vintage jewellery and clothes.
For something a little different, go to the Temple of Debod to watch the sunset – it’s even more spectacular when the sun goes down. The ancient Egyptian temple was dismantled and reassembled in Madrid in 1972.
Madrid really comes to life after dark – no wonder natives are often referred to as “gatos”, meaning “cats” – and they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a watering hole. Salmon Guru is a trendy cocktail bar where every signature drink is served in outlandish ways – think edible flowers and a glass shaped like an octopus. Or you can head to the rooftop of Círculo de Bellas Artes. For just four euros, you can sip on cocktails while taking in the best views of the city. If you fancy something more low-key, head to El Tigre – a bustling Spanish bar where every drink comes with a free plate of tapas.
From Madrid’s much-loved calamari sandwich to plates of patatas bravas and plenty of Iberian ham, there are so many dishes to try. Head to Cava Baja– a lively street where you can find some of the most traditional tapas bars in the city. Estaban is popular with locals, as well as Casa Lucio, where reservations need to be made at least two weeks in advance.
Madrid is also home to some bustling food markets. The Mercado de San Miguel was opened in 1916 and was the first iron market in Madrid. Be sure to head to one of the tapas stalls and order an anchovy appetizer – a delicacy in the capital. Or, if you want something a little closer to home, try the Somos restaurant at the Barceló de Torre de Madrid – the grilled octopus is a highlight.
Where to stay?
For laid-back luxury, there’s no better place to lay your head than the Barceló Torre de Madrid – situated in the first eight floors of what was once Spain’s tallest building. The interiors are Insta-worthy, with shades of green and millennial pink, and the beds are huge. The wellness centre on the eighth floor features a sky-lit swimming pool, gym and spa.
From Spanish omelettes to pastries, the buffet breakfast does not disappoint. You’ll be more than ready for a day of exploring – and luckily, you’re in the perfect spot. The hotel is at the end of the Gran Vía, one of the busiest shopping streets in Madrid, and within 15 minutes, you can walk to the Royal Palace or the bustling Plaza Mayor. If you’re stuck for something to do, the hotel staff are on hand to offer local recommendations.