Exploring the Real Madrid

Exploring the real Madrid 


It’s often said about Spain’s capital that its residents seldom go to bed until they’ve “killed the night”. But if you think a preference for ludicrously late nights means you’ll get Madrid all to yourself by day, think again, as the city has mastered the art of functioning on next to no sleep.

If Spain is a land of paradoxes, then Madrid is where they’re most vibrant. Whether you’re traveling solo, with your family or weekending with offspring, you’ll have fun trying to figure them out on your Madrid city break.


Book accommodation away from tourist traps around Puerto del Sol and Chueca which, although interesting spots, won’t allow for much sleep. Madrid city breaks demand something more like the hotels near metro stops Serrano or Velazquez, which are near plenty of local shops, bars and restaurants.

Things to do

Plan your day in a traditional café like Café Espejo or Gijón along the shaded splendour of Paseo de Recoletos. From there stroll down the magnolia-lined paseo to the Prado, housing an impressive collection of 12th–19th century European art including works by Goya, Velazquez and Bosch.

At Puerto de Alcalá you’ll see the neoclassical gateway to the city, a step away from the formal gardens of the Retiro park. Go west beyond the grand Plaza Mayor and you’ll find the beautiful late-baroque Palacio Real, official residence of Spain’s Royal Family.

A visit to Spain’s arguably most famous painting is an absolute must. At the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia and still generating controversy, Picasso’s 1937 Guernica was created in the aftermath of the devastating Civil War bombing of the village in northern Spain which lends the canvas its name.


Image by eric, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Food and drink

For weekday lunches, try one of the many downtown restaurants city workers flock to. They offer an inexpensive three-course set menu del dia including wine and coffee, with Thursday traditionally paella day. If you’re feeling adventurous, fish and seafood are paradoxically abundant (far from the sea, Madrileños nevertheless display an insatiable appetite for fresh fish) but be warned: at night most restaurants rarely open before 9 and, as ever in Spain, well-behaved children are welcome late into the evening!

GetImage (1)

Image by Matt Westgate, shared under a Creative Commons Licence



End the night with Madrid’s best mojito or banana daiquiri at the Centro Cubano back in barrio Salamanca: hidden up internal stairs that feel like you’re visiting friends in an old apartment block, a treat awaits you behind a very unassuming white door.

Madrid is far from unassuming, but scratch the surface and you’ll find a treat which will leave you hungry for more.


  1. Karen Glatt says

    What an adventure going to Madrid would be to try out the delicious fresh food and drinks. I bet is is expensive to fly there and stay, but it would be a vacation of a lifetime!

  2. shelly peterson says

    Sounds wonderful. I would really enjoy the food! 🙂

  3. Sarah L says

    Thanks for the tips. I’ll keep them in mind if I ever get there.

  4. nicole dziedzic says

    The food sounds amazing, and the nightlife would be right up my alley. Incredible place to go with your special someone.

  5. Keara B. says

    I’ve wanted to visit Spain ever since high school Spanish class. The culture just seems so vibrant! And I’d love to try authentic paella. Thanks for sharing this post… now I really want to start planning a trip to Spain in the future. 🙂

  6. David Fultner says

    Saffron That looks SO GOOD>

  7. I would love to visit Spain and already included it on my travel bucket list. Hopefully we can include it on our two week tour of Europe in a few years.

  8. B.W. says

    I love Spain. I went there twice in high school. I’ve always wanted to go back and explore the parts I haven’t seen yet. And paella is one of my all time favorite dishes. Ate it constantly both trips.

  9. MeMe R says

    Beautiful! We went to Portugal 2 summers ago on a trip that I won and I swear we would of stayed if not for our pets. It was probably the least racist country I had ever seen and the women there dressed very revealing. No one cared, stared, or batted an eye lash. It was so refreshing to see how nice people where to each other. We had someone just walk out in front of our bmw taxi and all traffic just stopped. There was no road rage or screaming and everyone just went on their way. The no tipping was fantastic and the pricing was fair. I also had to make a trip to the pharmacy and I found one of my Lupus skin creams that is not covered by my insurance. Cost $100 here.. was $13 there. I am planning to return to Lisboa on a yoga meditation trip because it was so wonderful there. Once our pets pass away, we may seriously move. Spain is just a hop over and I am so sad we didn’t make it.

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