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Runs 6. Smart casual is considered the bare minimum any time you step outside. For men, that means jeans and T-shirt at least, for women a little more. Be Forewarned Madrid is generally safe, but as in any large European city, keep an eye on your belongings and exercise common sense. See p for more information. Ask the shop for a refund form and present it to the customs booth upon leaving the EU. Tipping Tipping is not common in Madrid. Locals usually round up taxi fares to the nearest euro, or leave a few coins in restaurants.

Language English is generally widely spoken although sometimes not very well , but Spaniards seem happy to give it a try. Many restaurants have English-language menus. It always helps to learn a few basic phrases see also the Language chapter, p Are these complimentary? When is admission free? Where can we go salsa dancing? Madrid Card If you want to make the most of your visit, the Madrid Card p can be a good option. It includes free entry to more than 50 museums in and around Madrid, tours and discounts for restaurants, shops and some transport.

See p33 for more information. Wander down to admire the Plaza de la Cibeles. Templo de Debod and Parque del Oeste are fine places for a stroll. A wine at Taberna Tempranillo and a mojito out on Plaza de la Paja at Delic should set you up for the night ahead. El Junco Jazz Club will leave you with great memories of the city. Where Chueca gets up close and personal in a quirky, intimate space.

Carnaval spells several days of fancy-dress parades and merrymaking in many barrios districts across the Comunidad de Madrid, usually ending on the Tuesday 47 days before Easter Sunday. Temperatures can be bitterly cold, but wonderfully clear, crisp days are also common. February Usually the coldest month in Madrid, February always has a chill in the air. In warmer years, late February can be surprisingly mild, heralding the early onset of spring.

Over bars and restaurants participate with special menus, tapas routes and competitions. March Freezing temperatures can occur, but early spring sunshine can prompt restaurants to set up their outdoor tables. Iglesia de San Pedro El Viejo is another important focal point. It usually takes place on the last Saturday of March, and lasts from 5pm to midnight.

Crowds gather in central Madrid to watch the colourful procession, which kicks off a week of cultural events across the city. Bands from all over the country and beyond converge on 7 Feria del Libro The northeastern corner of the Parque del Buen Retiro is taken over by the Madrid Book Fair www. June A select group of festivals usher in the Spanish summer. The city has a real spring in its step with warm weather and summer holidays just around the corner.

At all other times, Chueca is the place to be. That may have something to do with the fact that those not at the beach are preparing to head there in August. Hotel prices often drop when things are quiet. Many events take place at outdoor venues and the program starts in July and runs to the end of August. August Temperatures soar and the city can be eerily quiet as locals flock to the cool respite of the coast or mountains.

Many restaurants and other businesses close and some museums open reduced hours. La Latina takes a hedonistic approach to it all with street parties. It sometimes begins in April. There are highseason prices in many hotels. Elaborate nativity scenes are set up in churches around the city and an exhibition is held in Plaza Mayor otherwise taken over by a somewhat tacky, but wildly popular, Christmas market. The city centre is relatively compact and easy to get around on foot which is just as well because the metro can be a bit of an obstacle course for those with prams.

Entry is by guided tour and the commentary is only in Spanish. Most but not all squares or plazas have at least a small playground. Weekends can be busy, so try and visit during the week, although check the opening hours and program online before setting out. Parque de Atracciones Rides for all ages are what this old-style amusement park p , also out west in the Casa de Campo, are all about. Long queues form on weekends, both at the rides and to get in, so either get here early or come another day if you can.

Opening times are complex and tickets are cheaper if purchased online. See the website for transport details. Shopping Models Model trains, plains and automobiles for collectors and for kids from Bazar Matey p are brilliant little tokens to take home. Flamenco For dancing shoes and genuine polka-dot flamenco dresses, stop by Maty p The day begins in the morning early or otherwise at the flea market of El Rastro p It is customary at 1pm to order a vermouth many of the bars have it on tap to accompany the inevitable rounds of tapas, either as a precursor to lunch or as the main meal itself.

Later, many gather in Plaza de la Puerta de Moros for an impromptu street party. But even more head to Parque del Buen Retiro p to do everything from taking a boat ride on the lake, reading the Sunday papers or falling asleep or all of the above , to having a picnic or waiting for the drums to start.

Like a Local In Madrid local knowledge is the difference between falling in love with the city and just passing through. Knowing where to go on Sundays will transform your weekend. There are some ageless old shops in the vicinity as well. Sunday morning is another good time to be here when they close the Calle de Fuencarral between the metro stations of Bilbao and Quevedo to cars and the whole neighbourhood comes out for a stroll. That sense of a city unwilling to stay indoors finds its most agreeable expression in the tradition of ir de tapear going out for tapas.

Understanding the whole culture behind eating tapas in this way, and following suit, is an important step towards starting to think like a local. The Terraza An adjunct to the Madrid passion for passing the time with friends over tapas is the local love of the terraza, the outdoor tables that fill city squares and footpaths all across the city. Joining them is as easy as grabbing an empty chair as soon as it becomes available and thereafter defending it with your life.

Chocolate con Churros In most places around the world, chocolate and deep-fried doughnuts would be a dessert. As such it often serves a similar purpose to a 3am kebab in the UK. Madrid can be expensive, but with careful planning, the combination of free attractions and specific times when major sights offer free entry enables you to see the best the city has to offer without burning a large hole in your pocket. Reserving for lunch on Saturday or Sunday is also a good idea.

Mercado de San Miguel p61 Local Specialities On the bleak meseta plateau of inland Spain, food in medieval Madrid was a necessity, good food a luxury, and the dishes that developed were functional and well suited to a climate dominated by interminable, bitterly cold winters. At the same time, Madrid has wholeheartedly embraced dishes from across the country. The city has a thriving tapas culture and has become one of the biggest seafoodconsuming cities in the world.

Thus it is that Madrid has become an excellent place to understand just why Spanish cuisine has taken the world by storm. Repollo cabbage sometimes makes an appearance. There was even a hit song written about it in the s.

At its best, it smells like meat, the forest and the field. The same could also be said for croquetas croquettes and patatas con huevos fritos baked potatoes with eggs, also known as huevos rotos. Tapas Nowhere is the national pastime of ir de tapear going out to eat tapas so deeply ingrained in local culture as it is in Madrid, where tapas are as much a social event as they are a much-loved culinary form. By making the most of very little, tapas serve as a link to the impoverished Spain of centuries past.

By re-imagining even the most sacred Spanish staples, tapas are the culinary trademark of a confident country rushing headlong into the future. More specifically, asado de cordero lechal spring lamb roasted in a wood-fired oven is a winter obsession in Madrid just as it is on much of the surrounding meseta of central Spain. Taking a packed lunch is not the done thing, so the majority of people end up eating in restaurants, and allinclusive three-course meals are as close as they can get to eating home-style food without breaking the bank.

With so many tapas varieties lined up along the bar, you either take a small plate and help yourself or point to the morsel you want. Otherwise, many places have a list of tapas, either on a menu or posted up behind the bar.

These plates and half-plates of a particular dish are a good way to go if you particularly like something and want more than a mere tapa. That said, Madrid has a growing cast of vegetarian restaurants. Even in those restaurants that serve meat or fish dishes, salads are a Spanish staple and, in some places, can be a meal in themselves. However, some of the established vegetarian restaurants may have certain vegan dishes.

Platea p Dynamic new gastronomic space with fabulous choice. Estado Puro p Tapas that push the boundaries of nouvelle Spanish cuisine. Bazaar p Classy cooking in the heart of Chueca. Casa Revuelta p60 Classic bar bonhomie and great food. La Gloria de Montera p88 Outstanding food and atmosphere. Taberna Matritum p74 Tapas, tradition and innovation in La Latina.

Vi Cool p89 Nouvelle cuisine at its most accessible. Casa Alberto p89 Celebrated old taberna tavern with tapas and sit-down meals. Albur p Convivial ambience with great rice dishes. Tortilla de Patatas Santceloni p Enduring success story of innovative cooking.

Txirimiri p77 Just around the corner and not far behind. Arriba p Showpiece restaurant of the exceptional new Platea development. Sergi Arola Gastro p Catalan master chef at the height of his game. La Terraza del Casino p91 Brilliant cooking in brilliant surrounds. Estado Puro p Served in a glass in liquefied form. Bodega de la Ardosa p No-frills potato omelettes at their best. Las Tortillas de Gabino p Creative approach to ingredients and it works. Lhardy p91 Over years of cocido excellence.

Casa Alberto p89 Traditional croquettes at their best. Casa Paco p62 Storied old taberna with a fine cocido pedigree. Posada de la Villa p77 Lovely setting for this feast of roasted meat. El Pedrusco p Cochinillo direct from its Segovian heartland. Casa Ciriaco p63 Roasted meats a speciality for more than a century.

Albur p Casual setting, classy rice dishes. But bars are only half the story. Cruzcampo is a lighter beer. A larger beer about mL , more common in the hipper bars and clubs, usually comes in a tubo a long, straight glass.

The equivalent of a pint is a pinta, while a jarra refers to a jug of beer. Although many such cafes were torn down in the rush to modernisation, many that recall those times remain, with period architecture and an agreeably formal atmosphere; their clientele long ago broadened to encompass the entire cross-section of modern Madrid society.

Nightclubs People here live fully for the moment. Some open all week, others from Thursday to Saturday. Taberna Chica p79 Exceptional mojitos in La Latina. Museo Chicote p Mojitos as Hemingway used to like them. El Eucalipto p79 Cuban vibe and Cuban know-how. Dos Gardenias p92 Secret recipe in this Huertas nook. La Terraza del Urban p92 Classy summer terrace high above Huertas. La Terraza de Arriba p Celebrities and fine views above Chueca. Charada p64 Excellent downtown dancing till dawn.

Why Not? Le Cabrera p Celebrity mixer and cool clientele. Bar Cock p Cocktails, famosos celebrities and bowtied waiters. Liquid Madrid p Hot, sweaty and amorous in the best Chueca tradition. They also usually go on sale the Monday before a game at Gate 42 of the stadium on Calle de Conche de Espina. Beyond the signature jazz venues, numerous multigenre live-music stages broaden out the experience, often with a weekly jazz jam session.

While rock remains a Madrid mainstay and the doors of a handful of classic venues remain open, the live-music scene now encompasses every genre imaginable. Many venues double as clubs where DJs follow the live acts, making it possible to start off the night with a great concert and stay on to party until late. The Banda Monumental p The best place to catch a show is the Teatro de la Zarzuela p When in town, both companies perform at venues that include the Teatro Real p56 or Teatro de la Zarzuela p One performer who frequently performs in Madrid is Sara Baras www.

Bullfighting Love it or loathe it, bullfighting is a national institution. In the afternoons there are generally six bulls and three star toreros bullfighters dressed in the dazzling traje de luces suit of lights. Some regions of Spain, notably Catalonia, have banned bullfighting, and the election of the left-wing Ahora Madrid municipal government in changed the status quo in the capital.

It remains to be seen what impact this change in policy will have on a spectacle that many animal lovers feel is immoral, and which is vehemently opposed by numerous animal-welfare organisations, among them the World Society for the Protection of Animals www. La Boca Club p94 Flamenco is often part of the mix here in Huertas.

Sala El Sol p93 Mythic Madrid stage for rock and other live acts. Galileo Galilei p Occasional flamenco here spices up the mix. Thundercat p Classic rock in all its glory. Villa Rosa p94 Top-notch flamenco behind an extravagantly tiled facade. Cardamomo p94 Excellent, atmospheric stage in Huertas.

Las Tablas p65 Top-class performers in a more casual setting. Las Carboneras p65 Consistently good flamenco acts. Casa Patas p79 Serious flamenco performers. Sala Clamores p Diverse club with regular flamenco. Populart p94 Big names and free entry.

El Despertar p80 Intimate venue with impeccable jazz cred. Bogui Jazz p Live jazz Thursday to Saturday. BarCo p Jazz is a regular at this happening club. Sala Clamores p Jazz club at heart but with so much more. Casa Pueblo p95 Free live jazz in the Barrio de las Letras. Teatro Monumental p95 Top-notch auditorium for all things classical. Teatros del Canal p Diverse modern stage with fine theatre and concerts.

La Boca Club p94 Occasional live jazz with attitude. Moby Dick p Concerts by almost-superstars. Often run by the same families for generations, they counter the over-commercialisation of mass-produced Spanish culture with everything from fashions to old-style ceramics to rope-soled espadrilles or gourmet Spanish food and wine.

Some are small specialist stores where the packaging is often as exquisite as the tastes on offer. Maty p65 Authentic flamenco clothes and shoes. Helena Rohner p81 Designer jewellery from catwalk to casual. Agatha Ruiz de la Prada p Candy-bright colours from a household name in Madrid fashion. Antigua Casa Talavera p65 Old-world, handcrafted ceramics. El Flamenco Vive p66 Flamenco music and other memorabilia.

Casa de Diego p95 Ornate Spanish fans and umbrellas. Antigua Casa Talavera p65 Handpainted ceramics from small family kilns. Camper p Comfortable, casual footwear for the fashion conscious. Agatha Ruiz de la Prada p Fun, colourful fashions from a Madrid veteran. Custo Barcelona p Riotous colours and combinations. Loewe p The Louis Vuitton of Spanish fashion.

Lurdes Bergada p Natural fibres, warm colours and cutting-edge cuts. Gourmet Experience p67 One-stop shop for Spanish wines, cheeses etc. Some shops open on Sundays. Summer sales begin in early July and last into August. Ask the shop for a cashback refund form at the point of purchase, then present the form at the customs booth for IVA refunds when you depart from Spain or elsewhere from the EU.

Graceful Calle de la Cava Baja could just be our favourite street for tapas in town. Spanning the two neighbourhoods is the Sunday flea market of El Rastro. Up the hill to the east, the marvellous Parque del Buen Retiro helps to make this one of the most attractive areas of Madrid in which to spend your time. Like nowhere else in the capital, this is where stately mansions set back from the street share barrio space with designer boutiques from the big local and international fashionistas.

Mercado de San Miguel p Come in the morning when the pressure to order something more substantial is minimal. The plaza is a place both to admire and to get your bearings, the place where so many explorations of the neighbourhood and wider city begin.

Running close to its northern edge, Calle Mayor connects Plaza Mayor with the rest of the neighbourhood, running down the hill past the wonderful Mercado de San Miguel to Plaza de la Villa with tangled lanes of medieval origin twisting away on either side.

Away to the north is the Plaza de Oriente, royal palace and cathedral. This juxtaposition of endlessly moving city life and more static architectural attractions is Madrid in microcosm. Thereafter it was as if all that was controversial about Spain took place in this square. Bullfights, often in celebration of royal weddings or births, with royalty watching on from the balconies and up to 50, people crammed into the plaza, were a recurring theme until In , King Carlos II issued an edict allowing the vendors to raise tarpaulins above their stalls to protect their wares and themselves from the refuse and raw sewage that people habitually tossed out of the windows above!

Well into the 20th century, trams ran through Plaza Mayor. The slate spires and roofs are the most obvious expression of this pleasing and distinctively Madrid style, and their sombre hues are nicely offset by the warm colours of the uniformly ochre apartments and their wrought-iron balconies. The present frescoes date to just and are the work of artist Carlos Franco, who chose images from the signs of the zodiac and gods eg Cybele to provide a stunning backdrop for the plaza. In December and early January the plaza is occupied by a hugely popular Christmas market selling fairground kitsch and nativity scenes of real quality.

His plan? Build a palace that would dwarf all its European counterparts. The room is nauseatingly lavish with its crimson-velvet wall coverings complemented by a ceiling painted by the dramatic Venetian baroque master, Tiepolo, who was a favourite of Carlos III. The aesthetic may be different in the Sala de Porcelana Porcelain Room , but the aura of extravagance continues with myriad pieces from the one-time Retiro porcelain factory screwed into the walls. Comedor de Gala In the midst of such extravagance, the spacious Comedor de Gala Gala Dining Room is where grand ceremonial occasions were once and are still occasionally held.

The stately air is enhanced by the extravagant chandeliers, hoary old artworks on the walls and lavishly adorned archway. They were laid out in the s to replace the royal stables that once stood on the site. Sophisticated cafes watched over by apartments that cost the equivalent of a royal salary. Nearby are some 20 marble statues, mostly of ancient monarchs. Local legend has it that these ageing royals get down off their pedestals at night to stretch their legs.

The adjacent Jardines Cabo Naval, a great place to watch the sunset, adds to the sense of a sophisticated oasis of green in the heart of Madrid. In fact, almost every European city of stature has its signature cathedral, a standout monument to a glorious Christian past. Not Madrid. Some of it dates as far back as the 9th century, when the initial Muslim fort was raised. Other sections date from the 12th and 13th centuries, by which time the city had been taken by the Christians. It must have worked, as the town was rarely taken by force.

In summer the city council organises open-air theatre and music performances here. Just above the wall on Cuesta de la Vega, information panels show the original extent of the city walls superimposed on a modern map. The entrance is from Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto. The troops occupied all but the fortress where the Palacio Real now stands , but the Christian garrison held on until the Almoravid fury abated and their forces retired south.

The 20 hectares of gardens that now adorn the site were first laid in the 18th century, with major overhauls in and Joseph Bonaparte ordered the destruction of the Iglesia de San Juanito to open up a pocket of fresh air in the thencrowded streets.

The renovations combined the latest in theatre and acoustic technology with a remake of the most splendid of its 19th-century decor. The minute guided tours in Spanish leave every half-hour. For all such modern magnificence, the Teatro Real does not have the most distinguished of histories.

The first theatre, built in on the site of public wash houses, was torn down in While other countries have turned cemeteries and the graves of famous locals into tourist attractions, Spain has been slow to do the same. But his head was never found. The convent also sits on a pretty plaza close to the Palacio Real. The compulsory guided tour in Spanish leads you up a gaudily frescoed Renaissance stairway to the upper level of the cloister.

The vault was painted by Claudio Coello, one of the most important artists of the Madrid School of the 17th century and whose works adorn San Lorenzo de El Escorial. The first of these chapels contains a remarkable carved figure of a dead, reclining Christ, which is paraded in a Good Friday procession each year.

At the end of the passage is the antechoir, then the choir stalls themselves. A Virgen la Dolorosa by Pedro de la Mena is seated in one of the 33 oak stalls. Woven in the 17th century in Brussels, they include four based on drawings by Rubens.

To produce works of this quality, four or five artisans could take up to a year to weave just 1 sq metre of tapestry. What you see today was built in but largely reconstructed after a fire in The church has stood at the centre of Madrid life for centuries. To the north stands the storey Torre de Madrid Madrid Tower. A short climb to the north, the aConvento de las Descalzas Reales p57 is an austere convent with an extraordinarily rich interior.

The 17th-century Casa de la Villa old town hall , on the western side of the square, is a typical Habsburg edifice with Herrerian slate-tiled spires. The final touches to the Casa de la Villa were made in , although Juan de Villanueva, of Museo del Prado fame, made some alterations a century later. As the star prisoner was paraded down Calle Mayor, locals are said to have been more impressed by the splendidly attired Frenchman than they were by his more drab captor, the Spanish Habsburg emperor Carlos I.

Closed to the public at the time of research, the Casa de Cisneros, built in by the nephew of Cardinal Cisneros, a key adviser to Queen Isabel, is plateresque in inspiration, although it was much restored and altered at the beginning of the 20th century. A closed order of nuns occupies the convent building and, when Mass is held, the nuns gather in a separate area at the rear of the church. They maintain a centuries-old tradition of making sweet biscuits that can be purchased from the entrance just off the square on Calle del Codo p Its convex, late-baroque facade sits in harmony with the surrounding buildings of old Madrid.

Among its fine features are statues representing the four virtues, and the reliefs of Justo and Pastor, the saints to whom the church was originally dedicated. The rococo and Italianate interior, completed by Italian architects in , is another world altogether with gilded flourishes and dark, sombre domes. Several bystanders died, but the monarch and his new wife survived, save for her blood-spattered dress. The vaulting is late Gothic while the fine timber ceiling, which survived a fire in , dates from about the same period.

The architect Juan de Herrera, one of the great architects of Renaissance Spain, was buried in the crypt in A landmark with its grey slate spires, it was built in and initially served as the court prison. Treat yourself to a takeaway ensaimada a light pastry dusted with icing sugar from Mallorca. If you get the munchies between meals, try its tiny sister h Its opening hours are particularly friendly to non-Spanish stomachs. Within the early 20th-century glass walls, the market has become an inviting space strewn with tables.

There are also plenty of places to buy wine, Asturian cider and the like; at Stall 24, the Sherry Corner p63 has sherry tastings with tapas. The bar area, its walls lined with celebrity visitors past and present, is also a good place for tapas or a wine. Paella de marisco seafood paella , paella de bogavante lobster paella and arroz negro black rice, cooked in squid ink are the house specialities, but there are plenty of rice dishes to choose from.

There are two terrazas open-air areas for restaurants and bars : a quieter one on Calle de Botoneras, and another on Plaza Mayor. Inside check out the wooden bar, which was handcrafted in the 17th century. The croquetas croquettes have a loyal following and, not surprisingly, the wine list is excellent. Eating in the vaulted cellar is a treat. But the novelty value is high and the food excellent. Advance bookings are recommended for groups of three or more people.

The music and the crowd are a mixed bag, but queues are long and invariably include locals and tourists, and even the occasional famoso celebrity. When it comes to local fast food, one of the lesser-known culinary specialities of Madrid is a bocadillo de calamares a small baguette-style roll filled to bursting with deep-fried calamari. The best seats are upstairs, where the low ceilings, wooden beams and leather chairs make for a great place to pass an afternoon with friends. The building itself was once part of a long-gone, 17th-century convent and the interior feels a little like a set out of Mitteleuropa.

Coffees are as popular as the alcohol, although that rather strange predilection wears off as the night progresses. They break into song from around 9. It may attract loads of tourists, but flamenco aficionados also give it top marks. Reservations are highly recommended. Antonia Moya and Marisol Navarro, leading lights in the flamenco world, are regular performers here. Live acts perform Tuesday to Thursday at The art-deco interior ads to the charm.

The old couple who run the place are delightful. These are the real deal, with prices to match, but they make brilliant gifts. Maty also does quality disguises for Carnaval. You make your request through a door, then a grille on Calle del Codo, and the products sweet biscuits are delivered through a little revolving door that allows the nuns to remain unseen by the outside world. It also organises classes in flamenco guitar. You can buy bottles of the stuff, as well as oliveoil-based cosmetics and carefully selected gourmet food products.

It also sells old Madrid maps, bronze sculptures, etchings, pens and other classy gifts and wall hangings. Sound garish? Spread over three floors and with a tranquil outdoor patio, this charming space also has carefully selected homewares, antiques, candles and all manner of decorative pieces.

The chocolates from the Belgian homeland of chocolatier Paul-Hector Bossier are, as you would expect, sinfully delicious, with plenty of modern flavours blended in. Necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings range from the understated to those calculated to make a bold statement. The other half of the population might just vote for Taberna Chica p79 , just around the corner. Why not try both? Calle de la Cava Baja is the epicentre of this long-standing, civilised tradition.

Need a break nursing a mojito on a warm afternoon? Head for Plaza de la Paja and linger for as much time as you can spare. Eager to understand the buzz surrounding tapas and the local passion for going on a tapas crawl? Belonging to and connecting both neighbourhoods is El Rastro, which centres on Calle de la Ribera de los Curtidores. Quiet and really rather pretty for six days of the week, it gets overwhelmed on Sundays when market stalls spill out onto the surrounding streets.

The current version was designed by Francesco Sabatini in the 18th century. It was here that San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of Madrid, was first buried. Strain the imagination a little and the maze of winding and hilly lanes even now retains a whiff of the North African medina. The same problem applies Friday afternoons or Saturday when there are often weddings. At all other times, visit is by Spanishlanguage guided tour included in the admission price.

The museum is housed in a largely new building with a 16th-century Renaissance courtyard and a 17th-century chapel. Apart from the focus on San Isidro, the collection has archaeological finds from the Roman period, including a 4th-century mosaic found on the site of a Roman villa in the barrio district of Carabanchel, maps, scale models, paintings and photos of Madrid down through the ages. From Tuesday to Friday at You could easily spend an entire morning inching your way down the hill and the maze of streets that hosts El Rastro.

Cheap clothes, luggage, old flamenco records, even older photos of Madrid, faux designer purses, grungy T-shirts, household goods and electronics are the main fare. Before the viaduct was built, anyone wanting to cross from one side of the road or river to the other was obliged to make their way down to Calle de Segovia and back up the other side.

If you feel like re-enacting the journey, head down to Calle de Segovia and cross to the southern side. During the civil war, Las Vistillas was heavily bombarded by nationalist troops from the Casa de Campo, and they in turn were shelled from a republican bunker here. If you can peek inside, the nave dates from the 15th century, although the interior largely owes its appearance to 17th-century renovations.

Otherwise, you need to visit Toledo, 70km south of Madrid, to visualise what Madrid once was like. Still known to locals as the Catedral de San Isidro, the austere baroque basilica was founded in the 17th century as the headquarters for the Jesuits. His body, apparently remarkably well preserved, is only removed from here on rare occasions, such as in and when he was paraded about town in the hope he would bring rain he did, at least in You can wander in and look at the elegant courtyard.

Calle del Arenal stakes a strong claim, although the date when it ceased to be a small river and became a street remains unresolved by historical records. According to the historian Rafael Fraguas, the oldest street in Madrid is Calle de Grafal, which dates back to when it was called Calle del Santo Grial. He suggested the city buy a bigger river or sell the bridge. It has also made more accessible a number of appealing sights.

Occupying the converted buildings of the old Arganzuela livestock market and slaughterhouse, Matadero Madrid covers almost 15 hectares and hosts cutting-edge drama, musical and dance performances and exhibitions on architecture, fashion, literature and cinema. Highly recommended. The clamour of conversation bounces off the tiled walls of the cramped dining area adorned with bullfighting memorabilia.

The design is contemporary if a little worn, awash with reds and purples, while the young and friendly waiters circulate to the tune of lounge music. The emphasis is on matching carefully chosen wines with creative dishes such as baby squid with potato emulsion and rucula pesto in a casual atmosphere.

There are also plenty of gins to choose from. The look is modern and they have a passion for good food without too many elaborations. The purpose was partly to keep the bugs out, but primarily to encourage people not to drink on an empty stomach.

Another story holds that in the 13th century, doctors to King Alfonso X advised him to accompany his small sips of wine between meals with small morsels of food. So enamoured was the monarch with the idea that he passed a law requiring all bars in Castilla to follow suit. The atmosphere is bohemian and inclusive, with funky, swirling murals, contemporary art exhibitions and jazz or lounge music.

Quiet at lunchtimes except on Sundays , it can be hard to find a place in the evenings. The emphasis throughout is on natural ingredients, healthy food and exciting tastes. Whatever you order, wash it down with a txacoli, a sharp Basque white.

Cured meats, cheeses, omelettes and variations on these themes dominate the menu. The only problem is that the wait for a table requires the patience of a saint, so order a wine or manzanilla dry sherry and soak up the buzz. Both have memorable cafes and bars that you could spend more than a single night exploring, but few stay open until dawn.

Due to local licensing restrictions, the outdoor tables close two hours before closing time, whereafter the intimate interior is almost as good. It also has an especially wide range of gin and tonics. A stunning backdrop of a ruined church atop which the cafe sits.

With so much else going for it, it almost seems incidental that it also serves great teas, coffees and snacks as well as meals. You can drink on one of several cosy levels inside or, better still in summer, enjoy the outdoor seating that one local reviewer likened to a slice of Rome. Not surprisingly, the mojitos are a cut above average, but the juices and daiquiris also have a loyal following.

Our secret? It often closes the terraza around 8pm to spruce it up a little; be ready to pounce when it reopens and thereafter guard your table with your life. Contemporary artworks by budding local artists adorn the walls and you can either gather around the bar or take a table out the back.

Be prepared to snuggle up close to those around you if you want a spot at the bar. The croquetas croquettes are also famously good, not to mention epic in scale. If it all sounds a bit staid, it gets busy with a younger crowd on weekend nights. They continued north along what is now Calle de los Cuchilleros Knifemakers St and along the Calle de la Cava de San Miguel, and were superseded by the third circuit of walls, which was raised in the 15th century.

The cavas caves or cellars were initially ditches dug in front of the walls, later used as refuse dumps and finally given over to housing when the walls no longer served any defensive purpose. Just west of La Latina metro station, the busy and bar-strewn corner of Madrid marked by the ill-defined Plaza de la Cebada Barley Square occupies an important historical space. Later the plaza was the site of one of the largest markets in Madrid.

The stage area has a rustic feel, and tables are pushed up close. There are live performances every Friday and Saturday, as well as most Thursdays, Sundays and many other nights. Concerts start between 8. The acts are as diverse as the genre itself, with Melendi, Fran Postigo and Diego El Negro among those to have taken the stage here.

Concerts start between 9. Located on 7 SHOPPING La Latina may be a largely after-dark and weekend affair, but its appeal to a hip, well-to-do urban crowd has attracted small boutiques, especially those specialising in designer jewellery, to the narrow streets.

Working with silver, stone, porcelain, wood and Murano glass, she makes inventive pieces and her work is a regular feature of Paris fashion shows. Silver and semiprecious stones are the mainstays. So many explorations of this neighbourhood begin in the Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, the pulsing heart of downtown Madrid, then move on to nearby Plaza de Santa Ana and the tangle of laneways that tumble down the hillside to the east.

And yet, there are subtle differences between the two squares. Sol is above all a crossroads, a place for people to meet before fanning out across the city. There are reasons to linger, but for the most part a sense of transience is what prevails. And Sol is always busy, no matter the hour.

Plaza de Santa Ana, on the other hand, is a destination in its own right, a stirringly beautiful square that has become emblematic of a city intent on living the good life. It is also a place of many moods. On a sunny weekday afternoon, it can be quiet by its own rather noisy standards , a place to nurse a wine as you plot your path through the city. This is when the Barrio de las Letras is also at its most accessible, its streets suitably sedate for a barrio district rich in literary resonance.

But come most nights of the week, Santa Ana and the surrounding streets crescendo into life, an explosion of noise and revelry that ripples out across the city. Mostly this resonates in neighbouring La Latina p69 , but Casa Alberto p89 is arguably the real star of the hour. As the royal fine arts academy, it has nurtured local talent, thereby complementing the royal penchant for drawing the great international artists of the day into their realm.

A centre of excellence since Fernando VI founded the academy in the 18th century, it remains a stunning repository of works by some of the best-loved old masters. Rooms 17 to 22 offer a space full of Bravo Murillo and last, but most captivating, 13 pieces by Goya, including self-portraits, portraits of King Fernando VII and the infamous minister Manuel Godoy, along with one on bullfighting. Modern Art The 19th and 20th centuries are the themes upstairs. It is, above all, a crossroads: people here are forever heading somewhere else, on foot, by metro three lines cross here or by bus many lines terminate and start nearby.

The main building on the square houses the regional government of the Comunidad de Madrid. But it has only existed since , when it was bulldozed through what was then a labyrinth of old streets. Fourteen streets disappeared off the map, as did houses, including one where Goya had once lived. I stayed there by the hour, and amused myself so much that I should like to have passed the day there. It is a square worthy of its fame; not so much on account of its size and beauty as for the people, life and variety of spectacle which it presents at every hour of the day.

It is not a square like the others; it is a mingling of salon, promenade, theatre, academy, garden, a square of arms, and a market. The house, which was restored in the s, is filled with memorabilia related to his life and times. Out the back is a tranquil garden, a rare haven of birdsong. Guided visits take you into the foyer and the upstairs library, a jewel of another age, with dark timber stacks, weighty tomes and creakily quiet reading rooms dimly lit with desk lamps.

The plaza became a focal point for the intellectual life of the day, and the cafes surrounding the plaza thronged with writers, poets and artists engaging in endless tertulias literary and philosophical discussions. Apart from anything else, the plaza is the starting point for many a long Huertas night.

One might imagine them to be parliamentarians! Be sure to bring your passport if you want to visit. As the lunchtime queues attest, they go through more than kg of cod every week. Two bars, lounge music and places to recline add to the experience. Downstairs, the centre has exhibitions, concerts, short films and book readings. Its culinary appeal lies in a hotchpotch of styles rather than any overarching personality.

There are bastions of traditional cooking with restaurants serving Basque, Galician, Andalucian and Italian cuisine. The softly lit dining area is bathed in greenery and the sometimes innovative, sometimes traditional food draws a hip young crowd. The duck confit with plums, turnips and couscous is a fine choice. No reservations. In fact, their version of the bravas sauce is so famous that they patented it.

The antics of the bar staff are enough to merit a stop, and the distorting mirrors are a minor Madrid landmark. Elbow your way to the bar and be snappy about your orders. Well, here you can. On offer is a tempting array of cheeses, cured meats and other typically Spanish delicacies. The tables are informal, cafe style and it also does takeaway, but we recommend lingering.

The small range of pasta on offer is well priced and filled with subtle flavours. The welcome addition of a few tables allows you to enjoy it all in-shop. The secret to its staying power is vermouth on tap, excellent tapas at the bar and fine sit-down meals. Aside from his showpiece Sergi Arola Gastro p , he has dabbled in numerous new restaurants around the capital and in Barcelona, and this is one of his most interesting yet.

Sadly, the original building was torn down in the early 19th century despite a plea from King Fernando VII. After centuries of mystery, his body was discovered in , although the convent which is still home to cloistered nuns remains closed to casual visitors; pass by to see if this has changed.

A statue of Cervantes stands in the Plaza de las Cortes, opposite the parliament building. Service is both warm and knowledgable, the food is outstanding we liked the octopus in olive oil with paprika and coriander on potato parmentier , and the wines are perfectly matched.

The traditional order here is a chato small glass of the heavy, sweet El Abuelo red wine made in Toledo province and the heavenly gambas a la plancha grilled prawns or gambas al ajillo prawns sizzling in garlic on little ceramic plates. They cook more than kg of prawns here on a good day. The simple wooden tables, loyal customers and handy location make this a fine place to rest after or en route to the museums along the Paseo del Prado.

The atmosphere is formal, so dress well. The quality and service are unimpeachable. A favourite haunt of royalty in the 19th century, Lhardy has drawn the great and good of Madrid ever since. It claims to have different recipes for cod, although thankfully only a handful of these appear on the menu.

The decor is simple, the service is no-nonsense and the salads are what marks this place out as worthy of a visit. In case you get vertigo, head downstairs to the similarly high-class Glass Bar hnoon-3am. The flamenco and chill-out music ensure a relaxed vibe, while sofas, softly lit colours and some of the best mojitos and exotic teas in the barrio make this the perfect spot to ease yourself into or out of the night.

If you want live jazz, head elsewhere, but this place is like a mellow after-party for aficionados in the know. Many of the bars in this area lack character or have sold their soul to the god of tourism. This place is different. Groups start at Going out for a drink in Madrid is generally a pretty casual affair, but to visit The Roof p92 or La Terraza del Urban p92 you should dress well. No running shoes should go without saying, while a button-up shirt for men is close to obligatory.

The recently improved tapas offerings are another reason to pass by. With well over gigs under its belt, it rarely misses a beat. Shows start at 9pm and tickets go on sale from 6pm before the set starts. The striking facade and exquisite tile-work of the interior are quite beautiful; however, this place is anything but stuffy and the feel is cool, casual and busy. It serves tapas and, later at night, there are some fine flamenco tunes.

After the show, DJs spin rock, fusion and electronica from the awesome sound system. Check the website which also allows you to book online for upcoming acts. The atmosphere is aided by the extravagantly tiled interior.

Shows start at 10pm but, if you want a seat, get here early. Concerts usually start at 11pm check the website. Fridays and Saturdays and DJs take over until closing time. The early show lasts just 50 minutes, the latter 90 minutes. Using Honduran cedar, Cameroonian ebony and Indian or Madagascan rosewood, among other materials, and based on traditions dating back over generations, this is craftsmanship of the highest order. Ask here about guitar classes. Shopping in Huertas is akin to being on a treasure hunt.

Service is old style and occasionally grumpy, but the fans are works of antique art. The family business dates back to and former clients include Eric Clapton, Compay Segundo and a host of flamenco greats. This family-run corner shop really knows its wines and the interior has scarcely changed since , with wooden shelves and even a faded ceiling fresco. There are fine wines in abundance mostly Spanish, and a few foreign bottles , with some labels on show or tucked away out the back.

Churches, priests and monasteries are some of the patrons of this overwhelming three-storey shop full of everything from simple rosaries to imposing statues of saints and even a litter used to carry the Virgin in processions. Some folders hold antique maps of Madrid, Spain and the rest of the world. These are all originals or antique copies, not modern reprints, so prices range from a few hundred to thousands of euros. Prices are cheapest from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday; reservations are required.

The barrio district of Huertas climbs up the hill to the west. The park is even more of a daytime experience the gates close soon after sunset , but its moods vary with the days. On weekdays, the park is quiet and sleepy, sprinkled with enough people to feel alive but peaceful in a way that serves as an antidote to the clamour of downtown Madrid nearby. Tickets must first be purchased from the ticket office at the northern end of the building, opposite the Hotel Ritz and beneath the Puerta de Goya.

Better still, buy your tickets online and skip the queues. His mastery of light and colour is never more apparent than here. An interesting detail of the painting, aside from the extraordinary cheek of painting himself in royal company, is the presence of the cross of the Order of Santiago on his vest.

The artist was apparently obsessed with being given a noble title. He got it shortly before his death, but in this oil painting he has awarded himself the order years before it would in fact be his! The rooms surrounding Las meninas Rooms 14 and 15 contain more fine paintings of various members of royalty who seem to spring off the canvas, many of them on horseback.

Once the central part of a triptych, the painting is filled with drama and luminous colours. No one has yet been able to provide a definitive explanation for this hallucinatory work, although many have tried. The closer you look, the harder it is to escape the feeling that he must have been doing some extraordinary drugs. The vivid, almost surreal works by this 16th-century master and adopted Spaniard, whose figures are characteristically slender and tortured, are perfectly executed.

Five years later the Museo del Prado opened with Spanish paintings on display. Dedicated to temporary exhibitions usually to display Prado masterpieces held in storage for decades for lack of wall space , its main attraction is the 2nd-floor cloisters. The Prado runs guided visits to the stunning Hall of the Ambassadors, which is crowned by the astonishing ceiling fresco The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy by Luca Giordano. Note: this painting may be moved to the 2nd floor.

They form an extraordinary trio of galleries. Spanish Inquisition. The Baroness Collection I Rooms 28 to 35 If all that sounds impressive, the 1st floor is where the Thyssen really shines. Simply extraordinary. For decades there was nowhere decent to take a break from all the galleries with a quick and enjoyable snack. That all changed with the opening of Estado Puro p , a sophisticated, creative tapas bar just around the roundabout within sight of the museum entrance.

And it is a very Spanish story that has a celebrity love affair at its heart. The paintings held in the museum are the legacy of Baron ThyssenBornemisza, a German-Hungarian magnate. Although the baron died in , his glamorous wife has shown that she has learned much from the collecting nous of her late husband. In early the museum acquired two adjoining buildings, which have been joined to the museum to house approximately half of the collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The plan was quietly shelved. You could easily spend hours studying the painting; take the time to both examine the detail of its various constituent elements and step back to get an overview of this extraordinary canvas. They offer an intriguing insight into the development of this seminal work.

At least died in the attack and much of the town was destroyed. The collection spans the 20th century up to the s, and although some non-Spaniard artists make an appearance, most of the collection is strictly peninsular. Other Cubist Masters Picasso may have been the brainchild behind the cubist form, but he was soon joined by others who saw its potential. Since his paintings became a symbol of the Barcelona Olympics in , his work has begun to receive the international acclaim it so richly deserves and the museum is a fine place to get a representative sample of his innovative work.

The jewel in the crown is the astonishing Palacio de Comunicaciones. It has cutting-edge exhibitions covering sq metres over four floors floors 1, 3, 4 and 5 , as well as quiet reading rooms and some stunning architecture, especially in the soaring Antiguo Patio de Operaciones on the 2nd floor. Up on the 8th floor is the Mirador de Madrid. But the views are splendid whichever way you look. Take the lift up to the 6th floor, from where the gates are opened every half-hour.

From there you can either take another lift or climb the stairs up to the 8th floor. It was here that the city authorities controlled access to the capital and levied customs duties. The first gate to bear this name was built in , but Carlos III was singularly unimpressed and had it demolished in to be replaced by another, the one you see today.

It is not a square like the others; it is a mingling of salon, promenade, theatre, academy, garden, a square of arms, and a market. The house, which was restored in the s, is filled with memorabilia related to his life and times. Out the back is a tranquil garden, a rare haven of birdsong.

Guided visits take you into the foyer and the upstairs library, a jewel of another age, with dark timber stacks, weighty tomes and creakily quiet reading rooms dimly lit with desk lamps. The plaza became a focal point for the intellectual life of the day, and the cafes surrounding the plaza thronged with writers, poets and artists engaging in endless tertulias literary and philosophical discussions.

Apart from anything else, the plaza is the starting point for many a long Huertas night. One might imagine them to be parliamentarians! Be sure to bring your passport if you want to visit. As the lunchtime queues attest, they go through more than kg of cod every week.

Two bars, lounge music and places to recline add to the experience. Downstairs, the centre has exhibitions, concerts, short films and book readings. Its culinary appeal lies in a hotchpotch of styles rather than any overarching personality. There are bastions of traditional cooking with restaurants serving Basque, Galician, Andalucian and Italian cuisine.

The softly lit dining area is bathed in greenery and the sometimes innovative, sometimes traditional food draws a hip young crowd. The duck confit with plums, turnips and couscous is a fine choice. No reservations. In fact, their version of the bravas sauce is so famous that they patented it.

The antics of the bar staff are enough to merit a stop, and the distorting mirrors are a minor Madrid landmark. Elbow your way to the bar and be snappy about your orders. Well, here you can. On offer is a tempting array of cheeses, cured meats and other typically Spanish delicacies. The tables are informal, cafe style and it also does takeaway, but we recommend lingering. The small range of pasta on offer is well priced and filled with subtle flavours.

The welcome addition of a few tables allows you to enjoy it all in-shop. The secret to its staying power is vermouth on tap, excellent tapas at the bar and fine sit-down meals. Aside from his showpiece Sergi Arola Gastro p , he has dabbled in numerous new restaurants around the capital and in Barcelona, and this is one of his most interesting yet.

Sadly, the original building was torn down in the early 19th century despite a plea from King Fernando VII. After centuries of mystery, his body was discovered in , although the convent which is still home to cloistered nuns remains closed to casual visitors; pass by to see if this has changed. A statue of Cervantes stands in the Plaza de las Cortes, opposite the parliament building.

Service is both warm and knowledgable, the food is outstanding we liked the octopus in olive oil with paprika and coriander on potato parmentier , and the wines are perfectly matched. The traditional order here is a chato small glass of the heavy, sweet El Abuelo red wine made in Toledo province and the heavenly gambas a la plancha grilled prawns or gambas al ajillo prawns sizzling in garlic on little ceramic plates.

They cook more than kg of prawns here on a good day. The simple wooden tables, loyal customers and handy location make this a fine place to rest after or en route to the museums along the Paseo del Prado. The atmosphere is formal, so dress well. The quality and service are unimpeachable. A favourite haunt of royalty in the 19th century, Lhardy has drawn the great and good of Madrid ever since. It claims to have different recipes for cod, although thankfully only a handful of these appear on the menu.

The decor is simple, the service is no-nonsense and the salads are what marks this place out as worthy of a visit. In case you get vertigo, head downstairs to the similarly high-class Glass Bar hnoon-3am. The flamenco and chill-out music ensure a relaxed vibe, while sofas, softly lit colours and some of the best mojitos and exotic teas in the barrio make this the perfect spot to ease yourself into or out of the night.

If you want live jazz, head elsewhere, but this place is like a mellow after-party for aficionados in the know. Many of the bars in this area lack character or have sold their soul to the god of tourism. This place is different. Groups start at Going out for a drink in Madrid is generally a pretty casual affair, but to visit The Roof p92 or La Terraza del Urban p92 you should dress well.

No running shoes should go without saying, while a button-up shirt for men is close to obligatory. The recently improved tapas offerings are another reason to pass by. With well over gigs under its belt, it rarely misses a beat. Shows start at 9pm and tickets go on sale from 6pm before the set starts. The striking facade and exquisite tile-work of the interior are quite beautiful; however, this place is anything but stuffy and the feel is cool, casual and busy. It serves tapas and, later at night, there are some fine flamenco tunes.

After the show, DJs spin rock, fusion and electronica from the awesome sound system. Check the website which also allows you to book online for upcoming acts. The atmosphere is aided by the extravagantly tiled interior.

Shows start at 10pm but, if you want a seat, get here early. Concerts usually start at 11pm check the website. Fridays and Saturdays and DJs take over until closing time. The early show lasts just 50 minutes, the latter 90 minutes. Using Honduran cedar, Cameroonian ebony and Indian or Madagascan rosewood, among other materials, and based on traditions dating back over generations, this is craftsmanship of the highest order.

Ask here about guitar classes. Shopping in Huertas is akin to being on a treasure hunt. Service is old style and occasionally grumpy, but the fans are works of antique art. The family business dates back to and former clients include Eric Clapton, Compay Segundo and a host of flamenco greats. This family-run corner shop really knows its wines and the interior has scarcely changed since , with wooden shelves and even a faded ceiling fresco.

There are fine wines in abundance mostly Spanish, and a few foreign bottles , with some labels on show or tucked away out the back. Churches, priests and monasteries are some of the patrons of this overwhelming three-storey shop full of everything from simple rosaries to imposing statues of saints and even a litter used to carry the Virgin in processions. Some folders hold antique maps of Madrid, Spain and the rest of the world. These are all originals or antique copies, not modern reprints, so prices range from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

Prices are cheapest from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday; reservations are required. The barrio district of Huertas climbs up the hill to the west. The park is even more of a daytime experience the gates close soon after sunset , but its moods vary with the days. On weekdays, the park is quiet and sleepy, sprinkled with enough people to feel alive but peaceful in a way that serves as an antidote to the clamour of downtown Madrid nearby. Tickets must first be purchased from the ticket office at the northern end of the building, opposite the Hotel Ritz and beneath the Puerta de Goya.

Better still, buy your tickets online and skip the queues. His mastery of light and colour is never more apparent than here. An interesting detail of the painting, aside from the extraordinary cheek of painting himself in royal company, is the presence of the cross of the Order of Santiago on his vest.

The artist was apparently obsessed with being given a noble title. He got it shortly before his death, but in this oil painting he has awarded himself the order years before it would in fact be his! The rooms surrounding Las meninas Rooms 14 and 15 contain more fine paintings of various members of royalty who seem to spring off the canvas, many of them on horseback.

Once the central part of a triptych, the painting is filled with drama and luminous colours. No one has yet been able to provide a definitive explanation for this hallucinatory work, although many have tried. The closer you look, the harder it is to escape the feeling that he must have been doing some extraordinary drugs.

The vivid, almost surreal works by this 16th-century master and adopted Spaniard, whose figures are characteristically slender and tortured, are perfectly executed. Five years later the Museo del Prado opened with Spanish paintings on display. Dedicated to temporary exhibitions usually to display Prado masterpieces held in storage for decades for lack of wall space , its main attraction is the 2nd-floor cloisters. The Prado runs guided visits to the stunning Hall of the Ambassadors, which is crowned by the astonishing ceiling fresco The Apotheosis of the Spanish Monarchy by Luca Giordano.

Note: this painting may be moved to the 2nd floor. They form an extraordinary trio of galleries. Spanish Inquisition. The Baroness Collection I Rooms 28 to 35 If all that sounds impressive, the 1st floor is where the Thyssen really shines. Simply extraordinary. For decades there was nowhere decent to take a break from all the galleries with a quick and enjoyable snack.

That all changed with the opening of Estado Puro p , a sophisticated, creative tapas bar just around the roundabout within sight of the museum entrance. And it is a very Spanish story that has a celebrity love affair at its heart.

The paintings held in the museum are the legacy of Baron ThyssenBornemisza, a German-Hungarian magnate. Although the baron died in , his glamorous wife has shown that she has learned much from the collecting nous of her late husband. In early the museum acquired two adjoining buildings, which have been joined to the museum to house approximately half of the collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The plan was quietly shelved. You could easily spend hours studying the painting; take the time to both examine the detail of its various constituent elements and step back to get an overview of this extraordinary canvas. They offer an intriguing insight into the development of this seminal work. At least died in the attack and much of the town was destroyed.

The collection spans the 20th century up to the s, and although some non-Spaniard artists make an appearance, most of the collection is strictly peninsular. Other Cubist Masters Picasso may have been the brainchild behind the cubist form, but he was soon joined by others who saw its potential.

Since his paintings became a symbol of the Barcelona Olympics in , his work has begun to receive the international acclaim it so richly deserves and the museum is a fine place to get a representative sample of his innovative work. The jewel in the crown is the astonishing Palacio de Comunicaciones. It has cutting-edge exhibitions covering sq metres over four floors floors 1, 3, 4 and 5 , as well as quiet reading rooms and some stunning architecture, especially in the soaring Antiguo Patio de Operaciones on the 2nd floor.

Up on the 8th floor is the Mirador de Madrid. But the views are splendid whichever way you look. Take the lift up to the 6th floor, from where the gates are opened every half-hour. From there you can either take another lift or climb the stairs up to the 8th floor. It was here that the city authorities controlled access to the capital and levied customs duties.

The first gate to bear this name was built in , but Carlos III was singularly unimpressed and had it demolished in to be replaced by another, the one you see today. Our only complaint? It could do with a clean. Twice a year, in autumn and spring, cars abandon the roundabout and are replaced by flocks of sheep being transferred in an age-old ritual from their summer to winter pastures and vice versa. The centrepiece is an ornate fountain and 18thcentury sculpture of Neptune, the sea god, by Juan Pascual de Mena.

Seeming to hover above the ground, this brick edifice is topped by an intriguing summit of rusted iron. Inside there are four floors of exhibition and performance space awash in stainless steel and with soaring ceilings. The exhibitions here are always worth checking out and include photography, contemporary painting and multimedia shows.

Pilgrims make three wishes to Jesus, of which he is said to grant one. The sometimes sober, sometimes splendid mock-Isabelline interior is actually a 19th-century reconstruction that took its cues from the Iglesia de San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo; the original was largely destroyed during the Peninsular War. Put simply, this is one of our favourite places in Madrid.

Weekend buskers, Chinese masseurs and tarot readers ply their trades, while art and photo exhibitions are sometimes held around the park. Once inside the park, a gentle climb leads past postcard-pretty flower beds to a lovely fountain from where the 2estanque artificial lake is visible. Even better, among the trees further south is the 6Palacio de Cristal, a magnificent metal-and-glass structure built in as a winter garden for exotic flowers and now used for temporary exhibitions.

Planted in and with a trunk circumference of 52m, it was used by French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century as a cannon mount. It sits m above sea level. Nearby is 9La Rosaleda Rose Garden with more than roses, while a short walk east brings you to the sculpted hedgerows, peacocks and lily ponds of the aJardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios.

Almost next door is the cute dCasita del Pescador, a former royal fishing lodge and now an information office. Also of interest is the wall-sized map showing Spanish maritime journeys of discovery from the 15th to 18th centuries. Littered throughout this pleasant exhibition space are dozens of uniforms, weapons, flags and other naval paraphernalia. Whenever Real Madrid wins a major trophy, crowds head for the Plaza de la Cibeles p to celebrate in their hundreds and thousands.

To protect the fountain, the city council boards up the statue and surrounds it with police on the eve of important matches. The structure of this grand iron-and-glass relic from the 19th century was preserved, while its interior was artfully converted into a light-filled tropical garden with more than plant species.

The project was the work of architect Rafael Moneo and his landmark achievement was to create a thoroughly modern space that resonates with the stately European train stations of another age. There are Spanish-language guided visits to the gardens; reservations by phone are essential. A glass panel shows the names of those killed, while the airy glassand-perspex dome is inscribed with the messages of condolence and solidarity left by well-wishers in a number of languages in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The 12m-high dome is designed so that the sun highlights different messages at different times of the day, while the effect at night is akin to flickering candles. The Spanish government, Spanish royal family and the Vatican were the biggest patrons of the tapestry business: Spain alone is said to have collected four million tapestries. With such an exclusive clientele, it was a lucrative business and remains so, years after the factory was founded.

Goya began his career here, first as a cartoonist and later as a tapestry designer. Given such an illustrious history, it is, therefore, somewhat surprising that coming here today feels like visiting a carpet shop, with small showrooms strewn with fine tapestries. There is a permanent exhibition on show and a sales area. Most of the tapas involve spectacular riffs on traditional Spanish themes.

Many influences are brought to bear on the cook- ing here, among them international innovations and ingredients and well-considered seasonal variations. This place was doing fusion cooking long before it became fashionable and has developed a fiercely loyal clientele as a result. Opening hours vary from stall to stall, and some of the stalls close at lunchtime. Most, but by no means all, books are in Spanish. El tres de mayo Goya 2. All except Guernica are in the Museo del Prado p In doing so he brings to the canvas his perfect understanding of light, colour and the individuality of human faces.

Ventas lines 2 and 5 is the station for the Plaza de Toros. For both of these major attractions, consider hopping on the metro. Although you will find bars and nightclubs here, Salamanca is very much a daytime barrio. By evening, things are much quieter, with many people coming specifically to eat before heading elsewhere in Madrid to continue their night. The tours take you out onto the sand and into the royal box.

Museo Taurino The Museo Taurino was closed for renovations and expansion at the time of research. A visit here is a good way to gain an insight into this very Spanish tradition, but the architecture also makes it worth visiting for those with no interest in la corridas bullfights. Some that are easy to recognise include La maja desnuda, La maja vestida and the frescoes of the Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida.

The ground floor is largely given over to a display setting the social context in which Galdiano lived, with hundreds of curios from all around the world on show. There are more on the top floor. He would later become a hugely significant figure in the cultural life of the city. During WWI he was an important supporter of the Museo del Prado, and later built his own private collection by buying up Spanish artworks in danger of being sold overseas and bringing home those that had already left.

He lived in exile during the Spanish Civil War, but continued to collect and upon his return he set up a respected artistic foundation in his former palace that would ultimately house the museum. Built in , the Palacio de Linares is a worthy member of the line-up of grand facades on the plaza, while its interior is notable for the copious use of Carrara marble.

Tours take an hour and you can purchase tickets at the ticket office. Downstairs, and entered via a separate entrance, the fascinating and recently overhauled museum is a must for bibliophiles, with interactive displays on printing presses and other materials, illuminated manuscripts, the history of the library, and literary cafes. He threw everything he had into the promotion of his barrio district in the s, buying up land cheaply, which he hoped to sell later for a profit. In the year of his death, , the streets got electric lighting.

And I owe more than 36 million reales on all of this. The task is completed but I am ruined. The sculptures are beneath the overpass where Paseo de Eduardo Dato crosses Paseo de la Castellana, but somehow the hint of traffic grime and pigeon shit only adds to the appeal. All but one are on the eastern side of Paseo de la Castellana. Everything here, from gourmet mains to snacks and sweets, is delicious. Tapas are creative without being over the top wild mushroom croquettes or sirloin with foie gras.

Service is restaurant standard, rather than your average tapas-bar brusqueness. Working with the original theatre-style layout, the developers have used the multilevel seating to array a series of restaurants that seem at once self-contained yet connected to the whole through the soaring open central space, with all of them in some way facing the stage area where cabaretstyle or s-era performances or live cooking shows provide a rather glamorous backdrop.

The chefs to have opened up here boast six Michelin stars among them, and there are 12 restaurants among them the outstanding Arriba, p , three gourmet food stores and cocktail bars. The atmosphere is casual, while the all-white decor of wood and exposed brick walls is as classy as the neighbourhood. The chance to choose half-sized versions of most dishes will appeal to many. This outpost along Calle de Serrano has a slightly stuffy, young-men-in-suits feel to it, which is, after all, very Salamanca.

Most importantly, they are labelled according to region or classificatory status rather than grape variety. There are currently over 60 DO-recognised wine-producing areas in Spain. Other important indications of quality depend on the length of time a wine has been aged, especially if in oak barrels.

The best wines are often, therefore, crianza aged for one year in oak barrels , reserva two years ageing, at least one of which is in oak barrels and gran reserva two years in oak and three in the bottle. Like this dish, it all seems rather an odd mix, but it somehow works. The sticky rice with cod, mushrooms and black Catalan sausage or the octopus carpaccio are two examples of the approach.

As you glide through the pijos beautiful people or yuppies , keep your eyes peeled for Real Madrid players and celebrities. We like the table built around an old hotair-balloon basket almost as much as the cavernlike pub downstairs. At 11pm on Friday and Saturday, they turn off the lights, light the candles and sing as one La Salve Rociera, a near-mythical song with deep roots in the flamenco and Catholic traditions of the south. It will send chills down your spine.

The young and the beautiful who come here have sevillanas a flamenco dance style in their soul and in their feet. So head downstairs to see the best dancing. Dance if you dare. Its outdoor terrace opens in late May and is very cool until it closes in mid-September. Fashions range from classically elegant to cool and cutting edge, from both leading and upcoming Spanish designers and the big names in international fashion.

Shopping here is a social event, where people put on their finest and service is often impeccable, if a little stuffy. Throw in a sprinkling of gourmet food shops and you could easily spend days doing little else but shopping. It also has serious and highly original fashion. There are creams and fragrances, as well as quirkier items such as designer crash helmets. Do what many Hollywood celebrities do and head for Manolo Blahnik.

The showroom is exclusive and each shoe is displayed like a work of art. His chocolate boutique is presented like a small art gallery dedicated to exquisite chocolate collections and cakes. Just across the road is Jimmy Choo and Cartier, with Gucci not far away. The unifying theme is urban chic and its list of designer brands includes Balenciaga, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Dries van Noten.

Next door is the preserve of younger, more casual lines, including a fantastic selection of jeans. Victoria Beckham was a regular customer here in her Madrid days; make of that what you will. Covering every region of the world, it has mostly Spanish titles, but plenty in English as well. Her signature style for men and women is elegant and mature designs that are just as at home in the workplace as at a wedding. It offers a range of make-up sessions, massages and facial and body treatments; prices can be surprisingly reasonable.

There are separate areas for men and women, and services include a wide range of massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. Now, what was it you were stressed about? It also organises wine courses, tastings and excursions to nearby bodegas wineries. The 1st-floor restaurant is a fine gastronomic space.

Noviciado lines 2 and 10 is good for Conde Duque. That said, the daytime shopping is fantastic in both barrios. Calle de Fuencarral is the dividing line between the two, a narrow but nonetheless major city thoroughfare that has been pedestrianised for much of its length. The further east you go, the more sophisticated Chueca becomes. Casual visitors are actively discouraged, although what you see from the street is impressive enough.

The only exceptions are on the first Monday of October, International Architecture Day, when its interior staircase alone is reason enough to come. It houses a minor treasure trove of mostly 19th-century paintings, furniture, porcelain, books, photos and other bits and bobs from a bygone age and offers an insight into what upper-class houses were like in the 19th century.

For a near-complete list, check out Arte Madrid www. Behind this facade, the collection is dominated by paintings and other memorabilia charting the historical evolution of Madrid. The museum is inside the Antiguo Cuartel del Conde Duque. Built in under the auspices of architect Pedro de Ribera, its highlight is the extravagant 18th-century doorway, a masterpiece of the baroque churrigueresque style.

Fill in the online form to join a guided visit. It once belonged to the Alba family, and the young Duchess of Alba, Cayetana, who was widely rumoured to have had an affair with the artist Goya in the 18th century, lived here for a time. Cool places to eat. Blending old tabernas taverns with laid-back temples to Spanish nouvelle cuisine, the eating scene here revolves around an agreeable buzz, innovative cooking and casual but stylish surrounds.

It has moved a number of times since, but it remains one of the most important small galleries in Madrid, with all manner of interesting contemporary exhibitions. Dog walkers also love to let their animals off the leash here so stick to the fenced playgrounds and watch for dog droppings. Strangely, the place acquired a certain celebrity when U2 chose the bar for a photo shoot a few years back. To come here and not try the salmorejo cold tomato soup made with bread, oil, garlic and vinegar , croquetas or tortilla de patatas potato and onion omelette would be a crime.

The project is one of regeneration and involves cleaning up the streets, as well as encouraging new businesses and the avant-garde arts community to make it their barrio of choice. And the food? Simple traditional tapas and bocadillos filled rolls that have acquired city-wide fame, not least for their price. The decor re-creates s America and the jukebox belts out Aretha Franklin and Chuck Berry at regular intervals.

The restaurant waiters never seem to lose their cool, and their extremely wellpriced rice dishes are the stars of the show, although in truth you could order anything here and leave well satisfied. An ample wine list complements the great salads, creative pizzas and a good mix of meat and seafood mains, while the atmosphere makes it all taste even better.

The decor is quite lovely, all potted plants, creative lighting, iron pillars and rustic brickwork. The atmosphere is classy yet casual in the finest Madrid tradition. It also does other tapas, with a couple of set menus to guide your way. A great, quirky place to eat. Reservations are essential. Sidra cider is, of course, obligatory.

The croquetas are wonderful and the chefs are not averse to bringing international influences into their dishes. The latter still holds sway, with lamb, lentils and other homemade specialities for very reasonable prices. It does creative sandwiches and bagels, as well as salads and hot soups. Typical are the light meals such as couscous with mint, or the carrot-and-mango salad from mostly organic produce.

A gorgeous little spot. The downstairs cocktail bar p is one of the coolest spots in town. Many have been transformed to meet all of your food needs at once. Leave your name with the waiter and be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table on weekends.

The typical Valencia paella is cooked with beans, chicken and rabbit. There are also plenty of seafood varieties on offer, including arroz negro black rice, whose colour derives from squid ink. It has an artsy vibe and is ideal for those who want a hearty meal without too much elaboration. Unusually, the well-priced three-course set menus spill over into the evening. Their patience has paid off and now their restaurant, Janatomo, has undergone a style overhaul, adding a Zen ambience to its splendid Japanese cooking.

The folk of La Carmencita have taken 75 of their favourite traditional Spanish recipes and brought them to the table, sometimes with a little updating but more often safe in the knowledge that nothing needs changing. At the same time all across the barrios, especially in gay Chueca and away to the west in Conde Duque, modern Madrid is very much on show, with chillout spaces and swanky, sophisticated bars. The quality of the products is unimpeachable, and the cooks thankfully let the ingredients breathe without too many elaborations.

Their official opening times notwithstanding, they have a habit of opening and closing whenever the whim takes them. Prices are reasonable, the cocktail list extensive and new cocktails appear every month. It serves milkshakes, cocktails and everything in between.

The music ranges across rock, pop, garage, rockabilly and indie. There are plenty of drinks to choose from and by late Saturday night anything goes. Expect long queues to get in on weekends. La Palmera draws an artsy crowd who come to sit at the small wooden tables and nurse a drink or two. The atmosphere is very low key. In summer the outdoor tables are the place to be.

No one seems to care. The music never strays far from techno-house. The one unifying theme is the commitment to Spanish music there are often upcoming local rock bands at 10pm before the action really kicks off. The bouncers have been known to show a bit of attitude, but then that kind of comes with the profession. Everything gets a run here, from techno, psychedelic trance and electronica to indie pop.

Check the website for upcoming sessions. The plus different cocktail varieties are the work of Diego Cabrera, the long-standing bartender of renowned master chef Sergi Arola. On weekends all the tables seem to be reserved, so be prepared to hover on the fringes of fame. By day, the atmosphere is that of a quiet cafe; after work, a busy gathering place; and, as the evening wears on, a sophisticated gin parlour.

Fronting onto Plaza de Chueca, it can get pretty lively of a weekend evening when it spills over onto the plaza. Unlike other Madrid nightclubs where paid dancers up on stage try to get things moving, here they let the punters set the pace. This place is extravagantly gay with drag acts, male strippers and a refreshingly no-holdsbarred approach to life.

Pop and top music are the standard here, and the dancing crowd is mixed and serious about having a good time. The atmosphere is suitably quiet and refined, although our favourite corner is the elegant glass pavilion out on the Paseo de los Recoletos. Live shows featuring hot local bands are held at the back, while DJs mix it up at the front.

Its secret is high-quality live jazz gigs from Spain and around the world, followed by DJs spinning funk, soul, nu jazz, blues and innovative groove beats. There are also jam sessions at 11pm in jazz Tuesday and blues Sunday. The emphasis is on music from the American South and the crowd is classy and casual. We like the mix, and it is intimate venues like these that add depth to the Madrid night.

It has picked up right where it left off, with Chueca, on the other hand, can be zany or elegant and caters as much for gay clubbers as for a refined gay sensibility. Where Chueca eases gently down the hill towards the Paseo de los Recoletos and beyond to Salamanca, especially in Calle de Piamonte, Calle del Conde de Xiquena and Calle del Almirante, niche designers take over with exclusive boutiques and the latest individual fashions.

This is a Madrid icon and when it was threatened with closure in there was nearly an uprising. All are framed or unframed and ready to ship around the world. Need we say more? The T-shirts have Spanish-language slogans often in-jokes non-Spaniards may struggle to catch and drawings of famous people.

There are must-have gadgets magnetic key holders, a boxing glove to aim at snorers , kitchen items retro toasters and the purely decorative. Hawaiian shirts and more sedate looks bookend a range that hovers close to the mainstream without losing its alternative slant. Whereas other such stores in the barrio have gone for an angry, thumb-your-nose-at-society aesthetic, Retro City just looks back with nostalgia.

With examples of the extra-virgin variety and nothing else from all over Spain, you could spend ages agonising over the choices. The staff know their oil and are happy to help out if you speak a little Spanish. The range is outstanding and the staff really know their cheese.

The mix of colours and unrestrained elegance suggests a confident designer who long ago reached the pinnacle of her profession. Or a reallife parking meter? Just about anything you can imagine in memorabilia either original or in replica from the s to the s is available here. Not everything is for sale the life-size London phone booth, for example , as many of the items are in demand for movie sets, but much of it is.

Ring before you head here as the staff are often out on location. You can even develop your Lomo photos here. There are also games, toys without batteries and all manner of perfectly proportioned knick-knacks. This has been a barrio tradition for over four decades, and also occurs on public holidays. Metro line 10 connects northern Madrid to the rest of Madrid. The rest of the attractions are thinly spread. Catch the metro to Moncloa metro station, and then follow Parque del Oeste roughly south and then on down to Templo de Debod on the cusp of the city centre.

Northern Madrid follows the path of that great Madrid artery, known for much of its length as Paseo de la Castellana. The saint heard word from his native Lisbon that his father had been unjustly accused of murder. He then demanded that the corpse of the murder victim be placed before the judges. It was customary in such works that angels and cherubs appear in the cupola, above all the terrestrial activity, but Goya, never one to let himself be confined within the mores of the day, places the human above the divine.

His remains were transferred in from Bordeaux France , where he had died in self-imposed exile in Fiesta de San Antonio Young women traditionally seamstresses flock to the hermitage on 13 June to petition for a partner. The upper floor boasts a gala dining hall and a grand ballroom. On the main floor are suits of armour from around the world, while the Oriental room is full of carpets, Moroccan kilims, tapestries, musical instruments and 18thcentury Japanese suits of armour, much of it obtained at auction in Paris in the s.

The music room is dominated by a gon- dola of Murano glass and pieces of Bohemian crystal. The event was immortalised by Goya in his Dos de mayo and Tres de mayo paintings, which hang in the Museo del Prado p The forlorn cemetery, established in , is often closed. Spanish vessels crossed the Atlantic to the Spanish colonies in Latin America, carrying adventurers one way and gold and other looted artefacts from indigenous cultures on the return journey.

The 1st floor, with the main salon and dining areas, was mostly decorated by the artist himself. On the same floor are three separate rooms that Sorolla used as studios. In the second one is a collection of his Valencian beach scenes. The third was where he usually worked. From , the entire plaza was occupied by a covered, octagonal market. After it was sent block by block to Spain as a gesture of thanks to Spanish archaeologists in the Unesco team that worked to save the monuments that would otherwise have disappeared forever.

Begun in BC and completed over many centuries, the temple was dedicated to the god Amon of Thebes, about 20km south of Philae in the Nubian desert of southern Egypt. According to some authors of myth and legend, the goddess Isis gave birth to Horus in this very temple, although obviously not in Madrid. The Colombian gold collection, dating as far back as the 2nd century AD, is particularly eye-catching. It looks out over the northern corner of the Parque del Oeste and has sweeping views of western Madrid.

Sunset is the perfect time to visit. Entry is every half-hour from 9. Until a few years ago, the Paseo de Camoens, a main thoroughfare running through the park, was lined with prostitutes by night. To deprive them of clients, the city authorities now close the park to wheeled traffic from 11pm on Friday until 6am on Monday. The 2. Time it so you can settle in for a cool lunch or evening tipple on one of the terrazas terraces along Paseo del Pintor Rosales.

For decades locals have been coming here for their morning tipple and for some of the best traditional Spanish patatas bravas fried potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce in town. It also has vermouth on tap. Combine with a visit to the neighbouring Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida p It also serves up chorizo a la sidra chorizo cooked with cider and queso cabrales a blue cheese from Asturias. You order at the counter and your name is called in no time.

Menus are available in English. But Viandas de Salamanca was one of the first to see their potential as simple but filling and quintessentially Spanish fast food. Vacuum-sealed cured meats are also available. For a tour of the stadium, buy your ticket at window 10 next to gate 7.

Better still, attend a game alongside 80, delirious fans. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone or in person from the ticket office at gate 42 on Av de Concha Espina; for the last option, turn up early in the week before a scheduled game eg a Monday morning for a Sunday game. The football season runs from September or the last weekend in August until May, with a two-week break just before Christmas until early in the New Year.

It also has tables on the plaza, one of our favourites. This place also gets rave reviews for its croquetas croquettes. The service is excellent and the bright yet classy dining area adds to the sense of a most agreeable eating experience. Reservations highly recommended. The quality is high and prices are among the cheapest in town.

Start with almejas a la marinera baby clams and follow it up with paella de marisco seafood paella for the full experience. Simply point and any of the wonderful selection will be plated up for you. The menus change with the seasons but this is culinary indulgence at its finest, the sort of place where creativity, presentation and taste are everything. The nondescript suburban setting and small premises chefs sometimes end up putting the finishing touches to dishes in the hallway only add to the whole street-smart atmosphere.

Bookings up to six months in advance are required. There are flashes of creativity in the pasta, such as fagottini dumplings with black truffles and cream of foie gras and mushroom, while the salads, carpaccios and grilled provolone are great starters. Exhibits range from white Siberian tigers to mambas, Atlas lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinoceroses, flamingos, koalas and celebrity pandas.

The sq-metre Aviario Aviary contains some 60 species of eagle, condor and vulture. Spend long enough here, however, and the Disneyfication of the zoo will start to grate. Weekends can be busy, so try and visit during the week, although check the opening hours online before setting out.

It might also be worth checking online the program for the day for shows and planning your visit accordingly. La Zona de la Naturaleza Nature Zone offers, among other things, dodgems and various water rides. You should certainly dress to impress men will need a tie and a jacket.

The cuisine is traditional Spanish with an emphasis on seafood and it gets rave reviews from its predominantly business clientele. Jazz is still a staple, but flamenco, blues, world music, singersongwriters, pop and rock all make regular appearances. Live shows can begin as early as 7pm on weekends but sometimes really only get going after 1am! Arrive early as it fills up fast. The program changes nightly, with singer-songwriters, jazz, flamenco, folk, fusion, indie, world music and even comedians.

This is a barrio classic, the sort of store to which parents bring their children as their own parents did a generation before. The items here are the real deal, with near-perfect models of everything from old Renfe trains to obscure international airlines.

The kids will love it, too. From the shop window, you can see down onto the stadium itself. Toledo p Toledo is a beautifully sited, architecturally distinguished city with signposts to its glory days as a crossroads of civilisation. Segovia p A Roman aqueduct, a castle that inspired Disney and a colour scheme of sandstone and warm terracotta make Segovia one of the most agreeable towns close to Madrid.

Aranjuez p A royal getaway down through the centuries, Aranjuez has an extraordinary palace and expansive gardens grafted onto a delightfully small-town canvas. Two Museums As you head downstairs to the northeastern corner of the complex you pass through the Museo de Arquitectura and the Museo de Pintura. The former tells in Spanish the story of how the complex was built, the latter contains 16th- and 17th-century Italian, Spanish and Flemish art.

The trip takes 30 minutes. For a relaxing view of the old city, hop on the Zoco Tren, a small train that does a minute loop up the hill and through Toledo. The train leaves hourly into the early evening and tickets are available from the tourist office. The heavy interior, with sturdy columns dividing the space into five naves, is on a monumental scale. The Visigothic influence continues today in the unique celebration of the Mozarabic Rite, a 6th-century liturgy that was allowed to endure after Cardinal Cisneros put its legitimacy to the test by burning missals in a fire of faith; they survived more or less intact.

The rite is celebrated in the Capilla Mozarabe at 9am Monday to Saturday, and at 9. Behind the main altar lies a mesmerising piece of 18th-century churrigueresque lavish baroque ornamentation , the Transparente, which is illuminated by a light well carved into the dome above. In the centre of things, the coro is a feast of sculpture and carved wooden stalls. In Toledo, the painter managed to cultivate a healthy clientele and command good prices. He died in , leaving his works scattered about the city.

Day Tri ps fro m M a d ri d T oledo 15th-century lower tier depicts the various stages of the conquest of Granada. The tesoro treasury, however, deals in treasure of the glittery kind. Rebuilt under Fran- co, it has been reopened as a vast military museum. The rulers had planned to be buried here but eventually ended up in their prize conquest, Granada. When the count was buried in , Saints Augustine and Stephen supposedly descended from heaven to attend the funeral.

The cloisters and carved wooden ceilings are superb, as is the collection of Spanish ceramics. Also upstairs is an atmospheric cruciform gallery that contains an archaeological display, some fine Flemish religious art, a number of El Grecos, a crucifixion attributed to Goya, a flag from the Battle of Lepanto, and the wonderful 15th-century Tapestry of the Astrolabes.

Built around AD , it suffered the usual fate of being converted into a church hence the religious frescoes , but the original vaulting and arches survived. He was wrong, but the museum remains worthwhile. The dishes with foie gras as the centrepiece are especially memorable. Exhibits provide an insight into the history of Jewish culture in Spain, and include archaeological finds, a memorial garden, costumes and ceremonial artefacts.

From Segovia it climbs up through the quiet villages of the Sierra de Guadarrama foothills, before dropping down to Madrid. Fortified since Roman days, the site takes its name from the Arabic al-qasr fortress. It was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, but the whole lot burned down in What you see today is an evocative, over-the-top reconstruction of the original. The views from the summit of the Torre de Juan II are truly exceptional. First raised here by the Romans in the 1st century AD, the aqueduct was built with not a drop of mortar to hold the more than 20, uneven granite blocks together.

The austere three-nave interior is anchored by an imposing choir stall and enlivened by odd chapels, including the Capilla del Cristo del Consuelo, which houses a magnificent Romanesque doorway, and the Capilla de la Piedad, containing an important altarpiece by Juan de Juni. The road connecting Plaza Mayor and the aqueduct is a pedestrian thoroughfare that locals know simply as Calle Real.

La Almuzara offers a dedicated vegetarian menu, as well as pizzas, pastas and around 18 innovative salads. The ambience is warm and artsy. The theme in the bar is equally diverse. Stop here for a taste of the award-winning tapas.

Reservations recommended. Downstairs is the informal cueva cave , where you can get tapas and full-bodied cazuelas stews. People come here from all over Spain to try delicious cochinillo asado roast suckling pig and asado de cordero roasted lamb. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on weekends. The eerily quiet, lamp-lit streets within the walls after dark also speak strongly of magic.

The interior boasts a Flemish Gothic chapel. It all begins on Holy Thursday and the most evocative event is the early morning around 5am Good Friday procession which circles the city wall. The admission price includes a multilingual audioguide. The sombre Gothic-style facade conceals a magnificent interior with an exquisite early 16th-century altar frieze showing the life of Jesus, plus Renaissance-era carved choir stalls and a museum with an El Greco painting and a splendid silver monstrance by Juan de Arfe.

Push the buttons to illuminate the altar and the choir stalls. After her early, undistinguished years as a nun, she was shaken by a vision of Hell in , which crystallised her true vocation: she would reform her order. With the help of many supporters Teresa founded convents of the Carmelitas Descalzas Shoeless Carmelites all over Spain.

She died in in Alba de Tormes, where she is buried. She was canonised by Pope Gregory XV in Above, the stunning ochre-stained limestone columns and cantilevered ceilings in the side aisles produce an effect unlike any other cathedral in the country.

The magnificent choir stalls, in Flemish Gothic style, are accessible from the upper level of the third cloister, the Claustro de los Reyes, so called because Fernando and Isabel often attended Mass here. One of the three main rooms open to the public is where the saint is said to have had a vision of the baby Jesus.

Also on display are relics such as the piece of wood used by Teresa as a pillow ouch! Their canopied cenotaph is an outstanding piece of Romanesque style with nods to the Gothic. There are three attractions in one here: the church, a relics room and a museum. Apparently Franco kept it beside his bedside throughout his rule. It also marks the place where Santa Teresa and her brother were caught by their uncle as they tried to run away from home they were hoping to achieve martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims.

The best views are at night. The eclectic menu changes regularly and ranges from salads, with dressings such as chestnut and fig, to hamburgers with cream of setas oyster mushrooms. Lighter eats include bruschetta with tasty toppings. Live music, poetry readings and similar take place in summer. The unusual international meat dishes, which include gazelle and kangaroo, are the standouts here. Its wine list is renowned throughout Spain, with over wines to choose from, with tapas-sized servings of cheeses and cured meats the perfect accompaniment.

Five-star temples to good taste and a handful of buzzing hostels bookend a fabulous collection of midrange hotels; most of the midrangers are creative originals, blending high levels of comfort with an often-quirky sense of style. These hoteles con encanto hotels with charm share the market with stylish, modern monuments to 21st-century fashions that seem to push the boundaries of design in ways that were once the preserve of Barcelona, that eternal rival up the road.

The Spanish hostal is a cross between a cheap hotel and a hostel and usually represents outstanding value. Some are new and slick, but the overwhelming majority are family run, adhering to traditional, old-style decor and old-style warmth. Hostels At the budget end of the market, Madrid has its share of hostel-style accommodation with multibed usually bunk dorms and busy communal areas.

Villa Magna p Refined Salamanca address for the well heeled. Westin Palace p Near faultless five-star address close to Paseo del Prado. Praktik Metropol p New hotel with quirky decor, fine views and high levels of comfort. Only You Hotel p Designer rooms with unexpected extras. Hostal Main Street Madrid p Central and very cool hostal. Catalonia Las Cortes p Great rooms, service and Huertas location. Artrip p Artsy location with stylish contemporary rooms.

Best Hotel Chains AC www. Hi Tech www. NH www. Room Mate www. ApartoSuites Jardines de Sabatini p Fabulous palace views and modern apartments. It also has terrific apartments some recently renovated, others ageing in varying stages of gracefulness and ranging in size from 33 sq metres to sq metres. The apartments come with fully equipped kitchens, their own sitting area, bathroom and, in the case of the larger ones room 51 on the 5th floor is one of the best , an expansive terrace with good views over the rooftops of central Madrid.

Fabulous value all round. The location, a few steps from the Puerta del Sol, is terrific. Noise can be an issue, but that can be said about most cheaper places in the centre. A steady stream of repeat visitors is the best recommendation we can give. But the rooms themselves are lovely and light filled, with tasteful, subtle faux-antique furnishings, comfortable beds, light-wood floors and plenty of space.

Definitely pay extra for a room with a view. The studios, with a balcony and uninterrupted views over the lovely Jardines de Sabatini to the Palacio Real are simply brilliant. The Campo del Moro is just across the road. The colour scheme is blacks, whites and greys, with dark-wood floors and splashes of fuchsia and lime green. Flat-screen TVs in every room, modern bathroom fittings, and even a laptop in some rooms, round out the clean lines and latest innovations.

Past guests include Viggo Mortensen and Natalie Portman. Some rooms are on the small side. Soft lighting, light shades and plentiful glass personalise the rooms and provide an intimate feel. Rooms can be small, but have high ceilings, simple furniture and light tones contrasting smoothly with muted colours and dark surfaces.

Some rooms are pristine white; others have splashes of colour with zany murals. The bathrooms sparkle with stunning fittings and hydromassage showers, and the rooms are beautifully appointed; many historical architectural features remain in situ in the public areas.

The rooms, in an 18th-century building, are awash in antique furnishings and marble busts, with each built around a theme eg Japan, India. The rooms are functional. The downstairs bar is terrific. This restored 19th-century inn sits on one of our favourite Madrid streets, and rooms either look out over the street or over the pretty internal patio. Rooms are dazzling white offset by strong splashes of colour and artful use of wooden beams.

The friendly service, too, is a plus and the overall look is a touch more polished than your average hostal. Most rooms are well sized and each has its own colour scheme. Indeed, more thought has gone into the decoration than in your average hostal, from the bed covers to the pictures on the walls. Both hostales drop their prices in summer.

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