Madrid had never really crossed my radar before. Until recently, where Spain’s concerned, I’d always been drawn to Barcelona (or the ever-temperate Costa del Sol during winter). But when a friend of mine moved to Spain’s capital and enthused about how beautiful a city it is, I had to check it out for myself.
Even in January it was a pleasant 16C “ so if you’re tying the knot in autumn or winter and seeking a honeymoon or minimoon destination that won’t chill you to the bone, it’s ideal “ but like many European cities it really starts to heat up in April, with average temperatures in summer ranging from 28 to 31 degrees.
If, like me, you acquaint yourself with new cities by wandering aimlessly around them until your legs drop off, you’ll love how walkable Madrid is. I strolled from grand plazas to major shopping precincts, through markets and lush green parks, stopping along the way for a little bebida and hopping on the underground once I’d reached my physical limit.
What I found was a destination that melds the cosmopolitan feel of a more business-focused city such as Milan with the vibrancy of the likes of Barcelona.
WHAT TO DO IN MADRID
If you love art, prepare to lose yourself in the myriad museums and galleries. Prado Museum showcases the works of Spanish masters such as Goya, while Reina Sofa boasts classic 20th-century works including Picasso’s Guernica.
You’ll find a more under-the-radar spot in Sorolla Art Gallery, the former house of Valencian artist Joaqun Sorolla, which is filled with his impressionist paintings and colourful ceramics. The house is surrounded by mosaic-tiled gardens dotted with fountains, so there are plenty of photo opportunities in the grounds.
Sorolla Art Gallery
For chilled out vibes, take a stroll around Buen Retiro Park, which has gorgeous sculptured Cypress trees and a lake where the two of you can hire a boat.
Buen Retiro Park
Go shopping in Plaza Mayor and Gran Via for all the major high street stores such as Mango, Zara and H&M, but if you prefer independent boutiques that you can’t find back home then you’ll be spoiled for choice in the districts of Embajadores, La Latina and Malasa±a.
The sunsets over the city are spectacular and best viewed either from a rooftop bar (such as Circulo de Bella Artes) or from the Temple of Debod, an Ancient Egyptian temple located in the West Park.
Sunset from the Temple of Debod
The Temple of Debod illuminated at night
WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID
You’re spoilt for choice in Madrid; this is a real foodie’s city.
Go to an indoor market such as Mercado San Miguel for sustenance when you’re out and about (do try the Pimientos de Padr³n); dine in Restaurante Botn, the oldest restaurant in the world, and head to Juana La Loca for creative tapas dishes in a buzzy environment.
Pimientos de Padron at Mercado San Miguel
WHERE TO STAY IN MADRID
Designer hotel Barcel³ Torre de Madrid is centrally located and housed within one of Madrid’s most iconic buildings, the Torre de Madrid. It has 258 rooms and suites (you’ll get a wraparound balcony if you opt for a premium room), a pool, spa and spades of style. Rooms cost around £200 a night on average.