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Europe’s third largest city is a financial node for southern Europe and Latin America and, despite the current economic difficulties, Madrileños still love to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company. Resident Patricia Gosálvez says it would be a pity not to stay for a few days after business is done to discover its markets, museums and mouthwatering food.
Escape the crowds and head to Mercado de San Fernando in multicultural Lavapiés, where old ladies buying groceries rub shoulders with hipsters tucking into artisan beer and crispy gyozas at sushi stall Yankenpon Washoku.
Rent a bike at one end of the award-winning Madrid Río riverside route – more than 10 kilometres of 1970s ring road that has been reclaimed to regain the Manzanares river for the city – and cycle past parks, artificial beaches, outdoor cafés and signature bridges by architect Dominique Perrault and artist Daniel Canogar. End the ride at Matadero, the city’s former slaughterhouse, for a contemporary art exhibit or a light lunch at the cantina.
In her infamous speech before the Olympic Committee, Mayor Ana Botella stated that ‘there is nothing quite like a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor’. But who wants to have a €3 coffee surrounded by tourists and entertainers dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants? For a trendier and more relaxing experience Café Federal has just landed from Barcelona in beautiful Plaza de las Comendadoras.
Many Madrid hotels have great roof terraces, but the best 360-degree views are at Hotel Ada Palace. The hotel lies just off the Gran Vía and from its roof you feel within touching distance of the Winged Victory statue crowning the domed Metropolis building across the street. But gin and views don’t come cheap: drinks that normally set you back €10-€12 at ground level rise to €15 up here.
Madrid has great private collections but for a morning of time travel, visit the beautiful Museum of Romanticism, founded by a marquis in the 1920s. Furniture, art, jewellery, toys and even King Fernando VII’s toilet, are displayed as they would be in a mansion. The best part – it has a secret garden café where you can eat cake and sigh like a true romantic.
Two of the city’s most interesting pop-up markets take place in train stations. Mercado de Motores, a glossy flea market where you can find artisans, designers and collectors selling their old LPs or Prada bags, takes place every second weekend of the month in the 19th-century Museo del Ferrocarril station. And Nomada Market, an independent design fair, takes over the top floor of Madrid Chamartín station four times a year, with finds ranging from €5-€100.
Offal is big in this city, and you’ll find dishes such as gallinejas (sheep’s intestines fried in their own fat) and carrillera (pork cheeks) everywhere from classic tapas bars to fancy restaurants such as Viridiana, where master chef Abraham García explores different cuts of meat, from the pig’s snout to the bull’s tail.