The Real Madrid
Ah Madrid! Seriously, this is the city that never sleeps, or snoozes or rests just for a second. It's a hot mess of vibrant colours and the roar of conversations and if you think you'll be able to stand back and observe, you'd be wrong! It draws you in.
Ours was a mini break without the kids - just a few nights away to catch up and we'd agreed that we wouldn't beat ourselves up about visiting tourist attractions and ticking off a mental checklist of places we 'should' see. Instead we decided to walk the streets around our hotel, stop for coffee (or cocktails, depending on the time of day) and try to soak up the atmosphere at a more relaxed pace.
where we stayed
Only You Hotel - a beautiful boutique hotel with stunning interior design, the friendliest staff and more importantly, massive comfy beds. The hotel is in the Chueca district which has become Madrid's gay district. It's a maze of cobbled streets, independent stores and an amazing choice of places to eat and drink.
Where we went
El Retiro Park - a beautiful oasis in the heart of the city's hustle and bustle. El Retiro Park is 125 hectares of walkways, water fountains, tree-lined paths and play areas. You can hire a rowing boat or bike or just sit in a cafe and watch the world go by. The restaurants have a lot of outdoor seating and although they tend to be on the expensive side, the quality of the food is really good.
San Anton Market - this stunning food market is a short walk from the hotel and has over twenty stalls selling fresh meat, fruit and vegetables and local delicacies. The added bonus is that you can enjoy a meal or drink on the roof and take in the city views.
El Paracaidista - situated in the Malasana district, this is one very cool concept store, gallery, cocktail bar and restaurant. Spread over a number of light and airy floors, its design-led products are displayed in a pared back, minimal way and what makes it different is that you can download their app and make your own purchases online.
El Moderno - another cool concept store in Malasana selling a lot of scandi-ispired gifts and homewares (sounds familiar!).
Where we ate and drank
Only You - the hotel has a couple of bars to choose from and the main one serves a small tapas menu and the most amazing cocktails.
Restaurante Ana la Santa - we stopped here for lunch on our first day - they do delicious, well-priced tapas and you can sit outside in the square and find some shade from the sun. If you're lucky, you'll be serenaded by street musicians.
El 26 de Libertad - just a five minute walk from the hotel is this cool restaurant. Try to get a table with a street view for a spot of people-watching. Good spanish food with a modern twist - choose from paella, steaks, burgers and fish dishes.
Lola 09 - a great cocktail bar within staggering distance of the hotel. A really friendly vibe, good music and massive measures of gin!
El Paracaidista - ignore the negative reviews on Trip Advisor - I had my best meal in Madrid here and the setting and service were good too. After you've wandered around the cool concept store below, head up to this roof-top asian-inspired restaurant and order the Crunchy Roll. You will not be disappointed!
La Terraza de Room Mate Oscar - on our last night we headed to a local hotel to see the sunset. Room Mate Oscar is a cool, young boutique hotel and its roof top bar is a very popular place to enjoy a few sundowners - so popular that if you don't get your timings right you'll have to queue outside reception and have to wait to be allowed in. The views are amazing and as it was so hot while we were in Madrid, the city took on a sort of golden hue as the last rays descended over the roof tops.
The perfect end to a perfect trip. I'd love to hear your Madrid recommendations - please feel free to leave a comment below!