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OROKO City Guide | 15 things to do in Madrid

Madrid is a city filled with elegant boulevards, artistic hubs and glamorous neighbourhoods. Brimming with pride and character, it is a haven for culture lovers who seek historical landmarks, art galleries and culinary delights. Here at OROKO, we have been to Madrid more times than we can count, so we are sharing the things we love to do when we are in Spain’s lively capital.

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast at one of Madrid’s oldest bakeries

When people explain why they love Spanish culture, one thing that they always mention is the relaxed way of life. Here, they take their breakfast seriously and though bakery culture is not as famous as in France, Spain has some exceptional bakeries with outstanding traditional treats. Why not sit back and enjoy a café con leche with a pastry at La Mallorquina. Founded in 1894, it continues to produce some delicious treats like napolitana de chocolate, a form of pain au chocolat. A great place to try an ensaimada, a flaky sweet pastry from Mallorca, is at Formentor in Salamanca. Whichever pastelería you choose, make sure to take some delicious almond tuiles home.

Stroll through Madrid’s food markets

Visiting a local food market is a great way to get an insight into a city’s food culture and it is safe to say that Madrid’s love of food is something special. The city’s hundred-year-old market, Mercado de San Miguel, oozes character. The imposing arches and floor to ceiling windows entice passers-by with hanging legs of Iberian ham, overflowing trays of fresh produce and colourful sweet treats. Order a caña, small beer, and an aperitivo in one of the tapas stalls. Highlights include fried seafood at El Señor Martín, salt cod brandade at La Casa del Bacalao and fresh oysters at El Tarantín de Lucía. Other food markets to discover include Mercado de la Paz and Mercado de Antón Martín.

Get to know the tapas culture in local bars

Tapas are an undeniable social pastime. It is not just about the food but the social ambience; standing at the busy bars and getting to know the locals. There are certain spots in Madrid where you can find delicious tapas and each bar seems to have a signature dish. For the best Spanish omelette in the city, go to La Perla Asturiana in Calle de Lagasca. This bar may be unassuming, but the portions of Spanish omelette served with big wedges of fresh baguette are outstanding. Head to Casa González for the best of regional cheeses, La Casa del Abuelo for superb gambas al ajillo and Bodega La Ardosa for some refreshing salmorejo.

Take a day trip outside the city

With Spain’s excellent transport system, it would be a shame not to explore the surrounding ancient towns. Segovia, just thirty minutes from Madrid by high-speed AVE, is a historic city with a rich architectural history. A truly beautiful city for exploring, must-visits include the hilltop castle of Alcázar de Segovia, the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia and the Gothic cathedral of Segovia. If you are travelling by car, stop off at La Granja to admire the Royal Palace. Another great day tour is to Toledo, just over 30 minutes by high speed AVE. The ancient city is set on the hills of Castilla La Mancha and is known for its mix of Christian, Jewish and Arabian architecture.

Visit Museo Nacional del Prado

The Prado Museum houses what is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest collections of European Art. One of the most visited sites in the world, it houses numerous artworks of celebrated artists like Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco and Diego Velazquez. One of the most visited pieces of artwork is Las Meninas by Velazquez. Raising questions about reality and illusion, it is one of the most widely analysed artworks in Western painting. From 18:00 to 20:00 on Monday to Saturday and from 17:00 to 19:00 on Sundays and festivals, entrance to Museo Nacional del Prado is free, making it easily accessible to all.

Explore Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Pay a visit to the museum of Reina Sofia to see some of Spain’s most iconic artists’ work. Highlights include artworks from masters of surrealism and expressionism; Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Make sure to get a glimpse of the celebrated Guernica painting. Though Spanish art reigns, there are collections of international artworks including the works of Francis Bacon, Cindy Sherman and Diego Riviera. From 19:00 to 21:00 on Monday to Wednesday and from 13:30 to 19:00 on Sunday, entrance to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is free, making it easily accessible to all.

Explore Plaza Mayor and order a bocadillo de calamares

Plaza Mayor and its nearby surroundings are great spots for a stroll as you will find many beautiful buildings and churches along the way. One example is the Basílica de San Miguel. Just a short walk from Plaza Mayor, it is a wonderful Baroque church where interiors are adorned with domed ceilings, frescos and sculptures. When you take a stroll around Plaza Mayor, why not try the famous Madrid snack; bocadillo de calamares. Literally translated as a squid baguette, it may sound odd but is surprisingly delicious. The best places to try this baguette are in the Plaza Mayor area, specifically at Bar La Campana and Bar La Ideal.

Enjoy a night at the cinema at Cine Doré

It may sound odd to suggest going to the cinema while on a city break, but Cine Doré is special. The brick orange façade, accented with Roman columns and leafy paintwork, gives you a hint of what is to come. This landmark movie theatre takes you back in time, with vintage interiors and daily screenings from the 1920s. It is extra special in summer as an open-air screening is added outdoors on summer nights and entrance is just €3. After the cinema, why not explore the barrio of Lavapies and find a trendy spot for an evening cocktail.

Brunch at El Perro y la Galleta, Retiro

Translated as the dog and the biscuit, this trendy café is a dog-friendly spot near Retiro Park. We won’t lie, part of its charm is how instagrammable it is. Walls are lined with vintage cabinets, antiques and wooden adornments. The menu is diverse and there is a great selection for vegetarians, something that is hard to find in Madrid. Dishes on the menu reflect current food trends like poke bowls and fish tacos. Leave room for dessert because there will definitely be a childhood favourite on the menu. If you are in the Chamberí area, there is a second El Perro y la Galleta here, this time with a more airy, luxe interior.

Take a stroll through Retiro Park

Madrid’s largest park, Parque del Buen Retiro, was originally created for the Royal Family. It was opened to the public in the 18th century and locals and visitors have been enjoying it ever since. Perfect for a stroll in the afternoon sun, explore the beautiful gardens, take a picnic by the lake and visit the Crystal Palace. Sitting by a large pond filled with turtles, the glasshouse is not only visually striking but an artistic hub of seasonal exhibitions. To make your trip to the park more special, why not rent a little paddle boat and enjoy the afternoon on a peaceful boat ride.

Watch the sunset at Círculo de Bellas Artes’ rooftop bar

Undeniably Madrid’s most famous rooftop bar, Círculo de Bellas Artes offers spectacular views over Gran Via at sunset. You probably will have to queue, but this one is worth it. If you are looking for a more relaxed vibe, head to Gymage’s rooftop terrace with an infinity pool or The Hat Hotel’s rooftop bar. Either way, there is something special when the sun sets over the city’s historical landmarks.

Dinner and drinks at La Habanera, Chamberí

Madrid has a strong food culture and identity and it is not afraid to embrace influences from other cuisines. A great restaurant, especially for occasions, is La Habanera. Once you walk into the space you will immediately be impressed by the tropical décor, high ceilings and open arches and lots of leafy décor. Sample sharing dishes that include some Japanese influenced dishes, fresh market plates and a selection of vegetarian plates. After dinner, order a refreshing cocktail and enjoy how lively the space gets after dinner when everyone enjoys a spot of dancing. Another excellent option for dinner and drinks is La Marieta in Paseo de la Castellana.

Explore barrio de Salamanca

Barrio de Salamanca is a glamorous neighbourhood in the city that is filled with fine-dining restaurants, designer boutiques and bourgeois buildings. It is a lovely place to stroll around and if you are looking for a glamorous restaurant, you will find many options here. Particularly characteristic in summer and autumn, small streets are lined with elegant terraces and it is nice to sit out and watch the world go by. If you are looking for a recommendation for lunch, La Maruca is one of our favourites, serving some of the best salt cod croquettes around.

Experience the traditional merienda of chocolate con churros

A timeless tradition in Spain is to relax and enjoy chocolate con churros with friends and family. Perfect for a merienda, an afternoon snack, is to enjoy churros at one of the traditional churros spots like Chocolatería San Gines and Los Artesanos. Fried to crisp perfection and alongside a rich chocolate drink, it certainly is a tasty treat.

Enjoy a night of music and dancing in Madrid

Spain is known for its lively music and dance so it would be a shame to not experience this first-hand. El Son is a salsa dance club where everyone can enjoy a night of dancing with a variety of salsa and Caribbean music. For beginners, they offer beginners’ classes at the start of the night. For those who enjoy live music, venture to Barco Bar. It is one of Madrid’s most famous nightclubs as they offer a variety of styles, with frequent concerts and DJ sessions. If you do go to Barco, make sure to explore Malasaña beforehand. A bohemian neighbourhood with colourful street-art, there are lots of trendy bars and restaurants to sample.

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