Over many years in which I’ve been going to Madrid, I’ve done a lot of site-seeing tours of the city and have also tried many different restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Enjoying Madrid is easy! In terms of entertainment, the city offers a lot and you can never get bored there.
I like discovering new places, but I also like going to places that I know from my previous visits. Familiar places provide a certain level of comfort and I tend to feel more relaxed in a place that I am familiar with. That’s probably because I know that I will end up having a good time. Some places are simply too good to be missed, despite the fact that we’ve already been there. I have friends in Madrid and they often take me to completely new places where the locals predominantly go, away from usual tourist hot-spots.
In this post, I will talk about places that I visited during my latest stay in Madrid. It’s not my intention to say that they are the best places that you can go to – that’s simply not true. Madrid is a very big city and I am sure that I’d be able to discover many other amazing places that I could include in this post.
Often, when we arrive to a new and unfamiliar city, we may feel a bit intimidated. Deciding where to go for lunch or dinner can result in not knowing what to choose and where to go. We all want to have a good time. I hope that this post will be useful as it’s based on my experience. Perhaps, it’s easier to decide what to do and where to go if other people have done it before us and we follow their advice.
WHERE TO STAY IN MADRID?
In my previous post, I mentioned that I had stayed in Hotel Ganivet. This hotel is in Calle de Toledo 111-113, near the Puerto de Toledo metro station. It’s a good and reasonably priced three-star hotel. Additionally, it is walking distance from Plaza Mayor and the city centre. I have now stayed in this hotel on two different occasions. Both times, my room was bigger and more comfortable than rooms that I previously had in better rated hotels on Gran Via.
There is no need to spend excessive amounts of money on accommodation, especially if most of the time we are outside. In my case, I would normally leave the hotel in the morning and, after all day, I would return to late in the night.
When we talk about the entertainment in Madrid and where to go to eat something or perhaps go just for a drink, two areas that I particularly like are – Chueca and La Latina.
In my opinion, Chueca is the best and the most interesting part of Madrid. It is the centre of Madrid’s night life, with many restaurants, bars, coffee shops and other similar establishments that cater for everyone.
Chueca is very special because it’s where diversity is fully embraced and celebrated. Apart from being vibrant, colourful, exciting and interesting, Chueca is also Madrid’s gay area. What’s amazing about Chueca is that, although there are establishments designated as gay in their nature, all bars, coffee shops and restaurants are mixed, without any differentiation between straight and gay. That’s very interesting and at the same time fascinating. Such level of acceptance and tolerance is rarely found.
In fact, Madrid is one of very few cities where the whole city and its authorities celebrate tolerance, acceptance and equality. Every first weekend in July, Madrid hosts Orgullo, one of the most famous LGBT festivals in the world. The city proudly and meticulously organises this event. It attracts approximately 1 million visitors from all over the world in that week. The benefit to the city’s economy is enormous. Also, it puts in focus issues such as the LGBT rights and especially discrimination, still experienced by the LGBT communities in many other parts of the world. In this respect, Madrid is very progressive and far ahead of most other world cities.
SOME INTERESTING PLACES IN CHUECA
Here is a list of places that I visited in Chueca this time. Of course, you can go to any place that you consider interesting, because the choice is vast and there are so many of them.
Mercado de la Reina – Calle Gran Vía, 12 – strictly speaking, this tapas bar is right at the edge of Chueca. You will find it on Madrid’s main street Gran Vía. It’s an excellent place where you can stop for tapas and for a drink during the day. They also have a restaurant, but it’s only open in the evening. Food is very good and prices are reasonable.
Pizzeria Vesuvio – Calle de Hortaleza 4 – is a small pizzeria, perfect to stop for a quick bite. It’s not like a typical restaurant, with tables where you can sit down. Rather, they designed it as a long and narrow bar, with stools. The service is very fast and efficient, basically the idea is to eat and leave as soon as you finish. It’s not a place where you stay for a long time. But, it’s cheap and pizzas are very good.
Diurno – Calle de San Marcos 37 – is at the same time a restaurant, tapas bar and coffee shop. I’ve only been there during the day. I had a coffee and something light to eat, so I am not sure how it is in the evening. But, if you look for somewhere to stop for a coffee, this is a place that I strongly recommend.
Taberna El Economato – Calle de Belen 5 – this place is not far from Plaza de Chueca. It is also a very nice bar where you can have a drink or something to eat.
Ristorante Pulcinella – Calle de Regueros 7 – I went to this restaurants with my friends from Madrid. It’s a very good restaurant and I had an excellent pizza for my lunch. However, it is more expensive than previously mentioned Pizzeria Vesuvio. This is a proper restaurant, although it was very reasonably priced.
Restaurante Conache – Calle Sta. Bárbara 13 – I went to this place for a drink only, but I want to include it in this post because it’s in a superb location. This restaurant is actually in Plaza de San Ildenfonso, which is a very nice square with many bars and restaurants. It’s a perfect place to sit down and enjoy for an hour or so, especially when you can sit outside.
La Latina is another “barrio” that I like very much. That’s where my hotel was. This is also where you can find a lot of restaurants, bars and coffee shops.
The street that you should look for is Cava Baja. In this street, bars and restaurants are literally one after the other. You will be completely spoilt for choice.
You can start exploring this area from Mercado de San Miguel. This is a very beautiful old market, now completely renovated. But, it is also the prime tourist attraction. You can go there to have a look because it’s very interesting, provided that it’s not too busy and that you can move around.
There are places to eat and to have a drink inside. But be careful, it’s very expensive and you can have the same food (mainly tapas) in other places for much less money.
Not far from Mercado de San Miguel, in Calle de los Cuchilleros 17, there is a world famous restaurant – Sobrino de Botín. It was founded in 1725 by Jean Botin and it was originally called Casa Botín. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. The restaurant was inherited by a nephew – “sobrino” in Spanish – and its name was changed to Sobrino de Botín.
The artist Francisco de Goya worked there as a waiter, while he was waiting to be accepted by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Both, the restaurant and its delicacy “cochinillo asado” (roast suckling pig) are mentioned in Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”.
I went to this restaurant twice in the past and every time I had an excellent meal. The restaurant has a reputation for being a touristy place, although there were also many Spanish people when I went there. Sobrino de Botín is a veritable institution, its decor is phenomenal, the cuisine is excellent and an overall experience is superb. It is more expensive than other restaurants, but that’s understandable if you consider its reputation.
Cava Baja street is where you will find a lot of restaurants. I went to some of them during my past visits, but not this time. Anyhow, if you don’t know where to go for lunch or dinner, go to Cava Baja. You will certainly find a place where you can eat or you can go there just for a drink.
THE REST OF MADRID
Two places that I would like to mention in this post are not in Chueca or La Latina. They are:
La Cabaña Argentina – Calle de Ventura de la Vega 10 – is an Argentinian restaurant. If you feel like having an excellent stake, this is the place. I went there for dinner and my meal was delicious. It is slightly more expensive, but nothing outrageous.
This restaurant has a lot of space because it is on two levels, although it became completely full at one point, so perhaps it would be a good idea to book a table in advance.
Puerto Rico – Calle de Chinchilla 2 – is a small restaurant, not far from Puerta del Sol. This place is a real gem. It is cheap and you eat well. It is located in one of the side streets, so it can be slightly more difficult to find. Even if you pass by it, you may not notice it. I strongly recommend it.
A post about Madrid would not be complete without mentioning its fabulous museums. Madrid has some of the world’s most famous museums, with mind blowing collections.
The most famous, the most important and the biggest is Museo Nacional del Prado – in Paseo del Prado.
The museum is a must see, because it contains some of the most famous paintings in the whole world.
When I visited this museum, its building was covered in scaffolding, so I imagine that it will look very nice once it has been renovated. I went there in the afternoon and it was very busy. Big groups of tourists were swarming in front of the most famous masterpieces such as Bosch’s superb “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.
The Prado Museum will celebrate 200 years of its existence in 2019.
Other famous museums are Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza – also in Paseo del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – in Calle de Santa Isabel 52. I visited these two museums in the past, but not this time. When I go back to Madrid, I will make sure to visit them again. They both have excellent collections of some of the most fantastic works of art.
You can’t get bored in Madrid. Whatever you do and wherever you choose to go, it will be a good choice. I am sure that after my next visit to Madrid, a post like this one will contain a list of completely different places, equally worth recommending.
I look forward to that and to spending more time in the great Spanish capital.