exudes an enthusiasm that pervades all aspects of its culture. This is evident in the fervor that surrounds any Real Madrid match, on the plazas in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood and outside the old-school tapas bars on warm evenings, when elderly residents gather to debate politics over rounds of drinks. Follow Indagare’s guide for where to stay, eat and shop, and the city will inevitably delight.
This opulent property is a favorite of executives traveling to Madrid. Furnishings are elegant, with bold Art Deco influences in the common areas and more traditional touches in the rooms and suites. On the main floor, the lounge and terrace are relaxing places in which to grab a drink. Most of the patrons are businessmen, but locals adore the hotel’s restaurant.
The hotel’s location, in Salamanca, is great for die-hard shoppers, but the museums are a twenty-minute walk or a short taxi ride away.
AC Santo Mauro This fifty-one-room former ducal mansion in Madrid’s most elegant residential neighborhood attracts an A-list crowd that prefers quiet luxury.
In the common areas, neoclassical architecture is accented with Persian carpets, gilded mirrors and antique chandeliers. The accommodations, however, are entirely modern. Historic details remain—the château is government protected down to the doorknobs—but the furnishings are übercontemporary.
Additional pluses are the property’s pretty garden terrace and subterranean pool. The hotel’s location, near the financial and shopping districts, is fantastic for business travelers and shoppers, but requires a cab ride for those wishing to visit the city center.
Hotel Ritz After traveling around Europe, Spanish king Alfonso XIII returned to his hometown determined to give it some of the sophistication of London and Paris by constructing a high-end hotel on a par with those in the cities he had visited. He joined forces with the legendary hotelier César Ritz and in 1910 opened Madrid’s first true luxury property.
The Ritz honors its history in the decor of its 137 rooms and 30 suites, which are all elegantly outfitted with antique furniture, damask draperies, crystal chandeliers and custom-made linens. Some complain that the interiors are a bit faded, but those who don’t mind the slightly grandmotherly atmosphere will be charmed by the old-world sophistication.
The Ritz’s biggest bragging point—beyond its unrivaled location, next to the Prado, is its staff, which is efficient, friendly and without an ounce of snobbery. Many employees have been at the hotel for decades, and they take pride in preserving its reputation for the best service in town.
Meals throughout Spain are eaten later than many travelers are accustomed to. Lunch begins around 2 p.m., while dinner starts no earlier than 10 p.m. If hunger strikes at an earlier hour, stop for some tapas and a drink. Keep in mind that Spaniards dress formally, so T-shirts will look out of place even at casual spots.
Playful furnishings suit the casual menu, which is best enjoyed at lunch or for a relaxed dinner. Classic tapas like jamon iberico, sardines on grilled bread and fried artichokes can be ordered all day, while wood-fire-baked pizzas and heartier dishes are reserved for lunch and dinner. 26 Calle de Fernando El Santo; 34-91-702-3870
Casa Lucio In business since 1974, this revered tavern near the Plaza Mayor draws a regular crowd of locals and the occasional royal. The bar is fun for an aperitif, but the elegant cuisine—especially the signature huevos estrellados, eggs over fried potatoes and steak—is the real draw.
Kabuki Wellington This Michelin-starred sushi restaurant, located in the Wellington Hotel, draws Madrid’s most sophisticated diners. The chefs prepare memorable creations like butterfish nigiri with truffles and toro tuna seared with brown sugar.
Murillo Café Located near the entrance of the Prado Museum, this casual tapas café is an excellent place to stop for a lunch of crispy shrimp and Indian samosas before visiting the museum or the nearby Retiro Park.
Ten Con Ten For a festive night out, Ten Con Ten can’t be beat. With excellent food, a lively atmosphere and a posh clientele, the Madrid sensation is booked months in advance, but for those who didn’t plan ahead, the bar takes walk-ins.
The main shopping areas of Madrid are the swank Salamanca district and the trendier Chuenca, where shoppers can find quality leather goods and diverse European labels. For typically Spanish items, head to the Puerta del Sol area. Note that most stores close from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m, then remain open until 8 p.m.
The elegant creations of Spanish designer Adolfo Dominguez can now be found throughout Spain. This location, on the most glam shopping street in Madrid, is the one to visit.
Fashion & Accessories: Isolée This bright and airy boutique stocks a cool blend of cutting-edge fashion, fragrances and gifts. Isolée offers everything from hipster sneakers, funky T-shirts and casual dresses to Diptyque candles and gourmet treats.
Fashion & Accessories: Loewe Spain’s upscale leather store has been outfitting the elite with handbags and luggage since 1846. Its merchandise tends to be less expensive in Spain than elsewhere.
For Children: Melly Mello Melly Mello resembles many of Salamanca’s elegant boutiques, with one difference: these clothes are for kids. The line is a fresh, modern take on undertwenty fashion that has seduced flocks of upscale Madrileños.
Market: Mercado San Miguel Located in a soaring 1916 steel-and-glass structure, the Mercado San Miguel is the chicest place to shop for food in central Madrid. Its tenants range from traditional fresh produce purveyors and fishmongers to gourmet bakeries and wine bars.
Spotlight: Espadrilles Run by the same family for five generations, Casa Hernanz, located just outside an archway leading to the Plaza Mayor, is the place to buy espadrilles. The selection is fantastic, with examples in every size and shade lining the walls, but the service can be lacking. If you can’t make it to Casa Hernanz but are already shopping in Salamanca, Castañer has an impressive, albeit pricier, selection as well.
In addition to renowned museums like the Prado and the Reina Sofia, home to Picasso’s iconic Guernica, Madrid boasts top sights for every taste and interest, and Indagare can arrange bespoke private tours for members.
Sports fans shouldn’t miss seeing the world famous Real Madrid in action. Soccer is practically Spain’s national religion, and should you score tickets to a Madrid-Barcelona match, you’ll witness a rivalry that puts the Red Sox–Yankees feud to shame.
Palacio Real Used by the royal family only for formal functions, Madrid’s royal palace stands on the site of a 9th-century fortress, which was replaced by the original castle in the 16th century. After that burned down, in 1734, King Philip V constructed the current palace, which features original furnishings, ornate frescoes and a stunning art collection. Visitors should also see the Royal Armory and Almudena Cathedral while there.
Parque del Retiro Originally built as a royal retreat, the Retiro opened to the public in the 19th century. Families can row rented boats on the lake or watch the puppeteers and street performers that surround it. Notable sites within the park’s boundaries include the Crystal Palace, the Fountain of the Falling Angel and the Forest of the Departed.
Prado Madrid’s most prestigious museum owns more than 17,000 works, including some of the most famous Old Master paintings, such as Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Rubens’s Three Graces. There is also a pretty rooftop garden.
Reina Sofia Madrid’s modern-art museum, housed in an 18th-century hospital, is known for its vast collection, but the biggest star is Picasso’s Guernica. The mammoth painting depicts the destruction of the town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war.
Thyssen-Bornemisza This museum is the third leg of Madrid’s “golden triangle of art.” Its collection—including paintings by the likes of Dürer and Van Gogh—was the private property of Thyssen-Bornemisza until the Spanish government purchased it for $350 million.
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