Mercado de San Miguel
Santa Ana Square
My Perfect Weekend in Madrid, Spain
Ideal weekend companions: A couple of great girlfriends with an adventurous palate, plenty of stamina, and an appetite for superb art.
Best place to take them: Madrid has great art, shopping, restaurants and nightlife: for a perfect weekend, I’d suggest tapas in La Latina; shopping in the swanky Salamanca district; chilling out in the heavenly Retiro Park; and some blockbuster artworks at the Prado and the Reina Sofía contemporary art museum.
Friday: We’d check into a hotel like the Praktik Metropol, which is simple, stylish and central, or splash out on the gorgeous Hotel Único. Then we’d all head into the old city for a stroll, soaking up the atmosphere of the 16th-century Plaza Mayor and the surrounding narrow streets at dusk. We’d pop into the elegant Mercado de San Miguel, now one of the city’s best gastro-markets thanks to stalls full of charcuterie, cheeses, hams, oils and other goodies and then inish the night bar-hopping down the lively C/ Cava Baja and adjoining C/Cava Alta: we’ll definitely stop off at Taberna Matritum and Casa Lucio, which both serve amazing wines and gorgeous gourmet tapas.
Saturday: We’d spend a morning at the Prado, perhaps admiring the early Flemish artworks, as well as the superb collection of paintings by Velázquez. Then we’d head to the lovely Retiro Gardens for a stroll before lunch at Arzábal. After lunch, we could hit the fancy boutiques of the Salamanca district, then wander east and continue shopping at the funky boho-chic stores in the Chueca neighbourhood. We could stick around in Chueca for dinner, where there are lots of trendy options, including the Maison Blanche, or book a table at Válgame Dios. We’d follow up with post-prandial cocktails at Fabuloso.
Sunday: After a big night out, we’d take it easy on Sunday. A big brunch at Café Oliver to begin with, and then we’d amble down through the Santa Ana neighbourhood to the Museo Centro de Arte Contemporanea Reina Sofía. This outstanding museum displays Picasso’s Guernica, but it always hosts excellent temporary exhibitions too. Afterwards, we’d head to the Medina Mayrit to relax in the hammam. Refreshed, we’d be ready to head for home!
Great meals: Although Madrid has plenty of phenomenal, award-winning restaurants, my favourite way to enjoy the city’s food is in tapas bars. From the ultra-chic to the homely and traditional, Madrid has the tapas scene well and truly covered.
One weekend item you couldn’t be without: Ear plugs. Madrid is incredibly noisy – great, when you’re in the middle of the action, but you’ll need those ear plugs if you want to get any sleep!
The perfect end to the perfect weekend: Many of the stalls at the Mercado de San Miguel will vacuum-pack some of their goodies to take home. A glass of Spanish wine and a slice of strong Manchego cheese or a delicate sliver of ham will take you back to Madrid via your taste buds in a second!
- Maison Blanche (C/ Piamonte 10, T915 228 217)
- Válgame Dios (C/Auguste Figeroa 43, 917 01 03 41)
- Fabuloso (C/Estrella 3)
Mary-Ann Gallagher is a journalist and travel writer who has written and contributed to more than 20 guidebooks on destinations around the globe. She was born in Singapore, raised in Europe and North America and educated at the University of St Andrews. Mary-Ann now lives in Barcelona with her family.
Her new book Dream Journeys: Inspirational Routes from across the Globe - a guide to 50 of the most fascinating and unforgettable journeys around the World - is published by Quercus on 2nd February 2012.
(Image of Retiro Park ©PromoMadrid; Chueca thanks to Barraquito; Santa Ana Square thanks to Tomas Fano; Mercado de San Miguel thanks to Niall 63)