The capital of Spain is a food lovers dream, and with plenty of flight options, the perfect weekend city break from the UK. I’ve been lucky to visit four times in the last couple of years since friends of mine moved there, and it’s swiftly become one of my favourite city breaks. Here’s everything you should see and do, but more importantly – eat and drink in the Spanish capital: welcome to your Madrid travel guide!
C. de Tetuán, 12, 28013 Madrid
Casa Labra have been serving fried cod tapas since the 1800s. Beautifully fresh and flaky cod under a golden crisp batter, it’s worth queuing at Casa Labra to try their speciality. Wash it down with a beer or a radler and eat outside at one of the tall tables on the street.
La Casa Del Abuelo
C. de Núñez de Arce, 5, 28012 Madrid
The most famous place for gambas al aljillo – or garlic prawns – in Madrid. La Casa del Abeulo has grown due to its popularity, so there are a few options within a stone’s throw of each other to get your delicious fix of plump prawns sizzling in garlic oil.
Be prepared to queue and for a bit of hustle and bustle, for as you can probably guess from the name, Pez is one of Madrid’s best places to get a slice of tortilla. Stop by for a slice and a glass of something to wash it down, but be prepared to battle for a spot at peak times.
Cl. de Ayala, 28, 28001 Madrid
Tucked away in Mercado de la Paz, this counter bar is often cited as serving the best tortilla in Madrid, among lots of other tapas to choose from. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Calle del Dr. Castelo, 9, 11, 28009 Madrid
My favourite place for dinner in Madrid in the Ibiza area with the best Basque cheesecake I’ve had in the city. Everything is excellent but it’s a tricky one to get a reservation at – it’s a very local restaurant so you may struggle to secure a table without someone who speaks Spanish being able to book on the phone.
Calle del Dr. Castelo, 30, 28009 Madrid
Another restaurant in the Ibiza area, Taberna Laredo does the most incredible mango and bacon salad and a stunning artichoke tortilla.
Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid
THE place to go for churros. Be prepared to queue depending on the time of day – or do as tradition dictates and head straight to San Gines from a night out for the classic Madrid breakfast of the longest churros dipped in glossy dark melted chocolate; San Gines is open 24 hours a day.
Mercado San Miguel
Pl. de San Miguel, s/n, 28005 Madrid
No European city break is complete without experiencing a covered food market, and Mercado San Miguel is Madrid’s most famous. San Miguel gets super busy but I love it all the same; go early after opening to secure one of the few tables and graze your way through all the different tapas options and try plenty of amazing wine for cheap by the glass.
Mercado San Anton
C. de Augusto Figueroa, 24, 28004 Madrid
Another great mercado, San Anton is a less touristy option than San Miguel with some great food options over 3 floors, with a terrace bar on the rooftop. Make sure to get gelato from Mistura – some of the best I’ve ever had.
C. de Ibiza, 13, 28009 Madrid
Another of the best tortillas I’ve had in Madrid – get their croquettes as well! Lovely spot for an afternoon drink in the sunshine in the Ibiza area.
C. de Ibiza, 21, 28009 Madrid
A reliably good spot in the Ibiza area, with an excellent Ventresca salad made with Ventresca tuna belly, finely sliced onions, juicy tomatoes and plenty of great olive oil and salt.
Sala De Despiece
C/ de Ponzano, 11, 28010 Madrid
My first (and only, to date!) tasting menu experience. Set in an old abattoir, the tasting menu comes in at a very reasonable 45 euros a head, and the performance of the dishes being prepared at your table is worth hankering for a reservation alone – very cool spot.
Bodega de la Ardosa
C. de Colón, 13, 28004 Madrid
Traditional tapas bar dating back to the 1800s, Bodega de la Ardosa feels like stepping back in time. It’s a popular spot, often full to the rafters with locals and tourists alike standing eating their tapas and drinking wine, beer and vermouth at the tables fashioned from old barrels.
Pl. del Conde de Barajas, 3, 28005 Madrid
Australian spot not far from Plaza Major and Mercado San Miguel – brilliant for breakfasts. Pancakes, toasted filled croissants, brioche and breakfast burgers, with salads, sandwiches and bigger dishes on the menu from lunchtime.
C. de Moreto, 17, 28014 Madrid
Cute cafe for breakfast near to the Prado museum, Reina Sofia and Retiro, serving up an array of baked eggs dishes and loaded toasts.
C. del León, 5, 28014 Madrid
Great spot for Mexican if you’re after something different, with an excellent mezcal margarita on the menu.
La Dolce Fina
C. de Villanueva, 31, 28001 Madrid
I don’t know why it took me 4 trips to find this amazing spot for gelato but thank God I know now! Amazing pistachio gelato, and well situated near to Retiro for an ice cream fuelled wander through the park.
Heladeria Sienna Narvaez
C. de Narváez, 62, 28009 Madrid
The queue snaking out of Sienna speaks for itself, and it’s well lauded by the locals, which should never be ignored!
Mistura give you the option of selecting toppings that actually get mashed up into the gelato. Watching a bit of theatre as brownie pieces get expertly whipped up into your pistachio gelato will whet your appetite even more – trust me.
Madrid has a fantastic coffee scene developing constantly. Here’s a list of the best places to get your caffeine fix whilst in the city, or better still – grab a couple of bags to bring home with you.
C. de Barbieri, 4, 28004 Madrid
Grande Coffee House
East Crema Coffee
C. de Manuel Fernández y González, nº 7, 28014 Madrid
If you’re familiar with my Instagram, you’re probably aware of the mild obsession I have with Viva Madrid’s espresso martini. Since my first trip to Madrid, it is a non negotiable for me to go to Viva Madrid and have at least two (often three) of what I consider to be the best espresso martini in the world. The other cocktails I’ve tried there have been excellent too, and the Cuban sandwich is great if you need to soak up a bit of the booze. A great vibe from day to night, and my number one rec in Madrid.
Calle de Echegaray, 21, 28014 Madrid
Sister bar to Viva Madrid and currently listed at number 16 on World’s 50 Best Bars, Salmon Guru is a quirky spot with neon interiors and an adventurous cocktail menu. I can vouch for the Tequila Al Pastor – a twist on your classic marg, inlufenced by the Al Pastor taco with spices and pineapple. The espresso martini infused with cardamom and made with a splash of brandy is good, but nothing on Viva Madrid’s classic.
1862 Dry Bar
C. del Pez, 27, 28004 Madrid
Fantastic bar in the Malasaña area serving classic and signature cocktails, with a cosy cellar area and open until late.
Pl. de Sta. Ana, 3, 28012 Madrid
Plaza Santa Ana is a great place to spend a few hours in the afternoon sun. There are plenty of bars to choose from but I have a soft spot for Belbo Piropo, and their Tinto Verano (similar to sangria) is excellent.
La Terrazza Principal Rooftop Bar
C. del Marqués de Valdeiglesias, 1, 28004 Madrid
Madrid has dozens of fantastic roof top bars to explore, and one day I’ll make my way around more of them, but I really enjoy La Terrazza rooftop bar at The Principal Hotel.
THINGS TO DO
Madrid’s huge park Retiro is a must for a wander round. Beautiful at all times of year, but I particularly love it in the autumn. The rose garden is beautiful, and you can hire a rowboat for around 6 euros on the lake at the foot of the Monument to Alfonso XII – which is also a fantastic spot for sunset.
Palacio de Cristal
Situated in Retiro park, the crystal palace is a beautiful piece of architecture with a lake outside it, sometimes hosting exhibitions inside. Worth a stop by on your obligatory walk through Retiro.
Huge historical square dating back to the reign of Philip III in the 1500s.
Royal Palace of Madrid
One of my favourite royal palaces I’ve wandered round. You can’t take photos in the majority of the palace, so you’ll have to take my word for it that the opulence of the rooms and the insanity of the size of the chandeliers. The fully ceramic room is worth the entry fee alone.
Madrid is big on art, and Prado is where you’ll find Spain’s biggest national collection, and lots of Goya to feast your eyes on.
Famous for housing Picasso’s huge (11×25 ft!) Guernica, Museo Reina Sofia houses Spain’s collection of art from the 20th century.
Madrid has a decent range of AirBnBs, but there are some great, central and stylish hotels that are often on Booking at good prices, and often on one of their limited time deals.
*The following section shares affiliate links that, if used, mean I will receive a small share of sales booked. If you do; thank you!*
Chic & Basic Dot
C. del Maestro Victoria, 5, 28013 Madrid
Fantastic location close to Playa Mayor and Puerta del Sol, Chic & Basic Dot has modern rooms with free wifi at very reasonable prices. Book here.
The Madrid EDITION
Pl. de Celenque, 2, 28013 Madrid
If you’re after something more luxurious for your stay, look no further than The Madrid EDITION, with its central location and stunning rooftop pool. Book here.
The Principal Madrid
C. del Marqués de Valdeiglesias, 1, 28004 Madrid
Small luxury hotel The Principal offers beautiful rooms and one of my favourite spots for a sundowner in Madrid. Book here.
If you’re looking to use Avios to fly to Madrid, it’ll set you back 23500 Avios + £1 or 14500 + £35 if you buy a reward flight with your hard earned Avios points. Being a business routing, there are very regular flights between LHR and MAD with both BA and Iberia, both of which you can use your Avios points for.
TOP TIP: If you book the Iberia outbound that departs around 11am and Iberia inbound around 4pm in business class, you’ll get to experience a long haul aircraft – i.e. full lie flat bed for 2.5 hours! Great novelty and a really cool chance to try it out if you have never been able to before. You can check this on the aircraft type – you’re looking for the Airbus A330, but be warned it’s subject to change. Worth a gamble though!
To get from Madrid airport to the city, either hop in a relatively cheap Uber away, or take the even cheaper Metro. You can buy a Metro card from one of the machines near the Metro entrance for €2.50 and then top it up as needed. There is a €3 surcharge you need to add onto your Metro card separately from the usual journey costs (see below) in order to go to or from the airport on the Metro – the automated machines are available in English and this option will be clearly shown when purchasing.
Madrid is a very walkable city; the first time I visited I didn’t step onto the Metro once over the course of 4 days. That said, the Metro is super easy to use, quick, clean and cheap. You can buy a card for €2.50 which you then load up with journeys – you can buy 10 for €6 and tap in each time (you don’t need to tap out). Ubers are also widely available and very cheap.
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