Strolling down the trendy neighborhood of Malasaña, the pristine corners of Salamanca, or the busy streets of Chueca and the city center, you’ll notice people at all hours in Madrid enjoying the finer things- you know, like cheese, wine, tapas... But when I say “all hours”, let me clarify: nothing before 10 am on weekdays or 1 pm on the weekends. To put it simply, the Spanish aren’t in a rush. They live their lives with a zest for life so profound its infectious to locals and visitors alike. With late afternoon lunches extending into the evenings, good food and wine awaiting you in every neighborhood, and art history dripping from all corners of the city, Madrid has no time to sleep and neither do its people. Ernest Hemingway said it best in Death in the Afternoon: “To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time, your friends will be a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe.”
Affordable, inviting, and centrally located. There’s so much to love about Hotel Room Mate Óscar. With its colorful design, friendly staff, and lively rooftop pool, Hotel Room Mate Óscar has maintained its position as one of Madrid’s coolest hotels. It’s located just off of the Gran Vía in Chueca, a fashionable neighborhood with a handful of shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars popular among a cool, younger crowd. The most famous museums on Paseo del Prado are just a 15-minute walk from the hotel with the chic Malasaña neighborhood a mere five minutes away. Each room offers spectacular views of downtown Madrid and the warm staff adds to the already pleasant experience. Bang for your buck is what you’ll get at this charming boutique hotel in the heart of Madrid. And then some.
Where to eat?
For daytime dining, head to Superchulo in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood for healthy eats and delicious vegetarian and gluten-free options. For more of that, but in the fancier Salamanca neighborhood, we suggest Bump Green- a well-curated space with beautiful and organic food to match. If you’re looking for another healthy daytime option while exploring the museums on the Paseo del Prado, head to Magasand for fresh salads and sandwiches to go. If it’s tapa’s you’re searching for on that walk, head to the local favorite and always cool Stop Madrid. For dinner and post-drink restaurants, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down the impressive gastronomical culture of Madrid. Amazonico is a can’t-miss stop. If the warm, Brazilian-inspired space and eclectic menu aren’t enough, be sure to head downstairs to the jazz club for after-dinner drinks and music. A few doors down is Quintin. A local favorite, Quintin is a traditional Spanish restaurant set in a grocery store and specializes in its own Jamón ibérico and other cured meats known to Madrid. For a cool vibe, a young crowd and some insanely good, modern tapas head to Ten con Ten where there’s always a table available. One of the best spots for raw food is Cannibal Raw Bar. The menu is simple and fresh, yet full of flavor, and the black and white interiors make for a chic Instagram story. Fismuler is an ideal date spot with its blend of Nordic and Spanish fare that is simple, yet satisfying, and in a space that is both cool and modestly elegant. Cuban-inspired, Habanera between the corporate streets of the Paseo de la Castellana and Plaza de Colón is a lively spot for after-work drinks that will take you well into the night.
Where to drink?
While you’ll stay at the restaurants mentioned until the wee hours as many transform into fun spots for after-dinner drinks (either with live music or a lively crowd) below are some can’t-miss bars...
Kikekeller: Head to designer Kike Keller’s bar, Kikekeller in Madrid’s cool Malasaña neighborhood to enjoy a dynamic experience that fuses art, retail, and cocktails.
1862 Dry Bar: 1862 Dry Bar isn’t the dodgy tapas bar you may expect when you think about nightlife in Madrid. Serving craft cocktails in a chic, modern space, 1862 Dry Bar is perfect for an afternoon jaunt after a day exploring the streets of Malasaña.
La Ardosa: Beer lovers in the form of locals and tourists alike love La Ardosa for their extensive list of international beers.
El Corral de la Moreria: As Flamenco is one of Spain’s most authentic art forms, seeing a live performance is a bucket list item. El Corral de la Morería is our favorite Flamenco venue for dinner and drinks.
What to do?
Malasaña has quickly become the coolest neighborhood in Madrid. With the city’s best restaurants, cafés, bars and vintage shops on one easy strip, it’s the perfect area to spend a day like a local. For some nearby culture, visit Palace Real and Museo Cerralbo. Then hit the best shops in the neighborhood: Crespo Old House for some locally-made espadrilles or Magro Cardona, a modern Spanish shoe brand. There’s also Magpie Vintage for cheap vintage finds, chic concept store, El Moderno, and Hijo de Epigmenio and Antigua Casa Talavera for artisanal home decor.
Salamanca is Madrid’s high-end neighborhood. Browse the chic restaurants and shops on the pristine Calle de Jorge Juan. Some of our favorite shops are Ekseption, Masscob, and Malababa. When you’re shopped out, walk south to end up at Retiro Park and the Paseo del Prado to top the day off with some culture.
Arts and Culture:
Start off with a visit to Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art on the Paseo del Prado which is made up of the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and the lesser-known but must-see, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Nearby is Madrid’s new, modern and contemporary art museum, CaixaForum Madrid. Top off the day with a picnic in Retiro Park.
Mercado de San Miguel, located in the city’s center, is Madrid’s best gourmet tapas market offering a variety of tapas, cured meats, olives, and cheese, along with beer, wine, and champagne. Our advice is to go hungry. El Rastro is Madrid’s famous Sunday open-air flea market open from 9am-3pm. As Spaniards tend to start their days late (like, really late), we suggest getting there early to peruse the market ahead of the crowds.