Seventy-five years after its inception, ¡HOLA! has remained a timeless classic, just like the beautiful city it was founded in, Madrid, Spain. Just like the publication, the city is all things la espuma de la vida. It would be impossible to explore all of the sights, beauty and sunsets in one trip. However, it’s possible to take in and explore a few historical landmarks and hidden gems in 48 hours; we did it and have crafted the perfect guide to follow. With a big city feel and the tempo and stillness of a suburb, Madrid is home to distinct culture and nightlife. Food is the essence, the heart and the soul. The history lies in the brilliant architecture. Take in the city with a walk, but be sure to look up to not miss any of the special landmarks, the blue skies or architecture of the buildings.
Dive right into the city as soon as you touch down! Start your day by heading to Plaza Mayor where you will be able to leisurely stroll around the square filled with shops and restaurants. Experience the history firsthand, and then make your way through Puerta de Sol to see one of the country’s oldest landmarks. In the heart of the city, it's one of the busiest areas. Stop by the Grand Via for shopping and a quick coffee – or two. You may need it to combat the jetlag. Here, you can pick up a piece from one of the many retail stores in the area to wear for a night out or just in case you left something back home in the states.
The Royal Treatment: Say “Hola” to King Felipe and Queen Letizia…not really but take a tour of the Spanish Royal Palace, home now to state ceremonies and dinners. (The official residence of the king and queen is Zarzuela Palace.) Inside the over 1.45 million sq ft residence, you can get a taste of the royal life as you tour the palace grounds. As beautiful as it is, remember, no photos.
Happy Hour: After roaming the palace, make the short train ride back to the Grand Via and to the Aloft Hotel. The rooftop access will allow you to take in a bird’s eye view of the city. Sip cocktails and enjoy delicious small bites as you catch a glimpse of the royal palace, this time, with the perfect Madrid sunset.
Wine and Dine: Arallo Taberna: For an unexpected dining experience, duck into Arallo Taberna. Dine family style or at the bar on futuristic Galician small plates. The open concept design adds to the experience as you see your meal prepared in real time.
Start your night: Did the coffee from earlier kick in? You’re going to need all of the energy at Salmon Gurú. There’s a reason it’s been voted one of the world’s 50 Best Bars. If you’re feeling social, enjoy drinks on the first level while you lounge with locals and other visitors. Looking for a lowkey environment, venture downstairs to the lower level to the Tiki-style room that holds roughly 20 people. No matter which floor you choose, be sure to ask Diego for the margarita or one of his other “sippable works of art.”
A Rich Start: San Ginés Chocolateria – The most important way to start your day (especially after a night on the town) is with a little chocolate. Since 1894, this restaurant has been the first stop for residents and tourists alike who want to have the proper Spanish breakfast, churros & porras with chocolate. It’s a rich start to the day as you sit and take in the original 19th century architecture with a modern approach. Although it’s open 24 hours, have patience because the lines are always out the door.
A Short Stroll and Paddle: Walk off the breakfast in Retiro Park. Once the gardens of the Royal Palace, now it’s the perfect place for a little downtime. Although it’s popular on Sunday mornings, there’s always something to do. Feeling adventurous? Rent a boat and give yourself a quick little tour around the lake.
Hidden Gems: For the history (and wine) fanatic, there’s the Posada del León de Oro. LOOK DOWN! The hotel holds a wine cellar that was crafted in place of a secret passage. Just blocks away, the senior center of Anton Martin: Stop by to join one of the older folks for a game of chess – stay for the tour of the former jail.
Snack time: After all of the walking, the Cebada’s Market is the perfect pit stop. Ask for Danny at the Maracuya Vinos station. He’ll chat with you about his favorite local craft beers and vineyards, while serving you samples of regional olive oil, cheese and wine. One last view: Before saying goodbye and committing to one final place to eat, visit the Circulo de Bellas Artes. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon drink with another amazing view.
The Grand Finale: Before leaving the city, venture back to the Grand Via and stop by La Alhambra. This tavern is home to some of the best oxtail and service in the city. If you’re looking for an escape from all things that scream tourist, the restaurant is the perfectly delicious destination. Here, parties large or small can comfortably dine on an array of traditional tapas, while feeling the warmth and love of the staff. The croquettes and oxtail are enough. So is one glass of the sangria!
There’s so much to eat, drink, explore and take in. Just taking two days isn’t enough, however, joining one of the many marvelous tours or grabbing a map (or GPS) and making the easy walk on your own is an option as well. No matter what you do, ARRIBA, ABAJO, AL CENTRO Y PA’ DENTRO!!!