Madrid is a most magnificent city for walking. Most attractions are within a one or two kilometers radius of the Plaza Mayor, and it’s flat, so a walk across the old town from the central park Parque de El Retiro and neighboring Museo del Prado, to the Palacio Real will take you a comfortable 45-minutes. So pack your best pair of Campers.
The Recoletos is the chic-but-relaxed area beyond the northern entrance to the Parque de El Retiro. Here you’ll find the wonderful new Loewe concept store on the corner of Calle de Serrano and Calle de Goya. This unique Spanish luxury house, under the creative direction of the multitalented Jonathan Anderson, has a ‘welcome-all’ policy and diverse product range, which is a refreshing take on high-end retail. Don’t forget to visit their on-trend Constance Spry-inspired flower shop next door in the entrance hall to their offices. Across the road is the magnificent Monumento al Descubrimiento de America celebrating aspects of the discovery of America.
Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques is centrally located at Cuesta de Santo Domingo, 5, near all main attractions like the Palace Real. Behind its grand Elizabethan facade you’ll find traditional luxury with an “avant-garde touch”. Highlights include the incredible Flos cable lighting installations and the decorator’s obsession with famous painter Velázquez.
The Museo del Prado is essential for any itinerary but re-book online to avoid the long queues. If time is limited, head straight for masterpieces by Goya (‘The Execusions'), Velázquez (‘Las Meninas'), Hieronymus Bosch (‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’).
I returned every evening to Salmon Guru experimental cocktail bar at Calle de Echegaray, 21. The interior is an eclectic mix of Pedro Almodovar with a dash of neon and their cocktails just as adventurous and delicious. These attentive gurus make a handful of classic cocktails in their own style but the main attractions are all “counter culture and about sharing experiences”. Try the Risueño with tequila blanco, Fino, Zumo de limo, aqua de azahara y sirope de Romero to classics by Stevie Nix, The Smiths and The Verve.
Some Spanish staples are a must so start the day with decadent churros dunked in cups of thick chocolate sauce at San Ginés, Pasadizo de San Gines. In winter the Cazuela de Fabada, meat and white bean stew and all-year-round pinchos and tortilla to be found in every bar. The less adventurous can try Lateral for a more modern take on tapas and regional dishes. Popular with both families and the cool city crowd, expect a little queuing come rain or shine but at least there are a few branches to choose from.
Cafe de la Luz, offered a cozy and comforting start to my last day with tostas con tomate —fresh tomato, garlic and a bit of olive oil rubbed onto crisp, warm toast
Disclosure: Gary Cotterell was a guest of Toyota. He is also a classic
Toyota fan and is obsessed with Spanish culture and cuisine. This trip was
the perfect combo.