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Electric & Eccentric

Spain's capital is a vibrant place, the hub of the country's government and commerce, and an exciting city bubbling over with creativity. Madrid may not have the effortless elegance of European capitals like Paris or Rome, but it has a raw energy that is infectious. Explore the old streets of the centre, relax in the plazas, soak up the culture in excellent art museums and experience the city's legendary nightlife.


  • Madrid was little more than a muddy, mediocre village when King Felipe II declared it Spain’s capital in 1561.
  • By the early 20th century Madrid finally began to look like a proper capital.
  • Madrid’s official symbol of the bear on its hind legs eating berries from the madroño tree is a metaphor for Madrid’s growth!

Get under the city’s skin by walking its streets, sipping coffee and beer in its plazas and relaxing in its parks. Madrid de los Austrias, the maze of mostly 15th- and 16th-century streets surrounding the Plaza Mayor, is the city’s oldest district. Working class, multicultural Lavapiés, alternative Chueca, bar-riddled Huertas and Malasaña, and chic Salamanca all reward pedestrian exploration. Build in time for top art collections at the Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen- Bornemisza museums, as well as the Palacio Real.  

Museo Nacional del Prado

Spain’s premier museum, and one of the finest art collections in the world, the Museo Nacional del Prado is a seemingly endless parade of priceless works from Spain and beyond. The collection is divided into eight major collections: Spanish paintings (1100–1850), Flemish paintings (1430–1700), Italian paintings (1300–1800), French paintings (1600– 1800), German paintings (1450–1800), sculptures, decorative arts, and drawings and prints. There is generous coverage of Spanish greats, such as Goya, Velázquez and El Greco.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Opposite the Prado, the Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza is an eclectic collection of international masterpieces. Begin your visit on the 2nd floor, where you’ll start with medieval art, and make your way down to modern works on the ground level, passing paintings by Titian, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Miró, Picasso, Gris and many others.

Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

A stunning collection of mainly Spanish modern art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía  is home to Picasso’s Guernica – his protest against the German bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. There are also important works by surrealist Salvador Dalí and abstract paintings by the Catalan artist Joan Miró.

Caixa Forum

The Caixa Forum, opened in 2008, seems to hover above the ground. On one wall is the jardín colgante (hanging garden), a lush vertical wall of greenery almost four storeys high. Inside are four floors of topquality art exhibitions.

Palacio Real & Around

Madrid’s 18th-century Palacio Real is used mainly for important events. It’s one of King Juan Carlos I’s official residences and you can visit 50 of its 2800-plus rooms.

Outside the main palace, poke your head into the Farmacia Real (Royal Pharmacy), where apothecary-style jars line the shelves. Continue on to the Armería Real (Royal Armoury), where you’ll be impressed by the shiny (and surprisingly tiny!) royal suits of armour, most of them from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena is just across the plaza from the Palacio Real. Finished in 1992 after a century of work, the cathedral has never really won a place in the hearts of Madrileños. It’s worth a quick peek but is much less captivating than the imposing 18th-century Basílica de San Francisco El Grande.

Real Fábrica de Tapices

Founded in 1721, this tapestry workshop still produces ornate tapestries and carpets by hand. Take one home for a mere €10,000 per square metre.





It’s possible to find just about any kind of cuisine and eatery in Madrid, from ageless traditional to trendy fusion. Madrid is a focal point of cooking from around the country and is particularly renowned for seafood.From the chaotic tapas bars of La Latina to countless neighbourhood favourites, you’ll have no trouble tracking down specialities like cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) or cocido madrileño (a hearty stew made of beans and various animals’ innards).

La Gloria de Montera

(Calle del Caballero de Gracia 10) Minimalist style, tasty Mediterranean dishes and great prices mean that you’ll probably have to wait in line to eat here.

La Finca de Susana

(Calle de Arlabán 4) A well-priced mix of Spanish and international fare makes this a highly popular choice with locals and tourists. The softly lit dining area is bathed in greenery and draws a hip young crowd.

Casa Alberto

(Calle de las Huertas 18)has been around since 1827. The secret to its endurance is vermouth on tap, excellent tapas and fine sit-down meals.

Viva La Vida

(Costanilla de San Andrés 16) This organic food shop has as its centrepiece an enticing vegetarian buffet with hot and cold food that’s always filled with flavour.

Ribeira Do Miño

(Calle de la Santa Brigida 1) The mariscada de la casa is a platter of seafood so large that even the hungriest of visitors will leave satisfied.


Madrileños live life on the streets, and barhopping is a pastime enjoyed by young and old alike. If you’re looking for a traditional bar, head to the Huertas district or La Latina. For an edgier feel and a gay-friendly crowd, hit Chueca. Malasaña is the place for alternative and grunge locales. In summer, the terrace bars that pop up all over the city are unbeatable.

Café del Nuncio

(Calle de Segovia 9) Lace curtains and red-wood panelling set the tone at this bustling bar. In summer, the outdoor terrace is divine.

Museo Chicote

(Gran Vía) A timeless classic popular with socialites and film stars, the Museo Chicote has a lounge atmosphere late at night and a stream of famous faces all day.

Cervecería Alemana

(Plaza de Santa Ana 6) A classic and classy watering hole, this place is famous for its cold, frothy beers and delicious tapas. It was one of Hemingway’s haunts.

Taberna de Dolores

(Plaza de Jesús 4; mAntón Martín) Here since 1908, this delightful little bar smothered in tiles has beer and wine flowing freely, along with sea salty anchovies.

La Venencia

(Calle de Echegarary 7) Your sherry (in several varieties) is poured straight from dusty wooden barrels and your tab literally chalked up on the bar itself.


You’ll be dancing until dawn in Madrid’s numerous clubs. Some big-name clubs are concentrated around Gran Vía, although Chueca, Malasaña and Huertas are good bets, too.

Palacio Gaviria

(Calle del Arenal 9; Sol) Special international student nights and other theme nights bring the big crowds to this converted mansion near the Puerta del Sol.

Teatro Joy Eslava

(Calle del Arenal 11; Sol) Housed in a 19th century neoclassical theatre, Joy hosts lots of theme parties and student nights. It’s a megaclub, but can still be a good place to meet people.


(Calle de San Dimas 3; 10pm-6am Thu-Sat; Noviciado) One of the most eclectic nightclubs in Madrid, Siroco does everything from reggae to acid jazz, from 1970s pop to funk, house and hip-hop. It’s a good place to hear local music, too.


(Calle de Atocha 125; Atocha) This massive seven-storey nightclub has something for everyone: from cocktail bars and dance music to karaoke, salsa, hip-hop and more chilled spaces for R&B and soul.


Madrid’s 284km of metro is Europe’s second-largest metro system, after London. The metro is quick, clean, relatively safe and runs from 6am until 2am.

The bus system is also good, but working out the maze of bus lines can be a challenge. Contact EMT for more information. 



This place is so crazy busy but the guides do a great job of keeping you right."

James, UK

#hopon to Madrid