Madrid is one of my favourite cities in the world. For 4 years, and for professional reasons, I was fortunate to have to visit this city every week – I even had a permanent base (a lovely apartment), which helped me feel totally at home. Madrid is a vibrant place and easily accessible from anywhere in the world – and definitely worth a visit. I was asked recently to share with some friends my favourite places – so I could not let you miss out!
With my parents, we used to drive to Madrid a few times a year for some “civilisation”. And shopping of course. The Portugal we have today wasn’t the Portugal we had in the 80s and the 90s. I remember the drives as if it was today – and knowing I really arrived to Madrid when we got to the Post Office building on the Paseo de la Castellana. Every time I visited, unconsciously I always did the same – it only counted when I spotted it.
Having gotten to know the tourist attractions quite well, it was in the Barrio de Salamanca (or Salamanca district/neighbourhood) that I felt at home. A nice grid neighbourhood which is bounded by Paseo de la Castellana, Calle Alcalá, Calle María de Molina and Francisco Silvela. Easy to walk and very pleasant to the eye. It is also one of the best shopping areas in town, used mostly by locals. The main streets are Serrano, Goya and Velazquez – but, in my opinion, the best surprises can be found in the little side streets.
Shopping in Madrid
I think Madrid (and Spain in general), has some of the best shopping in Europe. I like it that, despite globalisation, many brands remain proudly Spanish and I love the idea that we are not all wearing the same. I know Zara is Spanish and a global brand, but there are a lot more brands which are easy to find locally.
– Carolina Herrera – originally from Venezuela and based in NYC, most garments from this fab brand are made in Spain, which is great as prices are lower than in other parts of the world. It is one of my favourite brands and absolutely worth a visit.
– Adolfo Dominguez – for men and women
– Purificación Garcia – for men and women
– Bimba & Lola – love their handbags and accessories
– Uterque – Zara’s (or Inditex’s) latest brand, which has great shop fit-outs and great unique pieces
– El Corte Inglés – Spain’s leading (and only) department store. The Serrano and Castellana shops are, in my opinion, the best.
In this area, you will find these and a lot more stores. All designers can be found mostly on Calle José Ortega y Gasset and around.
Eating and drinking
One thing I love about Spain is how one’s social life really revolves around food. And it is sooooo good here! Below are some restaurants which I have been visiting for over 20 years – they are not the trendiest, but certainly some of my favourites.
– El Rincón de Goya is one of my favourite places in Madrid. The restaurant is outstanding, but the tapas bar used to be my canteen when I was in town. It also has some outstanding Gin & Tonics and my favourite, Tinto de Verano (red wine, lemonade, ice and lemon). If you want to get to the Tapas Bar, turn up before 8.30pm or you will never get a table.
– Goizeko Wellington – one of the best restaurants I have visited in town, slightly formal but with some of the best cuisine from the Basque Country.
– La Dorada – a classic, where my parents used to take me every time. Think sea bream baked in salt – it is delicious and an institution!
– Portobello – also a trip down memory lane. The best seafood bar I have ever been to – great for people watching (namely fur coats in winter)
– Pan de Lujo – trendier but relaxed with traditional Spanish food with a hint of a je ne sais quoi. Also one of my favourites.
– Sobrinos de Botin – a weekend lunch classic not far from Plaza Mayor. A recommendation: clams and of, course, the suckling pig. It is also supposed to be the “world’s oldest restaurant”.
I am, of course, saving the best for last – and that is my breakfast and mid morning place (a girl needs to eat). Pasteleria Mallorca, is one of Madrid’s best kept secrets and a place I really miss on a daily basis. It is very simple – but everything behind the counters is mouth-watering.
What I love the most about Madrid is the energy, the people and the laughter you always seem to hear. People are happy and, in my opinion, very generous and welcoming. I felt totally at home in the four years I kind of lived there and writing this post really makes me want to go back. It is also a special place as it is where Mr. O and I finally became “an item”. Great memories indeed.
As I said, Madrid me gusta. And I really need to go back. Gracias!!