With incredible shopping, stylish restaurants, historic architecture, and world-famous nightlife, the lively Spanish capital of Madrid sets the backdrop for a splurge-worthy trip. Madrid exemplifies chulo, the Spanish word for cool, which you’ll embrace after spending days getting lost in the colorful markets, strolling through El Retiro Park, and sipping cocktails on a rooftop as the sun sets.
Here are our tips for living the glamorous, laid-back Spanish lifestyle with your best pals and finding your perfect version of Madrid that combines culture, gastronomy, and nightlife with Spanish luxury.
Sleep in sumptuousness
Treat yourself (and your friends) to five-star splendor, the Madrid way. The city’s happening hotel scene has seen many sophisticated newcomers in recent years, impressing with modern amenities combined with warm Spanish hospitality. Options run the gamut — choose from hotel bars with 360-degree views, or sleep in a 19th-century palace. Many properties offer a gym, state-of-the-art spa, and suites with unbeatable views of the historic city. Choose a hotel within walking distance of the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, and Teatro Real opera house, or one steps from Gran Vía, and then look forward to complimentary wifi, in-room espresso machines, and twice-daily housekeeping services.
Maybe you’ll check into The Madrid Edition, one of the newest players in Madrid accommodation. Or perhaps you’ll opt to sleep like royalty at the Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques, located in the former palace of the Dukes of Granada de Ega. The Hotel Montera Madrid, Curio Collection by Hilton, extends five-star luxury near Madrid’s famous Gran Vía. And the Hyatt Centric Gran Vía Madrid is set within a gorgeous 10-story 1920s art deco building.
Whichever upscale spot you book, know to expect a luxurious space for some rest and relaxation after a night of dancing and drinking, just what you need to gear up for the next day’s adventure.
Spend your days the Spanish way
Madrid offers no shortage of ways to explore and immerse yourself in this historic city, but there are certain activities that will really help you zero in on the Madrileño lifestyle.
For nature lovers, take a stroll through El Retiro Park — part of the Landscape of Light, the first site in Madrid to be granted UNESCO World Heritage status — right in the city center. The sprawling green space is the place to soak up local life and enjoy some fresh air. Pack a picnic or rent a rowboat on the lake for a picturesque afternoon. You can even rent a bike to pedal around the park. Don’t miss the amazing monuments, including the Puerta de Alcalá gate, the many ornamental fountains, the Obelisk, and the monument to Alfonso XII.
When you’re done exploring outdoors, make your way to the edge of the park and the Paseo del Prado, another part of the Landscape of Light and home to some of Spain’s best art museums. These include the Prado, where you can bask in artwork by Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Titian, Rubens, and Hieronymus Bosch; the Thyssen-Bornemisza, with works by Dürer, Frans Hals, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Kirchner; and the Reina Sofía, which houses one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the world, including Picasso’s Guernica.
Next, it’s on to a more intangible Spanish art form: terraceo. This is the practice of moving from terraza to terraza, which are outdoor bars and cafes, and is one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in the local culture. The popular pastime exemplifies Madrileños’ love of sharing a table and laughter. Sign up for a leisurely afternoon of tapas and drinks under the Spanish sun with friends old and new. You’ll find terrazas all over the city, typically filled with locals savoring food, drinks, and time together.
Post-terraza, it’s time to shop for Spanish fashion and get lost in the stalls of Plaza de Cascorro, in the central neighborhood of La Latina. Or, if your visit includes a Sunday, seek out El Rastro, Madrid’s largest outdoor flea market and the ideal place to pick up a souvenir or two. The market features shops selling a variety of items, from artisanal goods to clothing and accessories. After shopping, it’s customary to cap off the experience with an aperitivo at one of the many bars and tabernas in the area (one of the best is El Viajero). You’ll see plenty of locals doing the same, ordering beer, wine, or vermouth on tap accompanied by a plate of traditional tapas.
If you and your friends consider yourselves foodies, make sure to plan a lengthy stop to sample your way through the gastronomy of Mercado San Miguel. Located just a short distance from the Plaza Mayor, the market is a stunning example of cast-iron architecture in the city, and it’s filled with everything from tapas to seafood, from local fruits and veggies to typical Spanish dishes plus international delights. Grab a glass of tinto de verano (similar to sangria) and treat yourselves to some decadent cuisine from one of the many food stalls.
Uncover Madrid after dark
Start your evening overlooking Madrid’s stunning skyline while sampling cocktails. Check out the view from Azotea del Círculo at Círculo de Bellas Artes as the sky turns orange, or enjoy 360-degree panorama from the Casa Suecia rooftop. El Cielo de Chicote, the rooftop at the Hotel Montera Madrid, Curio Collection by Hilton, just entered the scene with excellent cocktails and space to lounge while you take in the majestic skyline views. Or discover El Jardín de Diana, a rooftop bar located on the 10th floor of the Hyatt Centric Gran Vía Madrid — admire the breathtaking view of the city center while enjoying an upscale meal paired with an energetic selection of cocktails.
Once the sun has set, it’s time for flamenco. Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, flamenco is a performance art that combines song, dance, and musicianship with intense passion, and it’s a tradition that can seamlessly mix Spanish cuisine and culture. Corral de La Morería combines flamenco with fine dining and is the only flamenco tablao (venue) awarded a Michelin star. Or try the legendary Villa Rosa, said to be the oldest in Madrid — it recently reopened with a new name: Tablao Flamenco 1911. You can also catch daily flamenco performances at the Cardamomo Flamenco Tablao, where every month a different group takes the stage to showcase their talent.
As the night rolls on, follow the crowd back to El Retiro Park for a completely different experience after dark. Here you’ll find Florida Park, which encompasses a number of distinct spaces serving up food, drinks, and music. Check out the legendary party room, where Frank Sinatra and Lola Flores once performed and which still retains its characteristic red walls. Barbara Ann is another popular spot, known for its rock essence. Inspired by Freddie Mercury’s legendary shindigs, this space takes you on a journey through the history of music, from the Beatles to Rosalía, with a focus on the 1970s-2000s. Along the way, you can indulge in culinary delights that stretch from Asia to South America.
Discover Madrid’s liquid revolution at one of the city’s many mixology-focused cocktail bars. Museo Chicote has been serving drinks since 1931 on the iconic Gran Vía — it’s said to be Spain’s very first cocktail bar — and was frequented by 1950s stars Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly. Tucked into the basement floor of Robuchon España, meanwhile, Le Speakeasy serves classy cocktails that evoke Paris of the 1920s. This is also where you can catch Les Nuits de Robuchon, showcasing the incredible talents of renowned European mentalist Pablo Raijenstein in his one-of-a-kind monthly performances at exclusive small-group events.
Keep the drinks flowing with a visit to Salmón Gurú, a spot that consistently ranks towards the top of “The World’s 50 Best Bars” list. Led by Argentine bartender Diego Cabrera, the Barrio de Las Letras bar has a bold and surprising ambiance that matches its envelope-pushing cocktail menu. It’s divided into three distinct spaces, each with its own design: Animal prints adorn the area around the entrance, the midsection is decorated with specially commissioned comic-inspired art, and the rear has an Asian vibe.
Of course, to truly participate in Madrid’s nightlife, a visit to one of the city’s world-class discotheques is a must. In the unassuming basement of the New Apolo Theatre, you’ll find Medias Puri, filled with three dance floors and live shows. There’s enough in this one spot to keep you busy for many nights, let alone one. Or, for a fun surprise, make your way to Chung Lee Nails, a seemingly ordinary nail salon where — yes — you could get your nails done. But tucked away in the back is a secret entrance to a discotheque where bass beats bump while dancers undertake impressive acrobatic feats. Bonus: The late-night / early-morning crowd will appreciate the Korean karaoke on offer here.
And then it’s time to do it all again, for Madrid’s lively culture is present throughout the city, day and night. Enjoy luxury and hospitality across the city’s multitude of top-notch hotels, restaurants, and bars while finding your true Spanish experience. Grab your friends and start exploring! For more, seek out Tourism Madrid on Facebook, Instagram, and their website.