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10 things to do in Madrid

Ryanair's new direct flight opens up Madrid to Manchester weekenders. Here are PlanetConfidential's top tips

Published on February 7th 2011.

10 things to do in Madrid

Ryanair is running a direct Manchester-Madrid service from April 14 onwards from £39.99 one way (tickets are now on sale from www.ryanair.com). As well as offering Ronaldo the chance to nip back to sample his favourite Manchester weather, it opens up the Spanish capital for weekend visitors. Here are PlanetConfidential’s top tips..

Visit at least one of the big three art museums, the Prado, the Thyssen or, my pick,  the Reina Sofia. It’s less crowded and you get to see Picasso’s Guernica. The shock of this monochrome image, apart from its stark imagery of war, is its sheer scale.

Everyone does the Plaza Mayor, but there are more modest rambling delights. Try the Malasaña – a charming Barrio around Plaza Dos de Mayo named after an orphan seamstress heroine executed by the French in the 1818 rebellion. Have a drink at Manuela Cafe, on Calle San Vicente Ferrer and check out the tiled shopfronts, notably at the nearby old pharmacy with its 1920s azulejo scenes depicting cures for diarrhoea and headaches.


El Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales (Monastery of the Barefoot Royal Ladies), at Plaza de las Descalzas Reales, 3. A closed order of shoeless nuns still live in the private quarters of this monastery. Fabulous treasures lie within. Worth the tour.


Tapas is de rigueur (or whatever the Spanish phrase is). Stroll from bar to bar and nibble. Start on Cava Baja, stopping at will on this bar-packed street, where the standout joint is stillPosada de la Villa at No9, then head into the depths of La Latina for more. Local speciality? It has to be callos a la madrilena. If the idea of spicy tripe turns your stomach, try las empanadillos de atun (tuna and tomato patties).

A lesser know tradition than tapas is haciendo el vermut (doing vermouth). Madriders drink the sweet red concoction, made from sweet white wine blended with herbs, flowers, fruit peel, seeds and plants, with ice and a slice as an aperitif for the big Sunday lunch, or alongside tapas. You can drink vermouth, from the tap with tapas cured venison and garlicky boquerones at Bodegas Rical on C/Cuchilleros or try Bar El 2 De in C/Velarde, a mellow daytime drinking den that gets lively after dark.

Fancy a spot of keening cante jondo (deep song) or some fierce stamping women in scarlet frocks? You’re most likely to see authentic flamenco, after midnight, at a tablao (restaurant with a stage). of which there are many in Madrid. It’s really an Andalucian speciality but even purists are wowed by the performances at Casa Patas (C/Cañizares 10, Lavapiés) or the Corral de la Pacheca (C/Juan Ramón, Jiménez).

See Madrid from a whole new perspective in the Telerifico Madrid cable car, which takes you on an enjoyable 2.5km trip over the Casa de Campo, or take the stomach-churning glass lift up the 90m-high communications tower known as the Faro de Madrid, which offers the best views over the city.

It has to be the Retiro – a serene green oasis for people-watching during the evening paseos, rowing or rollerblading, concerts and fairs... perhaps taking in an art exhibition in the Palacio de Velasquez.

Madrid is a great shopping city with Salamanca district a particularly rewarding area. The city’s a major producer of footwear with high quality brands everywhere but if it’s espadrilles your weary feet require, visit Antigua Casa Crespo (C/Divino Pastor 29,
Malasaña), a lovingly preserved, old-fashioned store. Feeling crafty? If you can face the risk of carrying home something breakable, don’t miss the incredible  Antigua Casa Talavera, on Calle Isabel la Católica, a showcase for ceramics from all over  Spain.

If Barcelona currently has the edge in the football bragging rights (though a visit to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu ground is pretty awe-inspiring), then Madrid shades it in the quality of its nightlife. We’re not going to recommend any clubs, just the perfect place to come down afterwards – Chocolatería San Ginés, on Pasadizo de San Ginés. Here from 3am revellers soothe their heads by dipping chunky batter-rich churros in thick hot chocolate.

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