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Spain’s capital city of Madrid is a true melting pot known for its distinctive architecture, large parks, amazing food, arts & culture, and a bustling nightlife. The charm of the old quarters, the exquisite sierra light, the superb art collections, and the vibrancy of the long, long nights are just a few reasons Madrid attracts millions of visitors every year.
Located in the famous Paseo del Arte, the Prado is a world-class art museum. The large galleries hold over 8 thousand paintings, with famous pieces from the Spanish, Flemish, and other European artists, including 700 sculptures.
Reina Sofia Museum
One of three museums at Paseo del Arte, this museum is home to famous artists like Picasso, Dali, Miro, and Juan Gris. There are several collections that encompass modern Spanish art history as well.
The official residence of Spain’s royalty, the Royal Family no longer live at the palace, and now is open to visitors. The building is set in a large square, and its design is said to have been based upon Bernini’s sketches for the Louvre in Paris.
Buen Retiro Park
Established in the 1600s, this is the perfect spot for quiet contemplation within this bustling urban city. With 120 hectares of green parkland, the Buen Retiro Park will make you forget that you are in the middle of a huge city.
Flamenco is probably Spain’s most famous art form and although Madrid is not the traditional home of flamenco, as the capital city, it attracts the best performers from around the country. Corral de la Moreria is the most famous venue for Flamenco in Madrid.
Centro is the geographical and historical heart of Madrid with a maze of old streets and amazing architecture surrounding the main square, Plaza Mayor. This is a great area for first timers and those with limited schedules.
Retiro with its grand park and world renown art museums also has some of Madrid’s grandest hotels. This area is very much a working-day neighborhood which means it’s bustling by day and very quiet by night. This is a popular area for tourists looking for higher end hotels, more nature, and a quiet nightlife.
It’s all about the food
Spaniards organize their lives around meal times, and el aperitivo is not really about the food or drink itself, it’s about the charla (chat) and the social aspect of it.
Many popular dishes…
There are dishes that blend simple yet good-tasting stew pot cooking (cocido madrileño is a fine example) with Moorish flavours (almond soup) and dishes from the Christian tradition (Lenten recipes). Local baking is a blend of Sephardic and Mozarabic traditions, hence the widespread use of almond and honey. Barquillos (wafers) and bartolillos (cream-filled puff pastries) are extremely popular.
Make sure you’re familiar with the tapa…
A tapas is a small snack or appetizer served with a glass of beer, wine – it’s served at bars and restaurants. Legend has it that back in the 13th century, Alfonso the Wise, king of Castile and Leon, ordered owners of taverns to serve glasses of wine with small bites of food so that patrons wouldn’t get intoxicated. With time, tapas have become a veritable culinary art and a feast for the senses.
A Guidester favorite…
Opened in 1725, Sobrino de Botin, near the central square of Plaza Mayor, holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest restaurant in the world. Although there are restaurants in the world which are much older, Sobrino de Botin received the distinction because it remains in its original building with the same interior. The food is delicious, the staff is amazing, and the building itself is beautiful.
Explore Madrid in 360
Madrid to 4K
The Pardo Museum
Jack’s Favorite Moment
Rooftop Bars and Oldest Restaurant in the World
Madrid is known for many things, but today we are taking a virtual vacation to experience two of the city’s best known attributes; rooftop bars and the food. Madrid is known the world over for its many rooftop bars, as well as being home to the oldest documented restaurant in the world.
Overall, I absolutely love Spain; its culture, history, and people are all testaments to the beauty the country has to offer every visitor. Starting in Madrid is great as it gives you a good taste of what is to come. I wasted no time in exploring the famed rooftops and of course had to check out the oldest restaurant in the world.
Last time I was in Madrid was 2017. I was already in Europe at the time and met up with my Mom, Stepdad, and younger Brother who was on leave from West Point for a couple weeks. We took a 10 day excursion throughout Spain, starting in Madrid then over to Valencia and down the coast near Marbella on the Costa Del Sol.
Our first stop of the evening was to a rooftop bar for an aperitivo. Spaniards organize their lives around meal times, and el aperitivo is not really about the food or drink itself, it’s about the charla (chat) and the social aspect of it. Azotea del Círculo is one of Madrid’s best rooftop bars with a central location, fantastic views, and long opening hours. From the rooftop terrace you get an absolutely stunning 360-view of Madrid’s skyline which is worth checking out both day and night.
Here you will find a new-ish restaurant that delivers great Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine throughout the day, and a rooftop bar offering all the classic drinks by night; wine, beer, sangria, champagne and cocktails. Madrid isn’t the cheapest city in Europe but this rooftop has very reasonable prices, which is well worth the 4€ elevator fee to reach the top. We had a blast hanging out enjoying the views to a glass of sangria.
After a few drinks we decided it was time to check out the ‘oldest restaurant in the world’. Sobrino de Botin’s, located near the central square of Plaza Mayor, holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest official restaurant in the world. Although there are restaurants in the world which are much older, Sobrino de Botin received the distinction because it remains in its original building with the same interior.
Open since 1725, the restaurant, which was originally named Casa Botin, was opened by a French cook name Jean Botin and his Austrian wife. The Botins never had children and passed the restaurant on to Mrs. Botin’s nephew which was then renamed Sobrino de Botin; sobrino means nephew in Spanish. Botin has captured the interests of many authors and has been mentioned in novels by Ernest Hemingway, Frederick Forsyth, Graham Greene, and James A. Michener.
The food was delicious, the staff was amazing, and the building itself was beautiful. We ate, we drank, and we explored the old unique interior of the world’s oldest official restaurant. I highly recommend!
Founder of Guidester
Explore Retiro Park
Explore Puerta del Sol
Explore the inside of Almudena Cathedral
Wander around the Royal Palaca
Wander around Real Jardín Botánico
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