THIS WEEKEND
Madrid

Madrid – 24 Hour Sin City

Madrid – and Madrileños - have a bit of a reputation when it comes to partying it up. It might be that high mountain air (Madrid is the highest capital city in the world); the Spanish exuberance for life, or simply the fact that this is truly one of the great cities of the world.

Let’s start with the reasons why.

It’s an art city. Better yet, it’s an Art Capital. It’s an outrageous city. She’ll seduce you in a Madrileño second. It’s the best of Spanish tradition and culture, with the perfect dash of dynamism and modernity thrown in. This is what we call a hub – a hub of art, culture and nightlife.

Why is she an Art Capital? Easy - two of Spain’s best collections are housed here, and are also counted among the World’s greatest art museums. At the top of the list is the Museo del Prado – home to a jaw-droppingly impressive collection of El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. Nearby, there’s the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – modern and sleek, but hiding a typically Spanish inner courtyard sanctum for post-art gobbling reflection. At the Reina, you’ll find THAT Guernica, the famous Picasso and many more modern art notables – expect to see and Joan Mirò among other Contemporary Internationals.

Outrageous? Seduction? Sure. It’s in the frenetic pace of the city – breakfast from 8am, tapas in between meals, lunches that last for hours and afternoons that pause in lazy outdoor cafés. There are fantastic shops, a frightening spread of tapas in bars, from the modern fusion to traditional and tame, great international cuisine and Spanish cuisine that takes its roots from Castillan traditions.

Tapa your drinks, lick your lips and sway your hips in time to that Madrileño beat. Just make sure that you don’t miss your afternoon siesta – you’ll need it. Madrid is after all, famous for 2am traffic jams, late dinners … and clubs that heat up only when the rest of the world is just waking up.

What to see
We’ve already mentioned those museums. If you really have had enough of Goya, Velázquez and co, then step outside onto Madrid’s winding streets and colourful neighbourhoods.

You’ll find the main tourist areas around the Plaza Mayor, with cafes, bars and artisans in the shadows of elegant archways. For the commercial shopping area, wander the streets around the Puerta del Sol; to check out the trendy residences then head to the Salamanca quarter. The main business district (also where you’ll find some impressive Nouveau architecture and domed, statued buildings) then take a stroll around the Grand Via. In Malasaña you’ll find the grittier side of Madrid, and at Chueca, the oh-so-hip its gay area.

Check out the Royals at the Palaccio Real and the barefoot nuns at the Monastero de las Descalzas Reales, a spectacularly opulent convent. On Sundays, join the human traffic jam at El Rastro, when the weekly flea market is on.

What to eat
Start slow. Your breakfasts should be light, and your days should be broken up by pinchos or tapas at the bar. With a cerveza, of course.

Tapas are small, bite-sized snacks traditionally given as a compliment to your drink. You’ll find offerings from tortillas, to a huge variety of hams and meats… to daring, creative versions with octopus, seafood, and all sorts of treats to melt in your mouth.

When it comes to dinner time, make sure that you try not only the Spanish traditions, but the modern Spanish cuisine as well. Just remember to leave room after snacking on tapas all day…

Where to party
Where not to party is more the question. In Madrid, the Spanish will party wherever the mood takes them (read: everywhere). Try the areas around the Plaza Sant Ana for a great tapas bar hopping scene, the small backstreets around the Plaza Mayor or the ‘scruffier’ scene at the Plaza dos de Mayo. At Chueca, you’ll find the achingly hip and boutique. If you want to dance your nights, mornings and days away, then there’s plenty to choose from. Try the El Perro (Calle Puebla 14) for an unpretentious but very happening scene, or the Room at Stella (Arlaban 7) for another option.
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