Local Host Picks
Habsburg Period Walking Route
Ask your Local Host about this walking route to see architecture of the Habsburg Period. Start from Plaza Mayor to Plaza de la Villa and Mayor Street; stop by the old Arabic wall, return to Puerta del Sol, discovering along the way the old convents, churches and narrow lanes of the city that was the capital of a world empire in the 16th century. A stop at a café, a pub, or an old market turned into gourmet center, makes a charming stroll, ending at the Plaza de Oriente, next to the Royal Palace.
Bourbon Period “Age of Enlightenment” Walking Route
When Phillip of Anjou was chosen as the new Spanish King, with the name of Felipe V, in 1700, he became the first Bourbon king of Spain. With the support of his famous grandfather, French King Louis XIV, he brought new spaces, modern infrastructures, splendid arches, monuments, and fountains to the city. Puerta del Sol is a good starting point to see what the Age of Enlightenment gave to Madrid. Walk along Calle de Alcalá to Plaza de Cibeles, union of Recoletos and Prado Boulevards, then on to Plaza de la Lealtad and Cortes to Atocha. Your Local Host can point you in the right direction.
Literary Madrid Walking Route
Madrid has been the inspiration for some of Spain’s best literature. The literary district is a beautifully preserved 17th century area. Strolling along Huertas’ street brings to mind writers like Quevedo and Góngora. Cervantes lived in the area, and you can visit the beautifully preserved home of the great Lope de Vega nearby. Pass streets that bring memories of Echegaray and Moratín; and by Plaza de Jacinto Benavente in honor of the 1922 Nobel Prize winner for literature. Eventually reach Plaza Mayor, which has been immortalized in the novels of Benito Perez Galdós.
Green Madrid at El Retiro Park
Madrid is considered a "green city" with more than 617,000 acres of parks, and some beautiful historic gardens. One of the best options to enjoy Green Madrid is El Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat) which dates back to the 1600s. It is the one of the largest parks of the city and belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park. It features a lake, rose garden, statues, fountains, and museums. Around the lake, Retiro Pond, many puppet shows perform, and all manner of street performers. Rowboats can be rented and horse-drawn carriages are available.
Built in the 18th century under Philip V, the Royal Palace of Madrid is a truly magnificent example of palatial architecture in Europe. The halls open to the public contain superb fresco paintings, tapestries, furniture, porcelain and all kind of sumptuous objects reviving the past. The Royal Armory and the Royal Pharmacy are also well worth a visit. Opening times: April 1st. to September 30th. 10:00-20:00 (19:00 ticket office); October 1st. to March 31st. 10:00-18:00 (17:00 ticket office); Closed occasionally due to official reception.
Church of San Francisco El Grande
A neoclassical masterpiece with the largest dome in Madrid, its walls and ceilings are decorated with superb frescoes. The church is designed with an unusual floor plan, the nave is circular and surrounded by chapels guarded by imposing marble statues of the 12 apostles; 12 prophets, rendered in wood, sit above them at the base of the dome. The San Bernardino chapel contains a fresco painted by Goya in the early stages of his career – unusually, Goya has painted himself into the scene (he’s the one in the yellow shirt on the right).
Reina Sofía Museum
Madrid's 18th century hospital was beautifully remodeled and converted into a museum in 1992, with two panoramic glass lifts standing out in the façade. Its official name is now the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and it's a treasure-house of contemporary and modern art. A highlight is the 20th century's most famous painting, Picasso's "Guernica". Another highlight is "Woman in Blue" also by Picasso. Miró and Dali are two other influential artists well represented in the collection. Mondays to Saturdays 10:00 - 21:00 Sundays 10:00 – 14:30 Closed on Tuesdays
An overview of art from the 13th century to the present day - in the nearly one thousand works on display, see first class works of international art created by two generations of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, including the private collection of Baroness Thyssen. Tuesdays to Sundays 10:00-19:00 Closing day: Mondays
Madrid is a shopper’s paradise. You can find everything from luxury goods and antiques to religious items. See its exclusive shops, boutiques, and art galleries. Your Local Host can suggest a walking route with specialty shops (some of them more than 100 year’s old), including a wonderful cake store which supplies the Spanish Royal Family. Typical souvenirs to take home include saffron, a bota bag (leather wine bottle), jamon Iberico (cured ham), a Flamenco music CD, olive oil, and hand-held fans.
Cuisine - Tapas, Cocido
There is a healthy pastime in Madrid: having your aperitif with a small side order of food, the tapa. This wonderful pursuit is one of the most important chapters in fully understanding and enjoying the pleasures of dining out in Madrid. Another traditional local food is Cocido madrileño, a chick-pea based stew, with a combination of different meats and vegetables - it is not a dish for the faint-hearted!
Local Wine & Sangria
Madrid boasts excellent local wines from the nearby regions of Arganda, Navalcarnero (historically famous for its’ rosé wines), and San Martin de Valdeiglesia. Sangria is a delightful and refreshing drink with origins that date back hundreds of years when the locals were searching for a flavorful drink that contained alcohol, so they set about making a fruit punch out of red wine.
El Botin Restaurant
The Guinness Book of Records calls this the world's oldest restaurant (est. 1725), and Hemingway was a frequent visitor. There are four floors of tile and wood-beam dining rooms. The specialties are cochinillo (roast pig) and cordero (roast lamb). It is rumored that Goya washed dishes here before he made it as a painter.
Opera, Zarzuela Operetta
Ask your Local Host for information about opera performances or the “Zarzuela” a type of Spanish musical play or operetta that started as a popular court entertainment in the mid 17th century.