Slow down and get to know this delicious city.
Time is slower in Madrid. Morning doesn’t end at noon. It languishes until 2 p.m. when afternoon begins, a time for rest and recharging. At 9 p.m. evening commences and continues until the city falls quiet and sleeps.
No one seems to hurry in Madrid, a stark contrast to life back home, measured in productivity and balance sheets. Instead, Madrileños take their time, strolling city streets, shopping in markets, sharing tapas with friends.
On a recent visit, my husband, Peter, and I savored the slow pace of Madrid along with its extraordinary cuisine and old-meets-new architecture. We fell into the unique rhythm that defines Madrid. It’s a happy place where people enjoy life around the clock.
Whether your interests lean toward the city’s dynamic design scene or its unique food pathways, you’ll discover plenty of reasons to love Madrid. Let’s slow down and get to know this delicious city with its forward-looking energy and exuberant spirit.
Meeting New Friends at Casa Alberto
Tasty Treats in Authentic Tapas Bar
On a previous visit to Madrid, Peter and I stayed in a modern apartment in the suburbs. It wasn’t available on this visit, so we opted instead for an apartment right in the city center. The price was higher (about $90 a night), but it was located in the heart of Madrid with many attractions a short walk away.
The downside? Our flat was on the 6th floor, and the elevator was broken. Climbing those six flights of stairs, jet-lagged with suitcases in tow, took every ounce of strength. But the day we arrived in Spain was my birthday, so I was bound and determined to celebrate with a glass of wine or two and tapas.
After Peter and I got cleaned up, we headed back down the six flights of stairs to my favorite terrace at Central Café, a jazz club we’d enjoyed on our last visit. Now we were content to sit and watch the passersby as we sipped drinks and twilight settled over this lovely city.
Earlier we had passed Casa Alberto, a lively tapas bar overflowing with people and tantalizing smells. We slipped in there on the way back to our flat, bellied up to the bar, and ordered tapas. Before long a lovely Scottish couple introduced themselves. Jenny and John had also just arrived in Madrid. They were so much fun we decided to meet for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the coming week and exchanged phone numbers. Here we were in Madrid only a few hours, and already we’d made new friends and enjoyed a memorable birthday celebration.
NuBel: Madrid’s New Trendy Restaurant
Explore Delicious Cuisines & A Playful Vibe
The next day Peter and I were invited to NuBel, a noteworthy restaurant in the Reina Sofia Museum’s Nouvel building. The urban restaurant is colorful and cavernous, dominated by a glossy red ceiling in the form of an undulating wave.
Spanish architect and Madrid native Paula Rosales won a competition to redesign the restaurant in 2016. Her goal was to create a more cohesive space to serve varied audiences—from morning coffee through meal services to the late-night cocktail crowd. The refurbished restaurant debuted five months later, a visually stunning masterpiece with a playful vibe. We met Paula at NuBel for a chat.
“When I considered what to do under [the] bold red sky, I felt that my intervention would be sensual and feminine,” explained Paula, who received multiple awards for her design. Using a circular motif repeated in scale and furnishings, she created a warm, inviting space that belies the restaurant’s voluminous size.
“The circle [is] a unifying geometrical form, present in gastronomy, nature, and architecture,” she continued. “It embraces and protects, humanizes the space, and welcomes everyone.” Paula even designed her own round furniture when she couldn’t find pieces that complimented her vision.
Circular shapes were present in the sumptuous multi-course lunch Peter and I experienced in NuBel. Embraced by a semi-circular banquette, we dined on Chef Javier Muñoz-Calero’s bold, flavorful cuisine paired with delightful Spanish wines—from bubbly cava to rich reds to decadent dessert sherry.
My favorite dish was a spherical pasta salad with prawn carpaccio bathed in a truffle hazelnut dressing. Peter loved the swordfish served with creamy corn and drizzled with pesto. The chef’s dedication to gastronomy shone throughout the meal, making this restaurant a must-enjoy in Madrid.
Don’t Miss Picasso’s Guernica
Reina Sofia Museum: Part of the Triangle of Art
After lunch we wandered through the Reina Sofia, which is home to Picasso’s “Guernica,” a heart-wrenching painting in shades of black and gray that graphically depicts the horrors of war. Nearby Museo del Prado, Madrid’s national museum of art, features pre-20th-century art and just celebrated its bicentenary. El Prado’s grand neo-classical building houses a multitude of masterpieces, including works by Velaquez, Rubens, and Goya.
Fans of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism will love the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, where a who’s who of 19th- and 20th-c. artists is represented, including Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Gauguin, Cézanne, and van Gogh. The three museums combine to form Madrid’s golden triangle of art, an art lovers’ dream.
Not far away is Park Retiro, a 350-acre public park offering a sanctuary from the city. You can rent a boat and paddle around a large lake or bike on paved pathways. We love the Crystal Palace, built in 1887, one of the finest examples of iron architecture in Madrid.
If shopping is your pleasure, head to Gran Via, Madrid’s most famous avenue, bustling with people, hotels, and brand-name stores. For shoppers strolling the Gran Via, it’s hard to miss the Telefonica Building, one of Europe’s first skyscrapers, and the Carrion Building, an Art Deco building emblazoned with a huge Schweppes sign.
One evening at sunset Peter and I headed to Templo Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple dismantled and erected near Madrid’s city center. An incongruous site that feels organic somehow, the temple has become the place to watch the sun go down. Bathed in golden light, we joined locals and tourists on a plaza beside the temple and waited expectantly for the sun to fall gently from the sky.
Devour Food Tour: Explore Neighborhood Secrets
Discover New Spanish Wines & More
We joined Yvonne with Devour Food Tours one morning for a tasty stroll through Madrid’s Huertas neighborhood not far from Plaza Mayor. A century ago, it was farmland, Yvonne explained, before becoming the city’s literary quarter. Now it’s a haven for young entrepreneurs and “a wonderful mix of old and new.”
Our tour began with churros dipped in chocolate at Chocolat, known for its authentic light, fluffy churros. At Casa Gonzales we sampled a variety of cheese. My favorite—a cave-aged bleu cheese called Cabrales made with goat and sheep’s milk—paired perfectly with a red wine from the Montsant DO, a lesser known wine region but one I’ll definitely remember. Yvonne shared an interesting tip: when one asks for a wine in Spain, it’s common to ask not for the varietal (tempranillo, garnacha) but instead the region (Rioja, Montsant).
Our tour continued in Anton Martín Market, where we tasted more of Spain’s amazing products: olives, olive oil, and prized Iberico ham. In Los Gatos, a quirky bar with a bullfighter’s costume on display and skeletons painted on the wall, we enjoyed extraordinary tapas and herb-infused vermouth.
Our tour with Yvonne reminded us of how important food is to the people of Madrid because it offers an excuse for finding pleasure in the moment. Hospitality is also ingrained in the city’s culture. When you order a drink, the server often brings a complimentary light snack—a dish of olives or peanuts—just one more reason to love Madrid’s welcoming vibe.
Bahiana Club: Our Favorite Madrid Restaurant
Try the Pork Loin & the Grilled Pulpo
Our final night in Madrid, we coordinated our dinner out with Jenny and John. The restaurant, Bahiana Club, is an off-the-beaten path bistro we discovered on our last trip to Madrid. Tucked away in a side street, Bahiana Club is known for its amazing Iberico pork loin, which is served medium rare. Juicy and oozing with flavor, this is not your dry, tasteless pork, but instead a revelatory culinary experience.
Another specialty is the grilled pulpo or octopus. Jenny had never tried either dish and was excited to expand her palate. The four of us feasted on lovely Spanish cuisine and drank juicy red Spanish wine as we talked about our shared love of Spain and our favorite subject—travel.
As we parted that night, we promised to meet again somewhere somehow. Maybe the lochs of Scotland—or the flatlands of Tidewater. Either way, we agreed that meeting new friends makes travelling so much more special. All it takes is a friendly smile and you never know what will happen next.
What You Need To Know To Go
Start Planning Now for Your Madrid Vacay!
Madrid Tourist Information & More
Are you ready to start savoring Madrid? For general tourist information, including where to stay and what to do in Madrid, check out the Madrid's tourism information.
H10 Hotels: Cool Places To Stay in Madrid
When you visit Madrid, we recommend these awesome Madrid hotels from H10.
• H10 Tribeca in the main business arera of Madrid is hip and modern.
• H10 Villa de la Reina's French-inspired interior design combines classic elements with more contemporary features.
• H10 Puerta Acalá offers a rooftop plunge pool and panoramic views of the city.
Devour Madrid: The Best Food Tours in Madrid
Are you hungry yet? For amazing food tours including wine and tapas tours, don't miss Devour Madrid's well-curated tours. To follow in Peggy & Peter's footsteps, sign up for the Huertas Neighborhood Food and Market Tour. If you see Yvonne, tell her we said hello!
NuBel: A Design Restaurant in Madrid
Looking for a fancy dining experience? Or maybe just a cool place to get a cup of coffee? Night owl? Head here for cocktails and disco. NuBel, in Madrid's Museo Reina Sofia, transitions from a morning coffee bar to the late night place to be—and offers awesome dining opportunities from day until night. Buen Provecho!
Keep On Traveling!
For more of Peggy’s travel adventures, visit www.tidewaterwomen.com/travel