HG2 A hedonist's guide to... The UK's best-selling luxury city guide.
Everywhere we love in Madrid
Explore the city by district:
Chueca and Malasana
The Old City / La Latina
It would be hard to find a city that lends itself more readily to the pursuit of hedonism than Madrid. Known as the party capital of Europe, it has a level of vibrancy and energy unparalleled in other cities, and this is largely because of the character of its people.
Visitors will be left wondering when these crazy Madrilenos find time to sleep, or go to work. Indeed, no matter what night of the week, you’ll find bars and restaurants bursting with people well into the early hours.
The Madrilenos love to get dressed up, meet with friends, talk, drink, eat and talk some more – at full volume – and such inconsequential things as work and sleep seem to take second place. Even on the rare dull and drizzly days, the locals are still out and about enjoying themselves and making the most of what their city has to offer.
Madrid is the highest, sunniest and greenest capital in Europe and, according to its natives, is the closest place you’ll get to heaven – ‘Desde Madrid al Cielo’ goes the saying.
It does, of course, have the same problems with traffic and overcrowding as any other major European city, but one of its major selling-points is its small size. Madrid is so compact that even in an afternoon you can cover considerable ground. What’s more, the street layout is straightforward and most of the major attractions are within easy reach.
If time allows, however, it’s definitely worth exploring the districts that lie beyond the city centre, such as Salamanca, La Latina and Malasana, each with its own distinctive character. In this guide, we’ve divided the city into four areas: Centro, Chueca and Malasana, The Old City/La Latina and Salamanca, and in a weekend you should be able to experience them all.
As a tourist destination Madrid is underrated and is often overlooked for its coastal rival, Barcelona. It is, however, home to three stunning and important museums and has several beautiful parks to make up for its lack of beaches.
It also offers a far more authentic Spanish experience than Barcelona. Not so much English is spoken (you’ll have to brush up on your Spanish vocab or invest in a phrase book), and Spanish traditions, such as long, leisurely lunches and late dinners, are still very much part of everyday life.
Luckily, this means you won’t have to rush around in the heat of the day in order to see as much of the city as possible. Temperatures soar into the 30s in the summer and many visitors will find it uncomfortable and exhausting to be out in the midday sun. At the height of the summer temperatures can creep into the 40s and, understandably, many Madrilenos pack up and leave for the latter half of July and throughout August.
At this time, you’ll get some great bargains on hotel rooms and the streets will be less crowded, but many of the better restaurants and bars will be closed. With the heat, it’s best to take things at an easy pace and to make the most of the fabulous restaurants and cafés that are open. Don’t grab snacks on the move. Do as the Madrilenos do and take your time.
This culture of long lunches and lazy, coffee-sipping afternoons means you won’t tire yourself out before heading off again for the long night ahead. Once the clock strikes midnight, Europe’s ultimate pleasure playground really comes into its own and will keep even the most hardcore party animal entertained until the sun comes up.
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