Newsletters  | Mobile

The Best of Madrid

Pilar, who at 62 never tires of nightlife, unwinds with a bit of funk or soul at Kingston's (91 Calle Barquillo; 34-91/521-1568). "It's an eccentric artists' bar where they sell clay statuettes that patrons can smash against the walls—wonderful for de-stressing," she declares. Her son Javier's idea of de-stressing is swinging by the town's coolest indie rock hangout, the vast El Sol (3 Calle Jardines; 34-91/532-6490), at 4 a.m.

In summer, the action shifts to outdoor terrazas, and Madrid feels like a beach town, the Bardems say. Yuppies, bad boys, and models and their torero paramours pose against the blasted-brick façade of Madrid's old train station at La Vieja Estaciòn (Estaciòn de Atocha, Avda. Ciudad de Barcelona). More theme park than summer café, the station packs in 7,000, and has an Argentine grill house, a smorgasbord of bars, and an army of DJ's who keep the dance floor rocking into the morning.

For something more intimate, the Bardems pop into Bariecomio (Plaza de la Paja; 34-91/366-6635). The name is a play on the word for "loony bin," and the interior, with furniture hanging from the ceiling, is appropriately wacky. Eventually, in the wee hours, the family might pound on the unmarked door at Dekonya (6 Calle Don Pedro), where professional lounge lizards gain their second wind while gazing at the Op Art wallpaper.

Could it be 7 a.m.?Time for the Bardems to refuel on churros and frothy hot chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés (5 Pasadizo San Ginés; 34-91/365-6546). Now, on to the "after-hours" clubs.

dining by district

José Carlos Capel, the author of a guidebook to Madrid tapas bars, is an expert when it comes to feasting on his feet. Here's his roving guide to essential tipples and bites.

Barrio de Salamanca, before and after shopping: Nibble on Madrid's fluffiest tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) at José Luis (89 Calle Serrano; 34-91/563-0958); flamenquin (pork and ham roll) and smoked trout at the wood-paneled Hevia (118 Calle Serrano; 34-91/561-4687); anything with bacalao (salt cod) at the spick-and-span Tasca La Farmacia (9 Calle Diego de Leòn; 34-91/564-8652); seafood and canapés at the marble counter of Taberna La Daniela (21 Calle General Padriñas; 34-91/575-2329).

Around Puerta del Sol, before and after museums: Try the croquettes and tajadas de bacalao (salt-cod fritters) at Casa Labra (12 Calle Tetuán; 34-91/532-1405), the birthplace of the Spanish Communist Party; cured ham and chorizo at Jabugo-Sol (2 Calle Alcalá; 34-91/522-1670); incredible sherries, almonds, and mojama (cured tuna roe) amid wooden barrels and weathered walls at La Venencia (7 Calle Echegaray; 34-91/429-7313); the city's best vintages, chosen by the oenophile owner at Aloque (22 Calle Torrecilla de Leal; 34-91/528-3662).

Around La Latina and Los Austrias, at night: Snack on fancy canapés with tall drinks at the ornate Café de Oriente (2 Plaza de Oriente; 34-91/541-3974), overlooking Madrid's most dignified square; boutique wines, cheeses, and charcuterie at the trendy Cien Vinos (17 Calle Nuncio; 34-91/365-4704); egg dishes like huevos rotos in the ur-Castilian ambience at Almendro (13 Calle Almendro; 34-91/365-4252); tripe and loads of bullfighting lore at Madrid's most historic taverna, Antonio Sánchez (13 Calle Mesòn de Paredes; 34-91/539-7826).

flamenco haunts

Having drawn attention for her fancy footwork in Mission: Impossible 2, dancer Sara Baras is currently the It Girl of nuevo flamenco. Her stamping ground?The narrow streets around Plaza Santa Ana, where tiled bars and performance spaces are being reclaimed by young dancers and cantaores.

When not traveling with her troupe, Baras holds court at Casa Patas (10 Calle Cañizares; 34-91/369-3394), the preferred flamenco hangout, where dances are staged in back.

The beat at her favorite clubs, Suristán (7 Calle de la Cruz; 34-91/532-3909) and Cardamomo (15 Calle Echegaray; no phone), swings from nuevo flamenco to world music, while the grotto-like Candela (2 Calle del Olmo; 34-91/467-3382) lets rising stars break into cante jondo after 3 a.m.

sleeping in style

WESTIN PALACE 7 Plaza de las Cortes; 800/228-3000 or 34-91/360-8000, fax 34-91/360-8100; doubles from $345. One wonders where Madrid's society weddings were held while this beloved 1912 landmark was undergoing its nine-month, $42 million renovation. It emerged from the makeover in 1997, all polish and glitz—and, at last, with a smiling staff. The Rotunda once again bustles with Madrilenian action (when did you last see a chain-smoking bride?), crowned by a stained-glass dome. Even old-timers, who quip that you need sunglasses to face the blinding hallway carpets, applaud the tasteful efficiency of the guest rooms.

THE RITZ 5 Plaza de la Lealtad; 800/223-6800 or 34-91/701-6767, fax 34-91/701-6789; doubles from $350. If the Westin Palace is a BMW sedan, then the Ritz is a vintage Bentley. Facing its archrival across Plaza Neptuno, the Ritz attracts a higher percentage of leisure travelers and exudes Edwardian civility rather than Belle Époque gaiety. (King Alfonso XIII, who commissioned the Ritz, wanted a proper British hotel in his town.) Compensating for the compact size of the standard doubles are their plushness and period details, like the 1910 marquetry, writing desks, and Ritz signature table lamps. Note: The Ritz is discreetly renovating its 154 rooms, so book judiciously and ask for a room that hasn't been redone—an entire era can vanish with the disappearance of just one faded bedspread.

HOTEL AC SANTO MAURO 34 Calle Zurbano; 34-91/319-6900, fax 34-91/308-5477; doubles from $236. While Madrid's other hotels trumpet the names of celebrity guests, Santo Mauro zealously guards their privacy—a definite draw for movie stars, statesmen, and one Seattle software tycoon. Tucked among mansions in the residential barrio of Chamberí, this Neoclassical palacio is a quick cab ride from practically anywhere. A Barcelona design team has appointed the guest rooms with Oriental rugs, sleek velveteen and Art Deco furniture, and contemporary paintings.

HOTEL BAUZÀ 79 Calle Goya; 34-91/435-7545, fax 34-91/431-0943; doubles from $108. Those who appreciate the streamlined, up-to-the minute aesthetic of the W hotel chain will feel at home at the year-old Bauzá, a stark essay in blond woods, soothing whites, and brushed steel in the posh Barrio de Salamanca. The price is so right, you might consider upgrading to one of the loft-like suites, certain to appeal to young dotcom entrepreneurs. The lobby doubles as a library. And instead of a boutique, there's an elegant glass case with Nepalese shawls, Antonio Mirò ties, and jewelry for sale.


Sign Up

Connect With Travel + Leisure
  • Travel+Leisure
  • Tablet
  • Available devices

Already a subscriber?
Get FREE ACCESS to the digital edition