A local guide to Madrid: paella, bazaars and mojitos under palm trees | holidays in Madrid

food

Madrileños are a warm and unpretentious group, so it makes sense that the city’s typical dish would be a simple, healthy bowl of smoothie, a stew that usually includes chickpeas, chicken, pork, chorizo, and chorizo. The best are cooked in a broth that has been prepared overnight. At Casa Carola, the elements are served separately, so that the vegetables are al dente, while the meat comes off the bone.

The city’s indoor markets offer lighter, more modern meals. After years of economic decline, these once-dusty spaces have enjoyed a surge in popularity. Now, in addition to local grocery stores, fishmongers and butchers, small restaurants cater to a younger crowd. The Tirso de Molina Market in the up-and-coming Puerta del Ángel is one of the best, offering a variety of delights such as oysters, vegan paella and Crumbs (a traditional dish of breadcrumbs, chorizo ​​and bacon).

Inspiration

Mojito at Angosta Tavern.
Mojito at Taberna Angosta, see below. Illustration: Hennie Haworth/The Guardian

Markets aren’t the only places that have been revived; industrial spaces also gained a new lease of life as centers of the arts. My favorite is El Águila, an old brewery in Delícias. A little off the beaten path, this art gallery is housed in a wonderful example from the early 20th century. neo-mudejar architecture, a style that pays homage to Spain’s Islamic past. In summer, many of these venues host open-air concerts and film festivals. Matadero and La Casa Encendida have interesting programs (book in advance as tickets sell out quickly).

neighborhoods

My favorite district is Ambassadors. Once on the outskirts of Madrid, it was the ideal location for the city’s slaughterhouse and tanneries. Today it still houses the Rastro, an open-air bazaar dating back to the 15th century, named for the blood trail that once ran down the hill. Sunday morning here is one of the most dynamic experiences Madrid has to offer. Order a vermouth at a curbside table and watch the chaos unfold.

Green space

The cable car over Casa de Campo.
The cable car over Casa de Campo. Photography: Getty Images

When Madrid was “reconquered” by Alfonso VI in 1083, the formerly Muslim territory was divided between the church and the crown. While the church obtained valuable farmland, the crown drew dibs in any hunting grounds. This meant that a huge swath of desert was preserved right in the center of the city. Standing on the banks of the Manzanares River, opposite the palace, Casa de Campo is now a public space offering spectacular views of the city.

Although you can get here by cable car from the city center, the best way to explore Casa da Campo is by electric bike. Rent one of the City Hall’s BiciMAD bikes outside Príncipe Pío station before crossing the river to explore this rugged desert. In addition to its thriving wildlife, you can also spot old bunkers and trenches left behind from the time Franco’s troops besieged the city.

Night life

During the pandemic, Madrid has gained a dubious reputation as Europe’s party city, with its regional president making the decision to keep bars open. While nightclubs were banned, nightclubs flouted the rules and people continued to dance. I particularly like the Traveling-Bar Lavapiés, a friendly bar where drinks are cheap, popcorn without popcorn and the dance floor is always bouncing.

For a quieter atmosphere, head to Taberna Angosta, on a side street in the historic district of La Latina. It has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere – and best of all, you can usually find a table in the sun to enjoy a frozen mojito under an ancient palm tree.

Stay

Posada del Leon de Oro, now a boutique hotel.
Posada del Leon de Oro, now a boutique hotel Photography: M Ramirez/Alamy

Posadas they are old-fashioned inns built along Madrid’s main transport routes. Most of them retain original doors wide enough to accommodate a stagecoach, as well as the traditional interior. patios. My favorite is Posada del León de Oro (doubles from €89), which, like many other posadas, has been converted into a boutique hotel. Of particular interest are the sections of the medieval wall that can be seen through a glass floor in the restaurant.

Felicity Hughes is the author of the history blog The Making of Madrid

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