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Madrid, Spain: Your Essential Weekend Itinerary

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is known for its rich cultural and artistic heritage, as well as its lively nightlife. The city’s culture is greatly influenced by its royal history, as the center of the Spanish Empire. The city is also an art mecca, which features three world-renowned museums: the Museo del Prado, a leading fine art museum, housing works by Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Rubens, Titian, Caravaggio, and Van Dyck, among many others, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, with a vast collection of classical art and Impressionist, Expressionist, and European and American works from the second half of the 20th century, and the Reina Sofia, Madrid's modern art museum, which displays Picasso’s iconic Guernica, as well as masterpieces by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Juan Gris, and Julio González.

Bocaíto

Via Shangay

A classic tapas bar described by Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar as ‘the best antidepressant,’ Bocaíto features both a sit-down restaurant and a bar. Most regulars stand by the bar sampling the variety of tapas the eatery offers, including prawns, cockles, green asparagus with poached egg, smoked codfish paté with caviar, ham croquettes, gratin mussels, wild mushrooms and foie gras, and shrimp omelet, as well as small finger sandwiches called bocaítos. The restaurant is decorated in classic blue Andalusian tiles and serves a variety of beers, wines, cavas, and champagnes.

Madrid Hop-on Hop-off Tour

Via Mandelan

Though Madrid has a very extensive and well-connected subway and bus system, it can be daunting at times. The Madrid Hop-on Hop-off Tour allows visitors to hit all the main areas and sights while touring the city above ground. The double-decker bus tour stops at the breathtaking Royal Palace, the spectacular Prado museum, and the imposing Bernabéu stadium. The tour, which allows visitors to hop on and off at 37 different locations also offers an up-close look at the Belle Epoque buildings of the Gran Vía, the chic Salamanca neighborhood with its designer boutiques, and the Paseo de la Castellana with its 21st-century skyscrapers.

Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour

Via Sandemans New Madrid Tours

In Madrid, locals spend most of their time on the street thanks to the generally great weather and the infinite number of bar and restaurant options. To sample the day to day of most Madrid residents, take the three-hour Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour, which will visit four of the city’s most popular eateries while tasting more than ten mouth-watering tapas dishes. The tour, which takes place in the evening, is also a chance to see the city at night when it truly comes alive. Beginning at the Santa Ana Square, a guide will lead ten to twelve participants to a variety of bars, where you’ll enjoy bites such as eggplant with honey, cod brandade, tortilla, Iberian ham and chickpea stew, accompanied with beer or Tempranillo, Malvar, Garnacha, or Parellada wines. The tapas ‘crawl’ is also a chance to delve into the city’s rich architectural history and admire its cultural heritage.

Casa Salvador

Via El Mundo

A favorite of Anthony Bourdain, Casa Salvador, which dates back to 1941, recalls a time when bullfighters were rock stars, and American stars such as Ava Gardner, Marlon Brando, and Frank Sinatra visited Madrid for its Old World charm. The restaurant is decorated with pictures of famous matadors and celebrities and simple red and white checkered tablecloths. Some of the standouts include the breaded hake, the grilled sole, the cuttlefish in ink sauce, the oxtail stew, the sirloin, and the chicken in garlic sauce. The house menu, which includes a starter, an entrée, a drink, bread, and dessert, is an affordable 25 euros.

Madrid has numerous attractions in the old town, including the Puerta del Sol, where the city celebrates New Year’s Eve, the Plaza de Cibeles, a neoclassical collection of buildings, marble sculptures and fountains, the Puerta de Alcalá, a neoclassical arch considered the first modern post-Roman triumphal arch built in Europe, and the Buen Retiro Park, a 308-acre green retreat in the heart of the city, as well as the Cathedral of the Almudena and the church of San Francisco el Grande. Near the Royal Palace, you’ll find the Royal Theatre in Plaza de la Ópera, and adjacent to Plaza de España is the Temple of Debod, a temple gifted by Egypt to Spain as thanks for helping to construct the Aswan Dam.

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