Like a lot of great destinations, when you ask someone what they recommend you do in Madrid, they'll reel off a list of restaurants and bars! I was on a girlie trip with my Mum and while a bit of sightseeing and culture was important to us, sitting down for a proper catch up over a glass of prosecco and some snacks was pretty well up there on the list of essential things to do. We ticked off the main attractions by way of "tapas" crawl and in 3 days made our way through the most popular foodie districts. So where should you go?
I mentioned this place in my last post. It's a must and the perfect place to kick off a short stay in the city - get a flavour of what Spain is all about with a reasonably priced glass of wine and a good array of traditional nibbles. Open early 'till late it's busy all day long - perfect for a short stop off or a long stay depending on what your stomach and schedule require.
Mum had been to Madrid before and as we were wandering she mentioned that she thought Plaza Santa Ana was a good place to stop for lunch. Now, I love my Mum but thankfully I didn't inherit her sense of direction - she'd struggle to fight her way out of a paper bag and should never be left in charge of a map - this time however, she was on the money. Plaza Santa Ana is crawling with cafes and tables sat out on the pavement and people chit chatting over lazy lunches. The real jackpot though is the hotel that sits at the head of the square - Ana La Santa. With almost a Scandinavian vibe, the cool (literally - it's air conditioned) restaurant is open to the square next to it and beautiful staff serve delicious food in a chilled and comfortably environment. We spent the whole afternoon there. There was a lot to talk discuss. And a lot of prosecco to drink :)
Google "best rooftop bars in Madrid" and this one is sure to appear on any list you find - but it's a lot more than a rooftop. This place has seen San Miguel and raised it - more Whole Foods than Fancy Food Hall there's a genuine market on the first two floors followed by a restaurant and bar open to the elements on the third. Go there - it's fabulous. As is the whole neighbourhood actually so go for lunch and stay for the afternoon and evening.
We stumbled on this place completely by accident on a short stroll we decided to take to digest some of the food we'd just eaten...that's the thing with Madrid, it's impossible to walk down a street without wanting to stop and eat or drink something every 5 yards. The second floor of San Ildefonso market is absolutely heaving in the evenings - with a live (very funky) DJ and a young, hipster crowd, the stalls inside are focused more on street food than traditional tapas and it's all delicious. We shared a portion of the truffle mushroom risotto and two crisp, cold glasses of vino bianco (all for under 10 euro) and wished we'd discovered it sooner. 100% the sort of place you could settle in for night and it looked like that was exactly what most people were doing but we had other places begging to be tried!
Another gem in the Chueca barrio (near Mercado San Anton and San Ildefonso) this is a typical pintxos bar right at the top of the main pedestrianised shopping area, but surprisingly un-touristy. Full of locals and visitors alike brushing shoulders as they squeeze past each other for a snack from bar, while plates fly out of the kitchen at an alarming and seemingly never ending rate - steaming hot tortilla alongside crispy croquettes and beautifully presented canapés - each one on a cocktail stick which you keep to be counted at the end to determine your bill (each stick we handed in equated to 2 euros so it's safe to try a few different things!) It's delightfully simple, affordable, tasty and always lively.
6. Casa Lucio
The La Latina neighbourhood is well known among locals in Madrid for being the "best for Tapas". Arguably it's now been overtaken by Chueca but it's still definitely worth a visit, and if you do you must stop by Casa Lucio. Something of an establishment in Madrid this oldy-worldy restaurant is often booked up and getting a table off the street can be tricky, but pop across the road (literally) to it's sister restaurant of the same name and pull up a pew at the bar. Don't bother with the menu, throw some spanglish around with the barman and before you can blink they'll be some array of meat, cheese and wine in front of you which is really all you need. Apparently the place is famed for it's chips with a fried egg on but frankly, when there's jamon and queso on offer I'd steer clear of breakfast leftovers. Just be warned - leaving the place is difficult as the barman is very generous with his wine pours and just popping in for "one" is not an option!
7. The Hat
I can't actually back this recommendation up with experience, but we wandered past the Hat on our first night and very nearly went in for a drink, deterred only by the fact that we'd literally only made it 5 minutes round the corner from our hotel and felt we needed to do a little bit more exploring before rewarding ourselves with a sit down - The Hat is actually a hostel with an awesome little bar in the lobby (the one we wanted to stop at) and apparently an even better rooftop bar - if only we'd known! It's bang, smack in the centre of town so definitely worth a look.
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Madrid?