After Dark: Madrid
Whatever happens do not fight the call of the city, which wants to pull you into its history of eating and drinking like an old friend who hasn’t seen you in years. Raise that glass, choose some tapas and let Madrid take control. There’s no way you will end the night disappointed.
The night is long in Madrid, so as the afternoon lingers it’s best to start yourself off with a good base of food and drink. It’s a case of choose your own adventure at Mercado San Miguel. This cavernous carnival of food and drink offers a traditional ambience but with tastes modernised for today’s dynamic palates. Upon entering you’re accosted by diet-killing delights on all sides. Cured meats, plump seafood, luscious fruit, vats of olives and decadent pastries are displayed at beautifully presented stalls, while at other stands you can stop to eat paella and tapas and sip frosty glasses of white wine. Drift with the current of the crowd as you set the tone for the night.
Mercado San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel 5
By now the sun is getting ready to set, and there is no better place to put the day to rest than at the Ginkgo Sky Bar atop the VP Plaza España Design hotel. This ultra-fabulous lounge, restaurant and music venue has panoramic views of the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and other landmarks you simply can’t get anywhere else. The only competition faced by the vista is the bar itself – from its faceted mirrored ceiling to the tropical vertical garden surrounding the bottles, there’s plenty to catch the eye. The signature cocktail blends gin, Fino de Jerez, pink pepper tonic water, shiso leaves and lemon grass. You might find yourself wanting to stay for the live music and DJs, but come back later if you must.
Gingko Sky Bar
Level 12, Plaza de España 3
Tear yourself away from the heavens and descend to the bohemian depths where the hip Chamberí and Salamanca neighbourhoods meet. Here, in the epicentre of cool, you’ll find a miniature Brunswick minus the hipsters and matcha tea shops. Artist, designers and musicians fill the streets, as do little tiendas – Magro Cardona with its handmade shoes is a case in point – that exist nowhere else in the world. All that window shopping can build up an appetite, so hit Casa Macareno. The energy in this white, bright taverna is electric as locals begin to fuel their evenings with vino tinto, house-cured meats, anchovies, patatas bravas and golden cod croquettes.
Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 44
While it’s the south of Spain that is best known for flamenco, there is one institution in Madrid that does it in spectacular fashion. Corral de la Moreria is home to the most talented, authentic and powerful dancers the world has to offer, and their epic shows change every eight days (just in case you’re going to be hanging around the city for a while). Here, the dancers perform the flamenco of the streets accompanied by musicians who are at the top of their game. It’s possible to book here for dinner and a show, but with so much more to do simply buy a show-only ticket to witness the dancing.
Corral De La Moreria
Calle de la Moreria 17
Cut across Plaza Mayor and head towards Cava de San Miguel, a street that appears to have been frozen in time. Patrons bubble out onto the footpath from ancient tapas and wine bars. Bar El Gallego is a good place to start, but it’s best to bounce from one hole in the wall to the next until ending up at the granddaddy of them all, Sobrino de Botín. With its gold-leaf interior, wine catacombs and heritage – it opened in 1725 and is the oldest continually operating restaurant in the world – it’s quite the experience. Don’t come for the spectacle or its pedigree though. Here, it’s all about the suckling pig, especially if you’re into food that will change your life.
Sobrino De Botín
Calle de Cuchilleros 17
If you are looking for a traditional experience then a stroll through Barrio de las Letras is a must. This was once the home of Cervantes, the great Spanish author of Don Quixote. Look down and you’ll see his legacy, as well as that of other writers from Spain’s Golden Age of literature – on some footpaths their prose is rendered in gold lettering. Here, like a modern-day Sancho Panza, you can bounce from bar to bar, striking up conversations with locals and travellers, on your quest for the greatest Spanish experience ever. While one outpost is as magical as another here, a seat outside on Plaza de Santa Ana offers up the kind of people-watching extravaganza sure to inspire the poet deep inside of you. There are tiki drinks at Bar Hawaiano Muana-Loa and classic cocktails at Lateral Santa Ana, but at this time of night you might be ready to knock back something simpler. An ice-cold draft beer, perhaps? Cervecería Alemana opened in 1904 when a posse of German brewers decided to bring their skills to Madrid. A local family eventually took the place over, but not much, including the bow-tied waiters, has changed. It still serves a good range of Spanish beers best drunk at one of those tables on the plaza.
Plaza de Santa Ana 6
It’s now well past the witching hour, so it’s time to head underground. Salmon Guru is where those in the know meet beneath the neon. You may have to wait a hot minute to get inside, but once in you will be treated to the most inventive and delicious drinks in the whole city. Some come encased in eggshells you must break; others in glass domes filled with smoke. Diego Cabrera is the man in charge of mixing and his work has seen the venue hit the World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Calle Echegaray 21
By now, if you are still standing, you need to dance it out. If it’s Monday you’re definitely in luck because there is simply no better place to do that than Fucking Monday. This temple to debauchery has a vast dance floor, rows of bars and even a slick lounge upstairs that hosts an all-night beer pong tournament. Here you’ll discover the kind of fun that can make you want to keep partying, fuelled by cheap drinks and the crowd’s fierce energy, right through till dawn.
Calle de Isabel la Católica 6
Qatar Airways flies to Madrid from major Australian airports via Doha.
Live it up a little at VP Plaza España Design, a five-star hotel with a firm focus on good looks and premium facilities. Relax by the pool, borrow one of the bikes to zip around town and wake to views of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows. From about US$240 a night.
In 2019, Madrid hosts the Davis Cup Finals this year from 18 to 24 November. This is the first time the tournament will have a new format, with 18 teams from around the world – Australia is in Group D – competing throughout the week to become the world champions. For more information and tickets, go to the Davis Cup Finals website. For some ideas on what to get up to in Madrid during the day, check out the Visit Madrid website.