My Madrid: Eat, Drink, Play, Amor

by on June 21, 2014 · 7 comments

in Destination Edition, Destinations, Europe, Lifestyle, Madrid

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Today we introduce you to another of the TPG staff based far and wide across the United States and Europe. To learn a little more about them, they’re sharing with you their experiences in the destinations they call home. Today, meet Foreign Correspondent Lori Zaino and her Madrid.

When I arrived in Madrid in 2008, exhausted and overworked due to a fast-paced New York City lifestyle, my plan was to spend just one year here and return to the United States. Six years later, relaxed and happy, my love affair with the Spanish capital is still going strong–with no end in sight!

Madrid is a cosmopolitan and urban city, but I really adore how it manages to retain its authenticity, making it truly Spanish at heart. Madrid for tourists is incredible, but the real Madrid, the one where people eat, drink, live and love, is even more magical. Read on for my insider tips for enjoying this city like a Madrileño.

Where Calle Gran Via meets Calle Alcala in Madrid. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Where Gran Via meets Calle Alcala in Madrid. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Shopping: Although I can’t resist rebajas (the huge sales that happen every July and January) at Zara and Mango, I prefer to spend my euros on local Spanish designers. Among my favorites are Sita Murt and Dolores Promesas, both of whom have boutiques in the chic Barrio Salamanca. The knitwear at Sita is original and luxurious, whereas Dolores Promesas is always on top of the trends.

Meandering through Malasaña on a Saturday afternoon is another intriguing shopping extravaganza. Try Calle de la Palma and the surrounding streets for some great vintage finds, Curiosite for knick knacks, and of course my resident tea shop, El Paladar de Te, where you can splurge on a bag of fancy loose tea after a pleasant session of sniffing tea varieties (I recommend the green tea with ginger and lemon).

Restaurants/Bars: Before starting my shopping adventures, I first head over to Mama Framboise for a café con leche and a pastry. This place is quaint and relaxing–the perfect spot to start your day.

A delicious pastry at Mama Framboise.

A delicious pastry at Mama Framboise.

After a busy morning out, I love to relax at Merimee Gastrobar in one of their king chairs for lunch, ordering a French 75 cocktail (gin, lemon juice, sugar and cava) and my go-to dishes: the duck confit and the blueberry cheesecake for dessert.

¨Tapeando¨though Madrid.

¨Tapeando¨though Madrid.

Tapeando is always a good idea in Madrid, and just so happens to be one of  my preferred activities. Jurucha is as traditional as it gets, with tiny tostas covered with delicious toppings like salted cod, meat stew, or salmon with melted brie cheese. Lo Siguiente offers a hearty portion sized tapa of tender barbeque ribs that should not be missed, especially if you’re a meat lover like myself. (Note: Madrid not recommended for vegetarians.) For my top tapas spots, which include the two best mercados in Madrid, see this post.

Public and Finca de Susana are also excellent choices for a lunch or dinner out. They offer a number of delicious dishes (anything fish or steak is the way to go), at relatively inexpensive prices. They don’t take reservations, so arrive before 9 p.m. to avoid a long wait, and beware, their service is brusque, but their food is worth it.

After dinner, head for Penthouse on the top ME Melia hotel in Plaza Santa Ana. The drinks are pricey but the view says it all. Order what I personally find to be  a little piece of heaven on earth, otherwise known as a tinto de verano (a thirst-quenching summer wine spritzer) or a clara con limon (beer mixed with lemon Fanta) as a live DJ spins European house and well-dressed young Madrileños mingle.

For a trendy scene, get a drink with a view at Penthouse

For a trendy scene, get a drink with a view at Penthouse.

Ole Lola Tasca and Chill is a dark and dashing place if you’re looking to continue the party. This block and the surrounding neighborhood are full of hip bars and clubs to drink and dance all night long (be careful, once you start, you may not return home until sunrise).

It’s not a Sunday afternoon in Madrid if you haven’t hit up the funky La Latina neighborhood. Grab a rooftop table at El Viajero to enjoy some cañas with friends, or simply wander around, stopping into any bar that suits your fancy.

The Chrystal Palace in the Retiro Park. Image Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The Chrystal Palace in the Retiro Park. Image Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Relaxing Weekends: Everyone needs a break from the hustle and bustle of the city sometimes. One of my favorite things to do is to wheel my way through peaceful Retiro Park on my bike or rollerblades (both can be rented here). My preferred route is to pass by the lake and head towards the quiter area by the luminous Chrystal Palace. I can’t leave home without my blanket, a good book, and some empanadas purchased from Animari Bakery to snack on. If you’re feeling particularly energetic and need to work off your tapas, a Vinyassa flow yoga class in the Retiro with Cris could be just the thing (better brush up on that Spanish first).

Many people don't know that Madrid has a cable car

Many people don’t know that Madrid has a cable car.

An easy stroll through the regal Parque de los Caprichos will inspire your imagination, with statues of forgotten royalty and even a labyrinth. Another enjoyable daytime activity is to take a ride on Madrid’s cable car route the Teleferico over the river to Casa de Campo and back. After the short ride (about 12 minutes each way), walk over to Templo de DeBod, an Egyptian temple in the middle of a tranquil park. Circle around the temple, admiring the fact that yes, this is an Egyptian temple in the middle of Spain, and then find a good spot to watch the sunset. Bringing your own beverage is optional and often done by the locals.

Templo de Bod

Templo de DeBod.

The power of the plaza in Madrid is astonishing. When the weather is bright and clear and spring has finally arrived, you can find just about every person, young and old alike, paseando through the plazas looking for the perfect spot to tomar algo. My favorites include, but are not limited to the Plaza Santa Ana (Huertas neighborhood), the Plaza Santa Barbara (Alonso Martinez neighborhood) and the Plaza Dos de Mayo (Tribunal/Malasaña neighborhood).

Whether you visit Madrid as a tourist or prefer to see the spots like a local (or a mix of both), I know this city will charm you as much as it charmed me (and TPG too–it’s one of his favorites).

Brian "TPG" and Lori hanging out in Madrid

Brian “TPG” and Lori hanging out in Madrid.

Do you have a question for Lori about Madrid or your own favorite spots to share? Post them in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • taryn

    Madrid was not on my go-to list, but after reading your article I think I
    might add it! As innocuous as it is, the photo of the lovely little
    Mama Framboise pastry warms my heart. :) One of my absolute favorite
    rituals while travelling, especially in Europe, is to enjoy a coffee and
    regional pastry at a pretty café once or twice per day.

    I want to add my sincere thanks to this web site for getting me into the
    points game. I had done lots of personal travelling in prior years and
    (stupidly) didn’t make any attempt to earn points/miles beyond what I
    earned directly from the flights and hotel stays. Just with the bonuses
    from the cards I was approved for today plus a little effort on my part
    to allocate my spending, I’ll score some free hotel nights and flight
    upgrades for trips I had already planned to take later this year, and I’ll be earning points/miles for my trips next year as well. I should have done this years ago!

  • Two to Travel and Tango

    This brought back great memories! I have to second La Finca Susana if you’re looking for quality food at a more affordable rate. Brian is right, the service is nothing to write home about but the wine is great! This made me miss Madrid, such a great city for food, architect junkies, and more! Thanks Brian!

  • pituffino

    I’ve been travelling around the world during the last years and Spain -specially Madrid- is one of the places that WORTHS at least one visit; is a city in which u feel happy lo live the life, happy to be alive.

  • KellyfromKansas

    What about the museums? The Prado is a must see, although I love Reina Sofia more. There are also little flamenco shows if you are interested in dance and Spanish guitar. Nice for the tourists. And the Rasto is the biggest open air market in Spain (some sources say Europe, but Im skeptical).

    I love to have my cafe con leche in the Corte Ingles cafe in Callao on the top floor. Awesome view and very cheap. You have to go to the Plaza Mayor and see the oldest restaurante in the world El Botin (they let you peek in if you can afford/get a reservation to actually have a meal there) and nearby you can buy beautiful espadrilles in Casa Hernanz. The line is terrible, but once you are inside you can take all the time you want. I stock up on baby ones as baby gifts. Spanish fans from the Corte Ingles are usually sturdy. The Mercado San Miguel is also in the area and has so many tapas to try. I would just have a couple because it can get pricey.

    And I think it’s important to visit Lavapies and have some Indian food. It’s the immigrant neighborhood, but full of character and the bars in this area are super fun at night. Plus the people can be friendlier.

    Sorry this is long but I LOOOVE Madrid! My last comment is that you have to visit the Palace gardens, I always had a tinto on the terrace and sometimes could hear the opera practice inside. The Palace and Opera house are next to each other. Nice place to get out of the heat and people watch. My favorite place to shop for bags and shoes was Hakei. Calle Arenal if you are in Sol. Hand made and WAY more affordable than ANY hand made leather products in a big city I’ve ever seen. Day trip to Aranjuez. Afternoon to see Santiago Bernabeu Stadium if you like football, maybe catch a match? There is also Atletico. Gran Via for theatres. I could go on… I should really edit this post but eh…

  • Sergio Gutiérrez


    This is a good madrid review, good from a “guiri” anyway ;)

    A small typo: It is not “templo de Bod” , actual name is “Templo de Debod”. I also missed the interesting explanation of how an Egyptian Temple ended up in Madrid:

  • Lori

    Thanks for your tips Kelly. If you check out our Destination of the Week posts and Tapas posts on Madrid, many of your suggestions like the museums, etc are there! I also love Hakei, it’s a great shop for leather!

  • Lori

    Thank you Sergio! My spanish boyfriend also pointed out my typo…after six years…my spanish is still “pending perfect haha”! Unfortunately, I had a word limit so no explanation on how the temple ended up there included, but it’s an interesting story, isn’t it? I still however, prefer the visiting outside of the temple to the inside, you?

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