"You eat the last piece of jamón," Angel would tell me, each week, before I would fly back to the U.S. "I can eat it tomorrow. You can't." I hated hearing that. Thanks to a pork-sniffing beagle in the customs hall at JFK, jamón was one of the few things I could not take with me, unless I wanted my passport flagged for the next six-months of travel. So, finally, I just moved to Spain.
Now, we look forward to friends visiting and insisting that they eat the last piece of jamón.
Here are some of our go-to recommendations for friends visiting town.
Kilometer zero. All roads begin here. This is at Plaza del Sol.
Plaza Mayor is beautiful and worth a visit. It is just minutes, walking, south of Sol. Here, you will find terraces to eat and drink, street performers, artists, and great people watching.
One of our favorite rooftops is about a 5 minute walk north of there to El Corte Inglés on Gran Vía (it is a department store, like Nordstrom) Take the elevator to theGourmet Experience on the 9th floor, order a glass of wine or beverage of choice, and watch the sunset on the terrace.
Gran Vía is a beautiful street to walk with lots of shops.
If you walk east of Plaza Mayor, between there and Plaza Santa Ana, there are many pedestrian streets and tapas restaurants.
The rooftop at the Circulo de Bellas Artes offers iconic views of Gran Via and a sweeping panoramic of the city. It is worth the small cover charge (last checked, less than 5 euros/pp) to visit at least once, preferably just before sunset to watch the warm light blanket the city.
For another high-end rooftop, with views, Hotel Oscar is a chic choice, overlooking a small plaza north of Gran Via, in Chueca. Look out the window from the stairwell, on your way between the top two floors, for a close-up of the red rooftops. Wander around, at ground level, for an abundance of good restaurants.
For a more casual rooftop, we prefer The Hat, located on the fifth floor of a hotel/hostel bearing the name, just south of Plaza Mayor. There, you will be at eye-level with the red shingle rooftops.
We try new things all the time and just look for the crowds. Typically any place with Spanish tiles and/or posters of bullfighters and/or flamenco dancers is usually a good bet for typical food.
Speaking of which, if you visit in the summer, consider a bullfight at Las Ventas. For a calmer and more intimate evening, you can find flamenco dancing year-round, usually as part of a dinner show.
Retiro Park is a great place to spend time outdoors. Not too far is the Atocha Train Station, the starting point for a few day trips out of the city, but also a destination in itself with a beautiful botanical garden. Also nearby is the Prado Museum, a world-famous art museum. The last two-hours of each day offer free admission, but the line forms long before.
On the other side of Plaza Mayor, you will find the Real Palace and Cathedral. La Latina neighborhood around the palace is super cute and is the place to be on a Sunday night for drinks and tapas.
Food: If you want to splurge, Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world and is very good for a big meal. Hemingway was a regular. If you want to eat like a local, make reservations for lunch, available form 1300-1600. Dinner is served from 2000-2400.
The Spanish look for 3 B's when choosing a restaurant: bueno, bonito, barato. Good (food), nice (looking), cheap.
Some of our favorite meals include: cochinillo (roast suckling baby pig); cordero (lamb); paella.
For smaller portions or to share, try tapas: jamón iberico (worth the splurge for the iberico; it is best you'll ever have); cheese; pulpo (octopus); croquetas; champiñóns (mushrooms); pimientos (peppers); and gambones (shrimp).
Metro Map Madrid
Cercanias Train Map Madrid
Please feel free to contact us with any questions about your upcoming trip to Madrid. Leave a comment with other things you want to know about travel and life in Spain. And please, you eat the last piece of jamón. We insist.
Christine & Angel
Aisle or window
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