A week ago I was back in Madrid enjoying the sunny streets and cafe culture of my home city. While packing my bags with jamon serrano and manchego cheese for the Amazing PR girls, I also decided to throw in some insider tips for this wonderful city. During my visit I had the opportunity to tick off a few of my must-dos in Madrid and I would like to share them with all of you – after all who better than a local to show you the real Madrid? Normally the Brits abroad congregate on the beaches of Benidorm, Majorca, Marbella, or hit the super-clubs of Ibiza, sometimes winging into Barcelona for a weekend break. But for many Madrid, the capital, goes unnoticed.
Although I usually crash with friends or family when I make my monthly stop in the capital, for you I would highly recommend one of the four Roommate Hotels in Madrid. This is a boutique chain of hotels that aims to give you a personal and relaxing experience akin to that of staying in a friend’s house. Each hotel is named after your ‘friend’ in each particular area, Mario, Laura, Alicia and Oscar. My favourite is Oscar, in Chueca (our SoHo), the building dominates the Plaza de Vazquez de Mella with a big neon sign. Oscar's ‘home’ is perfectly located and its gorgeous rooftop terrace complete with pool is regularly frequented by the locals.
One thing I love and miss most about Madrid is the food, it is easy to find Spanish and European restaurants that offer wonderful quality at surprisingly reasonable prices. Very centrally located near the Plaza de Santa Ana you will find Ginger, which offers a mix of Spanish, European and Asian cuisine. Sister restaurants Bazaar, La Gloria de Montera and La Finca de Susana offer variations on the theme, but with the same high quality and reasonable pricing. Though there is a no reservations policy so arrive at a reasonable time or be prepared to wait.
You can’t pay a visit to Madrid without sampling some of the infamous croquettes. In Malasaña, Casa Julio offers some of the most typical Spanish dishes. The walls are adorned with photos of its celebrity visitors, including U2. The story goes that after a photo shoot at the legendary tavern, the band fell in love with the charming croquettes that Maite, the chef of 70 years, made for them.
After doing any touristy things (which any guide book can recommend perfectly well – I am here to show you the more unseen side of Madrid) I am sure you will be ready to hit the shops. You may have to get out and familiarise yourself with your map, I am taking you to one of the more unusual shops in Madrid. The workshop of ‘La Peseta’ rose to fame when Marc Jacobs chose to make some accessories using their designs for his American collection.
You can buy the original design that inspired the Marc Jacobs passport holder in the shop – at a much more reasonable price.
When night falls Madrid is transformed, the streets fill with people, although the real party doesn’t get started until after midnight. Before you dive headfirst into a crazy Spanish night make a stop at the legendary Palentino, an old fashioned bar which by night becomes a mecca for the young, stylish people of the city. Its bar price are dirt cheap, you can get a caña (a typical small beer) for only €1 and spirit & mixer for just €3.
When you are ready to start the party proper it is just a 5 minute walk to "Plaza España", where you will find one of the most alternative parties in the capital. At Zombie resident DJ’s the Zombie Kids bring their own unique brand of electro/rock, get ready to jump, mingle and headbang with the local youth. A personal tip, if you are on the dance floor be prepared, when the Zombie Kids take to the stage the crowd go crazy.
If you want to get on the list for free entry to the club, before 2:00 PM write a private message to JotaCeUnaimagen on Facebook. He is the official photographer so holds some sway.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/14999351] After a night of heavy partying with the living dead I am sure you will be ready to reconvene next day on Oscar’s rooftop terrace to nurse your hangover and catch some rays.