Christmas 2016: A Christmas guide to Madrid
Christmas markets, festive lights and clear blue skies. All are in abundance in Europe’s third largest capital city, Madrid. Chosen to be the Spanish capital in 1561 by King Felipe II, Madrid has an energetic nightlife, elegant art galleries and a real passion for culinary delights. Here you’ll find international Christmas markets from around the world where you can buy handmade gift items, drink authentic national liquors anywhere from Slovenia to Venezuela, and witness life-size nativity exhibitions. Madrid is a city brimming with fervour, so be prepared to be enchanted by its charm over the festive season, and have a Feliz Navidad.
Where to stay
There are plenty of options for places to stay in Madrid. Situated just north of the centre of the city you have Malasaña, which is one of the most popular barrios in the capital. It is jam-packed full of bars and cafes. Hostels and boutique hotels are juxtaposed together in what is easily one of Europe’s most fashionable areas. If you’re looking to stay in the most central area, Gran Via is the place to be. Here you’ll find a myriad of hotels and hostels. If you’re on a strict budget, a hostel is certainly worth considering. Prices start at about €14 a night.
Where to eat
You really are spoilt for choice when it boils down to food options. La Latina is an area that offers a great number of restaurants and bars. Head to La Buha for a Tortilla Española the portions are huge and you’ll soon realise why the Madrileños flock here. Gourmet Spanish food can be found at Lateral. The walls are adorned with monochrome photographs of everyday life in Spain. Here patrons can enjoy a vast selection of raciones made with the finest organic products. The team of chefs there are known for blending traditional Spanish cuisine with innovative modern recipes. Generously scattered throughout the city you’ll find menús del día. This is a set price menu with multiple courses and even an alcoholic drink thrown in for good measure. Typically you’ll pay €10 and in terms of quantity and quality it’s a tough deal to beat.
What to do
Madrid is blessed with three world-class art galleries. Historically, the royal family has invested many of its riches into the city’s art scene. Masterpieces by Spanish painters such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró now bedeck the walls of the Madrid’s galleries. For a relaxing stroll you can visit Retiro Park where you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty and, for the keen-eyed, you can try to find the Fallen Angel statue, Lucifer.
Take some time to relax during your busy trip by going to the theatre. You’ll find all kinds of shows including lots of musicals at Gran Vía. Here you have the Lope de Vega and Compac theatres. Other works can be seen in smaller venues such as Teatro Lara, Naves del Español in Matadero Madrid, or the Teatro del Barrio.
No trip to Madrid would be complete without heading out into the legendary nightlife. Malasaña is one of the most popular areas to go to for good music and drinks. Get yourself over to Calle San Vicente for the bar “Angie”; here you’ll find an excellent playlist of music with a friendly crowd. Start Sunday morning with a visit to the market El Rastro. It’s the biggest market in Madrid and probably the most famous. So, be prepared for crowds of locals and visitors. As an alternative you could head to Mercado de San Miguel. Here you’ll find local food and drinks.
What to see
Take in Madrid’s spectacular Christmas lights by travelling on the Navibus. The bus takes you on a magical tour of all the Christmas lights throughout the city. During the festive period, Madrid also displays multiple nativity scenes. These really have to be seen to be believed. You can even experience a life-sized one in all its splendour.
If you’re in Madrid for a weekend break, start your day off by heading to the Plaza Mayor where you’ll be enraptured by the oldest Christmas markets in the country. Saturday afternoon is the ideal time to visit a museum or art gallery. Make sure you go to the Prado, Museo Reina Sofía or El Thyssen. Many museums and galleries open their doors for free for some hours on Saturday afternoons.
Madrid really does have everything, and although it might not be the first place you think of for your Christmas getaway, it is well worth considering, with its luscious green parks, streets lined with tapas bars and a hotbed of cultural enrichment. Intersperse this with Madrid’s traditional festive celebrations and you’ll find yourself in one of the World’s greatest cities celebrating your favourite holiday.