Two hours by plane from Paris, Madrid is the promise of an enchanting and exotic weekend. Whether with friends or in love, you will enjoy your getaway by juggling between culture and terraces. For if the city has not been spared by the Covid-19, restaurants and bars are open (despite a curfew at 10pm). A good bargain for a good bowl of oxygen. So with not a second to lose, it's off for a trip to a European capital that never ceases to surprise and delight its guests
Museums and monuments, a capital of culture
Madrid is first and foremost an open-air museum. And, even if you have a long weekend, between taking off and landing in Barajas you will have to make choices. We can't advise you too much to go to the Prado, an essential stage in the cultural discovery of the capital. Emblem of the city which houses one of the most beautiful and largest collections of the Old Continent, the building designed by Jean de Villanueva in 1786 is a work of art in itself. It would take hours to fully enjoy one of the world's largest art galleries, but those in a hurry will concentrate on the rooms of Spanish painting, especially those of El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. Going down the Paseo del Arte from the sublime Cibeles fountain, where the football successes of Real Madrid and the national team are celebrated, one can also stop at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to admire Picasso's Guernica, and for modern painting, or at the Thyssen, the last corner of the "triangle of art" (for which a group ticket can be purchased), which is an excellent complement to the Prado for classical painting
A visit to Madrid is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in the still vivid history of one of the oldest European dynasties by visiting the Royal Palace (Palacio Real). Although the country's first family no longer lives there, the neoclassical building still hosts some official visits. The brilliance of its white stones and the perfect quadrilateral formed by its façades are the pride of the people of Madrid. Works by Rubens, Caravaggio, Goya, Velázquez and El Greco, a vast collection of Flemish and Spanish tapestries, sculptures and clocks decorate the interior rooms. A palace in all its splendour!
Charming squares and green spaces, for long walks
If Madrid is an artist, it is also a city where it is good to stroll around and enjoy the grandiose architecture. The Puerta del Sol, the heart of the city and of the country, is a must-see route, as it is the zero kilometre of the Spanish road network. The Puerta del Sol is the meeting point for Madrid's inhabitants and has lost some of its old-fashioned charm, but is still very lively by day and night. The Plaza Mayor, a charismatic quadrilateral where you can enjoy a coffee under the arcades, has retained its charm. Of Austrian architecture, it is one of the most popular and appreciated areas of the capital. Successively, market of the time of the Arab domination, then in the XVIIth century framework of festivities of the royalty but also that of the autodafés and the public executions of the Inquisition, the place is charged with history(s). Today, it hosts cultural events all year round and on Sundays it offers a special place for the stamp and coin market.
Finally, don't forget to go for a walk in the splendid Retiro Park. Since the 17th century it has been a pleasant place to stroll around its impressive network of ponds, canals and fountains. Although most of them have disappeared, you can still enjoy a boat ride, after having walked through the museum district, adjacent to this green oasis in the heart of the city. Masseuses, fortune-tellers, jugglers, illusionists and sportsmen of all kinds have made it their sanctuary and do not fail to entertain the gallery, especially during the Sunday walk. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the Retiro also houses exhibition halls and art galleries in each of its "palaces": Palacio de Cristal, Casa de Vacas and Casón del Retiro. These exhibitions, often free of charge, will be a nice addition to your relaxed walk through the main lung of central Madrid.
The Spanish capital is also a unique opportunity to add anthology shopping sessions to your strolls. Fashionistas, as well as the most discerning shoppers, will find their happiness between showrooms, international brands, local designers, avant-garde fashion and handcrafted products... But if you're not looking for anything specific, head for the unmissable Rastro flea market. It's in full swing on Sunday lunchtime, but try to get there before then if you really want to find bargains. You can find everything there: knives, fans, furniture, but especially clothes, shoes, bags... Here no prices are displayed, the watchword is bargaining. But it is also and above all an event, a way to feel the popular Madrid atmosphere. Notably calle San Cayetano, called the street of the painters, where you can buy many paintings and visit the galleries. After the market, the bars in the neighbourhood are in full swing: Madrilenians are used to having a few drinks on the spot. A great Sunday afternoon classic, if you want to blend in with the atmosphere of the real Madrid
Learn the art of tapar..
Because in the Iberian capital, you should not forget to live Spanish style. And the best way to get in touch with people is to let yourself be carried away from the large terraces to the smaller, more confidential bars to let yourself be exhilarated by the pleasures of the table. Tasting Iberian gastronomy will be one of the pillars of a successful weekend. Local products such as meat, melon and of course olive oil are everywhere in the capital, which also has its typical dishes such as the cocido madrileño, a regional star and a kind of chickpea garbure with lots of boiled meat and sausages, or the famous calamari bocatas. These squid fritter sandwiches are often worth less than 2 € and can be eaten in the bars of the Plaza Mayor. You'll have no trouble sitting down at a gourmet restaurant, but you shouldn't neglect the bodegas (a kind of wine bar) or the cutes (neighbourhood bars) to practice the art of tapar. Raised to the rank of religion, the activity consists of going from one bar to another during the same evening, always repeating the same ritual of ordering a drink and tasting some tapas. This sequence allows you to take advantage of the diversity of addresses, to change atmosphere, to taste a new atmosphere each time. In short, a very enjoyable national sport!
When? You can of course discover the Spanish capital all year round.
Get there. Direct flights every day, almost any time of the day. Count 2 hours for prices ranging from 60 to 150 €.
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