Only in Madrid

Unique experiences in Spain’s capital city!

Madrid Marco Polo Guide

Churros con chocolate
What better way to round off a night on the town than with churros con chocolate? The Chocolatería San Ginés between the Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor is one of the city’s most popular places and your best bet. It is always open and you will be forgiven for mistaking the thick creamy potion served here for hot chocolate but it is actually for dunking the churros – a delicious, deep-fried pastry. Heavenly!

As in Goya’s day
The Fiesta de San Isidro is an occasion for the residents of Madrid to don their traditional outfits and to celebrate in true Spanish style. The fiesta is held in May and honours the city’s patron, locals make a picnic pilgrimage to the Ermita de San Isidro across the river Manzanares in a scene reminiscent of Goya’s ‘La Pradera de San Isidro’ now gracing the Prado.

Live like there is no tomorrow
Seeing is believing – there are traffic jams on the Gran Vía in the middle of the night – the alleyways and streets of Madrid’s centro are jam-packed with late night revellers and it is not only the young. Drop in at one of the many open air terrazas and you will see the familiar sight of Madrileños of all ages up until the early hours of the morning.

Meeting place for intellectuals
There is no trace of the small tobacco kiosk that once marked the entrance to the Café Gijón. But even without the smoke wafting through it, this iconic coffee shop continues to remain one of Madrid’s intellectual institutions. Made famous over the past 130 years by the likes of Camilo José Cela, Ortega y Gasset and Rosa Montero.

A second-hand world
Madrid’s main flea market is an institution, a ritual that goes far beyond the mundane of buying and selling. You will find whatever your heart desires at the Rastro – you need only look long enough.

Tapas tasting
Eating out and going out become one thing when you do as the locals do and go on a tapeo – a tour of all the various tapas bars – a mandatory stop has to be the Bocaíto bar on the Calle Libertad in Chueca.


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Madrid Marco Polo Guide

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Eat Like a Local – Madrid

The Spanish love their food. When they start talking about what makes their country special, its cuisine always ranks on top of the list.

Madrid Marco Polo Guide

Local specialities you should try on your visit to Madrid:

Albóndigas – meatballs

Boquerones fritos/en vinagre – deep fried/marinated anchovies

Café solo/cortado/con leche – espresso/espresso with a shot of milk/coffee with milk

Calamares – squid

Callos madrileños – tripe stew

Caña – a small glass of beer

Cava – Spanish sparkling wine

Chipirones – baby squid

Chorizo – paprika salami

Churros – deep fried pastry, particularly popular con chocolate i.e. dunked in hot chocolate

Cochinillo – suckling pig

Cocido madrileño – typical Madrid stew with chorizo, garbanzos (chickpeas) and vegetables

Cordero (asado) – (roast) lamb

Croquetas – fish, meat or ham croquettes

Ensaladilla – potato salad with greens (fresh or cooked) and mayonnaise (plenty of it)

Gambas al ajillo/a la plancha – prawns in garlic sauce/grilled on a hot metal plate

Horchata – refreshingly sweet drink made from ground tiger nuts

Jamón – air dried ham

Mejillones – mussels

Pulpo – octopus

Patatas bravas – fried potatoes served in a spicy tomato sauce

Queso – farmhouse cheese mostly

Tinto de verano – ‘summer wine’ a mix of half wine and half gaseosa with plenty of ice

Tortilla – Spanish potato omelette

Madrid Marco Polo Guide

Restaurants serving traditional Spanish cuisine:

A classic interior with a relaxed outdoor café on the steps of the Costanilla del Nuncio in the heart of La Latina. Daily 12.30pm–2.30am | Segovia 9 | Metro 5: La Latina

This is one of the classics on the Cava Baja, Madrid’s restaurant mile. It is renowned for its lightly grilled Basque steaks but the seafood dishes are also excellent. Closed Sun evening | Cava Baja 18 | tel. 913 65 82 10 | | Metro 5: La Latina | Expensive

Not very spacious, usually packed and often noisy, yet this restaurant still manages to retain its elegance. A great selection of unusual tapas with no less than 250 wines to choose from! Closed Mon–Tue for lunch | Cava Alta 16 | tel. 913 65 82 37 | Metro 5: La Latina | Moderate

A classic that has been going strong since 1917 – their speciality is roast chicken and they are famous for their cider or sidra – on a fine day Madrid’s locals sit outside on rows of tables crammed on to the street. Daily | Paseo de la Florida 34 | no reservations | | Metro 6, 10: Príncipe Pío | Budget

There are always queues of people in front of this restaurant and it is no wonder because you will be hard pressed to find such value for money in an elegant setting elsewhere in Madrid. Expect everything to feel a bit rushed and chaotic – a small price to pay for a great meal. Daily | Calle Principe, 10 | no reservations | | Metro 2: Sevilla | Budget


Buy the Madrid Marco Polo Guide.

Madrid Marco Polo Guide

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