Romantic Guide to Madrid

When talking about romantic cities, Paris always seems to come up top of everyone´s list. However, our beloved Madrid also has its fair share of romantic potential to create a perfect date with a new loved one, or special moments with an old one. Anyone can go to a bar for a glass of vino or to a fancy restaurant, but it´s much more appealing to be original when planning special time with your partner so here are a few ideas…

Daytime dates

Madrid´s famous Retiro Park is a great place to head for a romantic walk through the greenery. Stroll around the park, people watch, or take a seat on a quiet bench and let the conversation flow. Alternatively, you could rent a row boat on the boating pond and enjoy a Bridget Jones-worthy moment on the water. Pass by the Palacio de Cristal which is a personal favourite of mine and regularly houses various art installations throughout the year. Or, for the more active folk, get some roller skates on and join the other rolling stock in the park to take advantage of the wide promenades all around. Although if you´re a novice, you might want to take arm and knee pads – the local Emergency Room isn´t one of the romantic destinations on our list.

Another outdoor location worth exploring is the Lago (lit: Lake). Most well-known for its summer swimming pools, the Lago also has a separate lake and, away from the bronzing bodies, the lake itself is encircled by a string of cafes and restaurants with terraces to sit and enjoy.  You can get to the Lago by metro (Line 10) but, if you have a full afternoon to indulge yourself in venturing, I would instead suggest taking the teleférico (cable car). The cable car station is located just off Paseo del Pintor Rosales (Link to Argüelles & Moncloa) and the cars will transport you over rooftops and railway tracks into the middle of the Casa de Campo. From here you can then take advantage of the peaceful 20-30 minute walk through nature, and save the metro for the ride home.

On a warm day, when a picnic is the perfect thing to do, head to one of the more forgotten gems of Madrid, the Parque del Oeste (lit: The Western Park). Unlike the Retiro, the Parque del Oeste is generally not home to crowds of people and even on a Saturday afternoon you can take a quiet stroll and find plenty of idyllic spots to set down your blanket and unpack your lunch pale. From the middle of the park you can barely see or hear any signs of the city; it´s almost as if you took a C.S. Lewis step out of Madrid and entered into distant countryside. There is even a babbling brook that runs along the valley of the park. On your way to or from the Parque del Oeste, I would recommend stopping off at the Templo de Debod. The temple was given to Spain as a gift from Egypt for helping them save the temples that would have otherwise been flooded  by the building of the Aswan High Dam. The temple, transported and reconstructed stone by stone, sits at the western edge of the city with a spectacular view of the Casa del Campo. There are also occasional free sunset concerts next to the temple that will help score some romance points and add something different to your evening.

Evening engagements

As night-time falls and the city transforms into twinkling lights and bustling streets, there are a number of things to do either before or after heading for dinner and drinks. The Palacio Real is spectacular at night, with lighting that creates an impressive backdrop for a moonlight stroll with your loved one. The Café Oriente provides a picturesque view, which is perfect to enjoy a fine wine whilst looking out at the palace. From here you could then walk to Las Vistillas where you will come across some splendid views from above Calle de Segovia looking out over the southwest of Madrid.

Recently, one of the neighbouring streets by Plaza de España has been brushed and scrubbed up and Calle de Martín de los Héros is now post-makeover. It is a great pedestrian zone with an array of cute bars, cafes, shops and the cinemas of Plaza de los Cubos right next door. As C/Martín de los Héros is centrally located it means that you can easily fit it in to any part of your day/evening. Plaza de España itself also has a charm that will help you get all starry-eyed, though maybe best to avoid on Friday and Saturday evenings as it becomes a popular spot for botellón (phenomenon of young people drinking together in a public place).

One place that will put a twinkle into even the dullest day is Toni 2 Piano Bar. This romantic lounge hosts a live piano player who will tinkle the ivories all afternoon/evening. This place is popular with the older crowd but is still high on the dream dates stakes.

Inevitably there will be call for refreshments at some point in the evening, but to keep the theme above the run-of-the-mill sitios, go above the buildings themselves and head to one of the city´s terraces. Hotel de las Letras, Gaudeamus Café and El Viajero are just a few of the top spots that merit consideration for ´taking a beverage´. Or should you decide against a terrace then I would factor El Jardin Secreto (C/Conde Duque) into your plans. Renowned for its ´cute and romantic´ atmosphere, this dimly lit bar/restaurant comes equipped with fairy lights and enough trinkets to fill a pirate´s ship. If you aren´t in the love-mood before you walk in the door, you surely will be by the time you get to your seat. And what better way to add to a dreamy date than to throw in a helping of chocolate, and El Jardin Secreto´s Orgasmo de chocolate (lit: Chocolate Orgasm) comes highly recommended.

For the traditionalists out there, the following bars and restaurants are among the date-worthy in the city:

Drinks at Olé Lola, La Mantequería, Café de la Luz or Jose Alfredo´s.

Food at Botin, Con Dos Fogones, La Vaquería Suiza, La Bardemcilla or La Gloria de Montera.

By Tom Burgess

Hasta las Vistas: Eight Rooftop Hotspots in Madrid

When talking about Madrid you will inevitably run into the “rooftop terrace” conversation. Everyone wants to know where the best views can be found. And having mooched, lounged and lorded my way around some of the topspots of Madrid I’ve noticed that one doesn’t rate higher than another, but that each has their own little twist, niche or cariño. From swish and swanky surroundings to a cute urban garden retreat, each week I seem to discover another hidden rooftop hideaway.

Roommate’s Óscar Hotel (Plaza de Vazquez Mella. Tel: +34 91-701-1173. Metro: Chueca / Gran Vía) is a hidden gem open to the public from 20:00 p.m. until 00:00 a.m. every night. Ride the elevator to the 7th floor and beach party sounds grow louder and louder as you follow the corridor. White is unavoidable at Oscar: from the furniture, the beds, the uniforms and the teeth of the handsome waiters that wait to serve you. Select your perch at one of the many tables, head up by the pool to nab a floor couch, or hover by the bar to see the fashionistas come and go. Although Oscar can’t really be described as a cheap option, I would still push for a visit, especially if you’re looking for that perfect place to take a special someone. Book accommodation in Chueca.

Now if white isn’t your colour and you’re pining for some greenery and garden relaxation then I’d suggest heading to the terrace of Hotel Las Letras (C/Gran Vía, 11. Tel: +34 91-523-7980. Metro: Gran Vía / Sevilla / Sol). With a very different feel, the terrace of Las Letras boasts a fine urban garden with plenty of cute corners in which to relax. The view is not what you come for (unless the sides of neighbouring buildings gets your blood pumping), but well worth checking out nonetheless. The ambience is one of chilling out in seclusion and the feel of being in your own secret corner of the world. Book accommodation in Gran Via

Another in the hotel terrace genre comes in the form of the 5* Hotel Urban roof terrace (Carrera San Jerónimo. Tel: +34 91-787-7770. Metro: Sol / Sevilla). With its world-class reputation it is no surprise that the Urban terrace is a good one, and has that spark of magic that will leave you wanting to return. As is expected, the prices are not what brings in the crowds but for the odd drink they won’t break the bank. This is a good place to start your evening before moving on to more modestly priced venues. Book accommodation in Sol

In a very different category, there is one place that is often overlooked ¾ El Corte Inglés Callao (Plaza de Callao. Metro: Callao / Sol). Venture up to the 9th Floor café, sit at one of the window tables, and enjoy one of the best views of Madrid and the Sierra de Madrid. This unpolished watchpoint has the benefit of lacking the potential snootiness of some of the more exclusive terrace locations. The café leaves a lot to be desired in terms of internal décor but they offer a range of food and drinks and the view really is worth a visit, day or night. Plus, you have the perfect excuse for a spot of shopping on the way up and on the way back down. Book accommodation near Callao.

Recently featuring the photo/art exhibition “Oh Cielos!” (Lit: “Oh skies!” – an exhibition celebrating the sky-views of Madrid), the terrace of El Circulo De Bellas Artes (C/ Marqués de Casa Riera, just off C/Alcalá. Tel: +34 91-360-5400. Metro: Sevilla / Banco de Espana) is situated in the heart of the city centre and offers a panoramic view  that towers over nearly every other building in central Madrid. From this spectular, and rather spacious, rooftop you can enjoy to your heart’s content the scenery to the north, south, east and west. “Oh Cielos!” has now finished but Circulo de Bellas Artes often makes full use of its terrace so add it to your to-visit list. Book accommodation near Sevilla.

Another top spot is El Viajero (Plaza de la Cebada. Tel: +34 91-366-9064. Metro: La Latina). This 3-storey bar/restaurant in La Latina has a real buzz on the weekends and the top floor is a terrific little terrace. An excellent place to head to on a Sunday afternoon; they play great chilled club music, reminiscent of an after-party, that is ideal for Sunday lazing. Get there early to get a spot on the terrace, or even a table downstairs, as this place packs out quickly and stays packed all afternoon/evening. The vibe flitters between lively and relaxed as groups come and go (or grow!) but all the while remaining a fun place to be. Book accommodation in La Latina.

If you move on down to Lavapies you can find a terrace where ambience, views, good food and culture all come together in superb unison. The Gaudeamus Café (C/Tribulete, 14. Tel: +34 91 528 2594. Metro: Lavapies) sits at the top of the Edificio Escuelas Pías (UNED) building and presents its guests with views of Lavapies. The food is varied and of a high quality, though not the cheapest you´ll find. But it´s just the place for a special occasion dinner, or to come for a drink. And if you´re in the neighbourhood then why not also wander over to Tirso De Molina and check out Casa de Granada (C/Doctor Cortezo, 17. Tel: +34 91 420 0825. Metro: Tirso de Molina) where you´ll find one of the most clandestine of roof terraces. You have to buzz into an apartment building and make your way to the 6th floor where you´ll discover a real find. As its name might imply, Casa De Granada maintains an Andalucian theme and serves a wide assortment of good sized tapas at low prices and the staff bring some of the white city´s friendliness and warmth to add to the lively atmosphere. Book accommodation near Lavapies.

As a little tip, I would recommend chatting to the staff at any of these venues as they can often recommend similar places in the city if you ask kindly enough. Although rooftops in Madrid are almost like an elite club for only those in the know, now you have an all access pass.

By Tom Burgess

Madrid Weekend Roundup

We’re in through the first week of October and the city is slowly coming back to life. Madrileños are back from vacation and the city is quickly filling with its more permanent residents.  This weekend, there are a few things lined up that will surely reacquaint you with Madrid’s tempo.

For all you gamers, the first edition Gamefest will be in session starting this Friday, October 8th at 8:00 a.m until Sunday, October 10th,  at 17:00 p.m.  This tradeshow/convention will be held in the Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I, where companies like Namco, PlayStation, Bandai, Digital Bros and Logitech will show off their latest games and upcoming titles in addition to conferences and contests for the attendees.  For video game fans, this should be a real treat. (Gamefest 2010 Parque Ferial Juan Carlos I, Avenida del Partenón, 10Metro: Campo de las Naciones. 8-10 Oct. Entrance: €6.)

El Ojo Cojo is holding its 6th Film Festival from the 8th to 17th of October.  This film festival will be held in various locations around Madrid, showing a variety of genres, short and full-length films, independent movies, and documentaries from various countries.  This activity is free. For times and locations click here.

Starting on the 8th until the end of the month, the XV Festival Internacional Madrid Sur will be celebrated in the form of 43 performances held in various regions across Madrid as well as in Universidad Carlos III.  There will be acts from the United States, Morocco and Spain to celebrate culture and Spanish democracy.  For prices, locations, and contact info, click here.

DC Comics will be at FNAC celebrating its 75th anniversary!  Until the 10th of October, you can head down to FNAC in Callao and enjoy the original comic artwork from those that brought you Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.  If you’re a comic fanatic, you won’t want to miss this exposition, which is entirely free to view. (Exposición Originales DC Comics, FNAC CALLAO,C/ Preciados, 28. Metro: Callao)

The seventh edition of Madrid’s Architecture Week, organized by The City Council of Madrid, COAM, and Fundacion Arquitectura COAM will also run until this Sunday, October 10th. Various events will highlight the values and history behind architecture and urbanism, including guided visits to 16 buildings, routes around the city, exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and more.  Participation is free, but some visits require advanced booking.  For more information, click here.

Hopefully this will help guide you into the swing of Madrid’s lively rhythm and leave you without a dull moment until the workweek begins again.

By Anna Soria

October Concerts in Madrid

Fall is here and Madrid’s concert calendar is off the charts. October brings a mixed bag of shows featuring legendary performers, once-upon-a-time big names and a sprinkling of up-and-comers.  So check out your October ConcertMAP to see who will be coming to a venue near you this month:

Elton John 10/02 – Palacio de Deportes:  Sir Elton teams up with old pal Ray Cooper for what is sure to be a great night of music and a welcome treat for fans of the celebrity entertainer. For tickets click here.

Massive Attack 10/08 – Palacio Vistalegre:  The unique sounds and stylings of Massive Attack have been pushing musical genres for decades now and their latest release, Heligoland, is no exception

Guns N’Roses 10/09 – Palacio Vistalegre:  You remember these guys; pretty much the band of the 90s, but then anyone who has watched VH1’s Behind the Music knows what happened next.  Well they’re back (kind of) and who still doesn’t want to see Axl Rose belt out their unforgettable hits on stage? For tickets click here.

Brandon Flowers 10/09 – La Riviera:  You may know him better as the frontman of rock group The Killers, however Flowers has recently released a much lauded solo album, Flamingo, and a tour to go along with it.  The tour has been dubbed as one of the year’s can’t miss dates by Spin.

a-ha 10/14 – Palacio Vistalegre:  Don’t miss this legendary Norwegian group’s retirement party as they get set to call it quits with one last tour appropriately named ‘Ending on a High Note’.

Festival de Cultura Pop 10/16 – Circulo de Bellas Artes:  The fifth edition of this party comes to CBA for a look at many different small groups and an interesting audiovisual exhibit.

Mystery Jets 10/16 – Moby Dick:  Get your dose of Brit-Pop this month from the Mystery Jets, a fun group that has been around for a while, but with their third album, Serotonin, they just might have taken the next step forward in their musical career.

Future Islands 10/19 – Moby Dick:  This Baltimore based trio brings its synth based tunes to town as part of its first big tour in support of their popular debut album, In Evening Air.

DELOREAN 10/21 – La Riviera:   Barcelona based electro-pop group that has been touring around the globe due to their readymade dance floor tracks. They’ll be rolling through Madrid with a few friends for an electric show.

Billie The Vision and The Dancers 10/23 – Circulo de Bellas Artes:  You may not know this group by name, but chances are you might have one of their infectious pop tunes like “Summercat” stuck in your head right now.  CBA’s Frontera Circulo series continues to impress as they bring these fun Sweeds to the stage.

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone 10/23 – Moby Dick:  Coincidentally this is the second retirement party to be rolling through Madrid in October, as Owen Ashworth will bring his singular brand of music and songwriting to us about a month before his final show under the CFTPA name.  For tickets click here.

Sting w/the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra 10/30 – Palacio de Deportes:  Interesting, is the first thing that should come to mind when you see this paring.  The two names are at the forefront of their respective genres and putting it together might be difficult, but Sting’s attempt to breathe new air into his classic hits with a full orchestra at his disposal is a definite must see. For tickets click here.

Michael Bublé 10/31 – Palacio de Deportes:  Don’t miss the chance to see the multiple Grammy award winning international superstar live on stage.  For tickets click here.

As you can see, there should be something for everyone in Madrid this October and for more on upcoming concerts click here.

By Coleman File