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…
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.
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:
By Tom Burgess