What makes Madrid such an appealing city? If you ask fellow tourists, the number one thing will probably be the good food and weather. Many visitors of Madrid spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the beautiful palaces, churches and the great museums that this city has to offer.
Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists. How to avoid that? Just follow the locals! Here are 12 of our picks for some of the unique gems in Madrid, in the words of our very own team of Spotters.
Art & food on a rooftop
La Azotea is an amazing building that you can find in Madrid. The place is very multifunctional and worth a visit for many different activities. Whatever vibe you’re feeling, this place has got something that will fit! The best part about this building is the Círculo de Bellas Artes, the name already sounds pretty. Here you can find art, literature, film, exhibitions and even cultural workshops!
On the rooftop you can find 3 different atmospheres that you can immerse yourself in. Firstly there is a nice chill area where you can sit comfortably on beds and cushions while enjoying a good cocktail. If you’re feeling a bit more romantic (and hungry) you can go to the outside area of TarTan Roof, and sit in some lovely dim lighting outside. And lastly, the inside of TarTan Roof is also amazing and has a more restaurant type atmosphere than the outside.
Tables are arranged so that all visitors, seating and standing, can enjoy the beautiful rooftops in Madrid.
An undefeated view
Visiting a city can be quite stressful and hectic, trying to get from one place to another and visiting as much as you can! Places like Teleferico Terrace are great to go to if you want to take a step back and just enjoy being present in an amazing city like Madrid.
The visit is very cheap and getting there from parque del oeste will only take you 15 minutes. The place has an incredible (we might even dare to say, the best) view over Madrid. The food isn’t extremely special, but the view is completely worth it.
So once you step off the teleferico don’t just go running into the green fields that are Casa de Campo, take your time to go onto the lookout deck of the cafeteria in the same building you arrive.
Cine Doré will make a lasting impression on you from the moment you see the outside of the building. It features an impressive 1920’s exterior with white columns and graceful details. Even more impressive is the inside featuring an ornate ceiling with gorgeous dark blue and gold details. Entering the place is like stepping into a time machine!
The cinema is run by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and they often have interesting themes. Even when it’s a hot summer night and you don’t feel like getting sweaty in a cinema room, this place is perfect as it has an outdoor screen as well. They also have a nice café where you can have a drink or a coffee whilst sitting in amazing vintage furniture!
You have to buy your tickets there, at the little window at the side of the building – everything about this experience feels old world.
Design representing the country’s talent
It’s always great to run into a place that features local or national talent, as it’s a great way to take a peek into a country’s culture. Caotics design studio is just that kind of place. The studio created by Marta Valea and features items and exhibitions made by only Spanish designers. Interior design is the focal point, but they also show other types of art such as photography from time to time.
You can find lighting, furniture, tables, decoration, jewelry and much more. The great thing is that there is a connection, or dialogue, between the works. To question the limits between art and design and exploring the connection between art and life!
What our Spotter María José likes most about this place is that it’s a space with a curated vision where Spanish designers can show their talent, whether you are a collector or as in my case, you like design or are looking for a special gift that goes out of the ordinary and is made in Spain.
An abandoned ghost station
Madrid is constantly changing, it’s a dynamic place that is always improving and growing. Although most of the city will keep up with this change, there will always be some little spots that will get left behind, as if stuck in time. One of these places is Madrid’s Chamberí Station. It used to host Madrid’s Line 1 when it was opened in 1919, but the station is now out of use. The place was closed in the 1960s because trains became longer, but the station was impossible to lengthen.
So when you are traveling by metro between Iglesias and Bilbao Stations you can spot this poorly lit, lonely station. The place looks like it did in the 1920s, with its original old tiles and advertisements that are still there. You can even visit, as there is one hour when visitors (in controlled numbers) are allowed to go in and explore a little.
Better still go and visit it, and watch the trains go by, filled with oblivious travelers, who are completely unaware that they are being observed.
An artistic scavenger hunt
Since the beginning of April, there have been amazing art pieces scattered all over Madrid, 80 (!) to be exact. These pieces are fiberglass Meninas, inspired by Manets masterpiece “Las Meninas”. The Meninas were created by Antonio Azzato and are a whopping 1.8 meters tall and 30 kilos heavy.
The cool part of this project is also what makes it a more communal project, all the Meninas are decorated by different artists, designers, singers, actors or creative celebrities to represent what Madrid means to each and every one of them.
Books and booze
In a quiet little street near Opera you can find a hidden bookstore called Desperate Literature. They have a lot of different types of books, in all genres and all languages, even though the store is pretty small. So even if you’re not fluent in Spanish (yet) you can find something to your liking here!
The staff is very lovely and you often get offered some nice and calming tea when you enter the place. They also have a very fun section in the story that is called ‘Boozy Books’, when you buy a book from this section you get a free shot of whiskey! What a place! They also host nice events inside the store, such as Harry Potter trivia night, bilingual poetry readings, book club meeting and mini-concerts.
What was even better was that a lot of the books had a small “review” already written on them by the workers of the store, so that way you could get an idea of what you were going to read.
Drinks on a train, enjoy the view
The Malasaña neighborhood is filled with trendy and hip bars, but it’s important to not lose sight of the very special gems that you can find there. One of these gems is The Passenger, a bar with a unique concept.
Don’t be fooled by their dark wooden doors, because inside there is a real surprise waiting for you! The bar is a recreation of a luxury dining car of a train from the early 20th century. The place looks and feels like a train cabin. Although it’s not moving, you would think it was when you’re inside. They have screens that simulate windows on which a scenic, moving landscape is projected.
“My plan: sit down in their leather, super comfortable seats, have a drink and get hypnotized by the images (real footage from train windows all over the world)” writes our Spotter Elena.
A taste of tradition
A great way to experience a city is to take a peek into its past and historic traditions. Finding such spots can be hard as they’re often tiny and hidden away behind big chain stores. Antigua Pastelería del Pozo is one of these places! This tiny place opened its doors in 1810 as a baker and later became a cake shop in 1830, and ever since then it has stayed very true to itself. The decor is very traditional, as are the recipes they use.
They specialize in empanadas filled with tuna or meat, a popular snack in Madrid, but trust us these are amongst the best. They also have amazing seasonal cakes that they make for specific religious festivals. If you buy something here they’ll wrap it up for you like it’s a Christmas present, even if it’s only a few croissants, it’s still such a nice feeling!
Get your cameras ready, because you will want to take photos – it’s beautiful!
Romantic garden away from the crowds
At the Romantic Museum in Madrid you can find Café del Jardín featuring a beautiful scenic garden hidden from the busy city. There are few tables outside and the place looks like it’s straight from a romantic scene in a film. Covered in plants, filled with marble sculptures, some benches and a fountain; this place is a true oasis.
You luckily don’t have to pay an entrance fee when you go straight to the café and skip the museum. During weekdays it’s especially lovely as it’s not crowded at all. Sit, read a book and have a little zen moment in this lovely hidden garden.
Inside the cafeteria you will feel like you’re in a vintage tea room, but being in the secret garden is what makes this cafeteria such a special place.
An all-in-one kind of place
El Paracaidista is a place unlike any other. It houses more different spots than some streets do, all in the historic building that once as the Royal Wax Factory. Inside you can find a movie-bar, an art gallery, a decor-fashion-lifestyle-beauty-tech-accessories-gourmet shop, a cocktail bar and a terrace restaurant.
You can also download their app where you can find all the information you need. First-time visitors need to sign up for their membership, but you don’t have to worry about it. You only have to give your name and email. After this, its all about enjoying the place.
On the fourth and last floor is “Parq” the terrace restaurant with amazing views of the roofs of Malasaña.