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Style City: Madrid

December 12, 2011

Lifestyle

Style City: Madrid

Home to actress Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem (pictured) and once home to me and The Beckhams (not in the same house mind you), Madrid is a buzzing city for foodies and shopaholics alike.

It makes a stylish option for a weekend away with the girls or for a romantic escape  – you’ll also find sun and nightlife by the bucket load and it’s really cheap there too! It’s the perfect short hop for a winter break – t’s a crisp cold there from November through to January but still has blue skies, so don’t forget to bring a warm coat and your sunnies. This time of year, you’ll see all the Madrilena ladies are wearing their full length fur coats!

So let’s kick off with the important stuff:

Shopping in Madrid

Shops open ‘til 8pm most evenings, so you can certainly fit in some power shopping on a weekend away to Madrid. The smaller shops don’t open on a Sunday and Sunday trading used to be frowned upon so don’t leave all your shoppinfg ’til a Sunday as you may be dissapointed.

Zara Home hasn’t made it to Ireland yet, but the home ware section of clothes chain Zara is like Habitat shopping but with stuff that you won’t find elsewhere.
Zara Home Calle Hermosilla 16, (metro: Colon or Serrano).

Barrio Salamanca
The area around Calle Serrano and Calle Velazquez is where all the designer shops are. Gucci, Chanel, Hermes line up alongside leading Spanish designers such as Purificacion Garcia and Adolfo Dominguez.  Carolina Herrera is amazing and her winter sale is worth a flight over alone! (the sales or “rebajas” start on 1 January).

Calle Fuencarral just off Gran Via (metro Gran Via or Tribunal) is a mecca for alternative and vintage shops. You’ll also find a Mango outlet store here with last season’s gear for sale at a fraction of the cost. As it’s just off the gay district (called Chueca), this street has lots of  shops with towering high heels and extravagant outfits.

Calle Gran Via (Metro: Gran Via)
Mango, Zara, Massimo Dutti, Blanco and Stradivarius – all Spanish brands with shops dotted around the city. FNAC great for music and books. The prices here are much cheaper than at home so save your money and plan a weekend trip where you can stock up on your winter wardrobe staples like coats. I’ve had visitors buying three coats at a time when they visited, it was such good value.

Real Spanish leather
If you like shoes and handbags, you’ll be in heaven in Madrid.  Where Gran Via intersects Callao (metro Callao) there are two streets which run parallel to each other and join Gran Via to Puerta de Sol (the very centre of town).  These streets have lots of shoe and handbag shops where you can stock up on Spanish leather at its best.

Puerta de Sol is right at the centre of town and is full of tourists. Beware of pickpockets here.  Also on the metro, as it  is lethal. I can´t emphasise this enough!

Plaza Mayor

Beside Puerta de Sol there is a fabulous square called Plaza Mayor.  This is really nice to sit and have an (expensive) coffee and people watch.

La Latina district

This is where El Rastro flea market kicks off every Sunday from 8am – 2pm.  Join the Spanish for souvenirs and fabulous vintage finds and soak up the atmosphere. After 2pm, most locals hang on for a beer or wine before sitting down to lunch or scrumptious tapas in any of the local restaurants on the many squares in La Latina.

Las Rozas Village outlet shopping is worth the trek out to, it’s a sister outlet to Kildare Village. Do allow yourself plenty of time to get there and spend there.

Must buys

–          Spanish leather shoes and handbags on the two streets that run down to Sol from FNAC in Callao square are great for leather shoes and handbags

–          Spanish jamon Serrano and manchego cheese – pick it up in El Corte Ingles, vacuum packed. It makes for great presents

Airport shopping

There’s a Zara at Terminal 4  at Madrid airport which is great for last minute buys and the wine at the airport is great for taking home a good bottle or two.

Eating out in Madrid

Madrid is famous for tapas which you will find in most bars and restaurants. Even having a casual beer or wine, you’ll be given a small dish of olives or other local tapas.

People still smoke in most bars, it’s even customary to throw your cigarette buts on the floor, so don’t be alarmed when you see this!

Coffee in this city is amazing in the form of a “cafe con leche” which is like a cappuccino whereas a “cortado” is the espresso equivalent.  Just like Italy, having your coffee at the bar is a standard cost whereas going outside onto the terrace incurs an additional cost. For a quick coffee or bite on the run, and if you don’t fancy Spanish food, try VIPS, it’s a restuarant chain around the city.

Enjoy alfresco eating and drinking anywhere in Madrid as most places have outdoor seating. Squares (or “Plazas” in Spanish) have lots of outdoor bars and a great atmosphere include Plaza Santa Ana, Plaza de Chueca and any square in La Latina.

Cocktails

The roof terrace of Urban Cocktail Bar, Hotel Urban, Carrera de San Jerónimo Madrid. The hotel’s glass bar on the ground floor is pretty impressive too, and is the only oyster bar in Spain.

Museo Chicote on Calle Gran Via 12 is a glamourous cocktail bar to start your night off. Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bette Davis all passed through its doors.

Dinner

Bel Canto Restaurant, opposite the Reina Sofia museum. Metro: Atocha.

Located on a beautiful square opposite the contemporary Reina Sofia museum and off the grand tree- lined boulevard which is Paseo del Prado.  Reservation required.  You have to arrive by 10pm (get used to Spanish late eating dinner hours!), where you order your food before an opera spectacle begins – the waiters sing opera to diners for the evening.  I mysely am not a huge fan of opera but I found Bel Canto to be an entertaining evening with friends where the food is amazing.

Lunch
Beat the locals to lunch by getting there before 2pm for lunch at the hip La Musa (The Muse) in La Latina district.

The trick to get a table is to get there before the Spaniards who eat lunch at 2pm, so be there by 13.30 otherwise risk not getting a table.

Save room for a coffee and amazing cheesecake (Spanish for this is cafe con leche y tarta de queso) next door in a place called Delic.  It’s usually full of people having hair-of –the-dog-mojitos.

There is also a sister La Musa restaurant on Calle Manuela Malasana (Metro Bilbao) which is a street full of fantastic restaurants.

Afternoon tea is an opulent afternoon catching up with your girlfriends in the glamorous Ritz  Hotel off Paseo del Prado (museum row).  You never know, you might even bump into the stylish Princess Leticia there!

Sport

You can’t beat the Madrilenos for loving their football and you may well be dragged to the Bernabeu stadium for a tour. You can catch any of the rugby matches in the Irish pubs. Our favourite is Finnegans on Plaza de las Salesas – we once met Javier Bardem there, he owns a bar around the corner.

Accommodation in Madrid

Stay at the five star AC Santa Mauro, where the Beckhams lived for a couple months while waiting for their footballers house in‘burbs. Alternatively, try the recently relaunched Grand Hotel Reina Victoria, where  famous bullfighters usually stay, which has been transformed into Me Madrid Hotel – a funky swish hotel at the heart of the action in Plaza Santa Ana.

There are plenty of boutique hotels to be found in Madrid, i-escape offers the newest and funkiest ones.

Things to avoid in Madrid

Looking like a tourist. Pickpockets everywhere targeting tourists, so keep your wallet/handbag close at all times.

The months of July and August where the temperature rises to above 40c degrees and is unbearable for most (even the locals leave the place for the month of August and head to the beach).

Enjoy and have a cafe con leche for me!

Related posts:

  1. Style City: Barcelona
  2. Style City: Manchester
  3. Style City: Cannes
  4. Style City: Florence
  5. Style City: Paris
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7 Responses to “Style City: Madrid”

  1. Gillian Says:

    Have just printed this off as there are so many amazing tips I want to have this to hand as a complete city guide! This has made me seriously excited for my trip, thanks again Anne Marie!

  2. Annemarie Says:

    Great stuff Gillian! Well jeal of you heading off…

  3. Jade Says:

    I was in madrid once there are gr8 bargins and tunices are hot there

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