The glorious Spanish capital is renowned for its national art treasures, but it also offers luxury shopping streets, vast green parks and an outdoor café scene to rival any other European city

You could spend weeks in Madrid visiting the world-class museums, so if you only have a couple of days, edit your stay to make the most of your trip. Even if you visit in the cold of winter (Madrid is the highest capital city in Europe, after all), the bright blue skies and dazzling light make sightseeing and shopping a joy. Allow plenty of time for drifting around the tapas bars, too – an experience that counts as part of the local culture.

Retail therapy

Saunter north from Hotel Ritz, Madrid to Calle de Serrano in the upscale Salamanca area to shop at a string of boutiques, including Spanish designers Manolo Blahnik, Agatha Ruíz de la Prada and Bimba Y Lola. There’s also homegrown luxury to be had at Loewe, whose divine handbags come in butter-soft leather. For foodie goods, head to Gourmet Experience on the top floor of department store El Corte Inglés, which also has great places to eat. Turn along Ortega y Gasset for names such as Chanel, Hermès and Armani. If you have time for only one clothes shop, Ekseption is a pleasant stroll from the hotel on Calle de Velázquez and offers an expertly curated choice of international labels, from Balenciaga and Chloé to Valentino and Alexander Wang.
 

Top spots

San Miguel Market To get your bearings in Madrid, first make for Puerta del Sol, a square that is the centre not only of the city, but also the whole of Spain, as the country’s road network radiates out from this location. Then walk through to Plaza Mayor, the elegant porticoed main square, which has evolved over the centuries from its origins as a medieval marketplace. Browse around San Miguel Market, home to dozens of bars and stalls specialising in seafood, jamón ibérico, cheese, wine, and more; try a glass of the local vermouth while you are there. Keep walking east until you arrive at the monumental Royal Palace, which thanks to its strategic position has views across the countryside to the Guadarrama Mountains.
 
View famous paintings National art museums the Prado and Reina Sofía, as well as Thyssen-Bornemisza, are all a stone’s throw from Hotel Ritz, Madrid

Culture hits

Pablo Picasso's Guernica, on show at the national art museum Most people make a beeline for national art museums the Prado and Reina Sofía, as well as Thyssen-Bornemisza – all a stone’s throw from Hotel Ritz, Madrid. Also worth visiting is the lesser-well-known National Museum of Decorative Arts on the hill behind the hotel. Its fascinating displays include tapestries, ceramics, jewellery, fans, toys and furniture from the 14th century to the present day. A few minutes’ walk away, in Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid's palatial main post office now contains a vast cultural centre, CentroCentro. Zoom up to the observation deck to enjoy the city panorama, or have a drink in the chic terrace bar on the sixth floor.  
 

Park life

Retiro Park, with a view of the Crystal Palace, dating from 1887 A short walk from the hotel, the Retiro Park was originally created in the 17th century as royal gardens. Go there for an early morning run, take out a rowing boat on the lake, or sit at one of the cafés and watch the Madrilenians at play. Alternatively, contemplate everything you have seen in the Prado in the tranquil surroundings of the Royal Botanic Garden next door. Many of the thousands of plants and trees were brought to Spain from around the world in the 18th century. For a different view of the city, head to Madrid Río, a recreational area behind the Royal Palace, and hire a bike to cycle along the riverbank. Cross one of the new bridges to explore the vast Casa de Campo, a park that was once the royal hunting grounds.
 
Rest and rejuvenateDuring your stay, block out an afternoon for pampering at the luxurious Bodyna Wellness Centre at Hotel Ritz, Madrid. For the evening ahead, indulge in a facial inspired by Japanese rituals

Spa Time

During your stay, block out an afternoon for pampering at the luxurious Bodyna Wellness Centre at Hotel Ritz, Madrid. Enjoy a soothing leg massage or an invigorating body scrub with Javan spices or papaya. To prepare for the evening ahead, indulge in a Ko Bi Do facial inspired by traditional Japanese rituals.
 

Dining dates

Goya Restaurant at Hotel Ritz, Madrid Just off Puerta del Sol, nip into the mahogany-fronted Lhardy, a shop and restaurant that was established in 1839. Help yourself to a cup of consommé from the silver samovar on the marble counter and perhaps a glass of sherry from the decanter. At Hotel Ritz, Madrid, the Goya Restaurant is the perfect setting for a special occasion, with dishes such as oxtail ravioli in a velvety Rioja sauce. The word-of-mouth dining sensation is the very chic Hortensio, where chef Mario Vallés adds contemporary creativity to classic dishes such as sole meunière, which he peps up with algae. Book well ahead to get a table at Punto MX, the only Mexican restaurant in Europe to have a Michelin star. Try the braised duck enchilada with squash-seed salsa, or just check out the bar upstairs for mezcal cocktails.

 

Stepping out

Map of Madrid Near Hotel Ritz, Madrid, The Gin Room (Calle de la Academia 7) is a cool spot for a great gin and tonic at either the beginning or end of the evening. Cocktail connoisseurs should seek out Charly’s Bar (Jorge Juan 22) above La Moraga restaurant, where top mixologist Carlos Moreno makes the perfect classic vodka and tonic, or conjures more unusual concoctions such as Blonde Temptation (gin, vermouth, white chocolate, mandarin and ginger). The bar is a favourite of David Muñoz, the chef behind Madrid’s extraordinary three-Michelin-starred restaurant DiverXO. If you are in the mood for dancing – and you probably will be by this stage – join the glamorous crowd at Fortuny Restaurant and Club, or chill out on the terrace in the elegant setting of this 19th-century palace.
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