Start with a traditional Spanish breakfast in Cafe Gijon. Then walk down the lively Paseo de Recoletos past the Neptuno fountain to the so-called 'Art Walk' (Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen Museums). If you can only do one, I'd suggest the world famous Prado. In Spain it's customary to have what we call an 'aperitivo' - consisting of a small portion of food with a drink - before lunch. One of the best places for that is the tavern La Dolores in the middle of the art walk. Now that the stomach is warming up, it's time for lunch at El Rincon de Esteban, a cosy restaurant located right next to the Spanish congress. It's a fine introduction to the joys of Castilian cuisine. On your way to the hotel you can visit the beautiful Sorolla Museum, the home of the impresionist painter.
A guided visit to the Palacio Real helps you travel back in time. Neighbouring the east facade there's the Plaza de Oriente, designed by Napoleon's brother Jose Bonaparte, from where you'll get a splendid view of the palace. I always take a break here to enjoy coffee with pancakes at Cafe de Oriente. In summer they have a terrace and provided it's not too hot, it is bliss to rest tired feet. Then, go further back in time through Plaza Mayor, Calle Cuchilleros, Plaza de Puerta Cerrada and Cava Baja with its typical layout of narrow winding streets. In cold winter days, take some hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines in the San Gines Alley. Then, come back to the present with the hustle and bustle of Calle Preciados and Calle Gran Via, also known as the Madrid Broadway. Your day would not be perfect, however, without having some tapas at the Museo del Jamon.
Las Vistillas is a lookout from which watching the beautiful red sunsets are a real joy to the spirit. From there you can see the distant mountain range of Madrid. In summer, it's a popular place with its many terraces and local flavour. About a hundred metres away there's the restaurant tablao flamenco El Corral de la Moreria, which is probably the best flamenco show in Madrid. The show is sure to carve deep memories in your soul, for flamenco is all about intense emotional expression. I'm a friend of contrast, so I would end the night at one of the easy going disco bars in the Salamanca district like Serrano 41, Garamond or Gabana 1800.
Here you can visit the largest greenhouse in Madrid and feel like you are in the middle of the rain forest while you wait for your train.
The colourful Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place on the first Wednesday of every month. Before going, please check with the concierge for details.
This popular, enclosed late-medieval square in the centre of Madrid has been a market as well as a place for festivals, bull fights, coronations and executions. It has also been destroyed several times by fire.
This is the only park in the world where there is a statue dedicated to the Devil. It is called the Fallen Angel. The Retiro Park is considered the 'lung' of Madrid and is a very beautiful meeting point. You can rent a boat in its lake.