Madrid: A Cure for the Winter Blues



Madrid is the grand dame of Spain. Whereas Barcelona feels bold and creative — think Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Jean Nouvel’s masculine Agbar Tower and Frank Ghery’s sculptural Fish — Madrid is resolutely aristocratic and regal, while at the same time modern and vibrant.

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit. Sunny Madrid is an effective cure for a deflated winter spirit. You know the feeling: You expect spring to be around the corner at the beginning of April but the tenacious wind and rain just won’t give in. Elevate your mood a quick long-weekend trip to Madrid, where you can soak up the sun, enjoy the lively atmosphere and indulge in first-class cuisine. Big bonuses: The city provides a dose of art and culture and plenty of outdoor space for children.


With children, the best bet is to stay by the Retiro Park. Find a hotel to the west of the park so you can easily explore the main attractions of the city. Here are three of the best:

Westin Palace: This elegant and opulent hotel in a perfect location has hosted many famous figures including Salvador Dali since it was commissioned and created by King Alfonso XIII in 1912.

Westin Palace
Stained glass roof in the hotel dining room


NH Collection Madrid Paseo del Prado: Just as conveniently located as Westin Palace but more reasonably priced, it also houses a great tapas restaurant, Estado Puro, on the ground floor. The restaurant is owned by Paco Ronchero, who also runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in Madrid.




Estado Puro’s modern interpretation of ‘patatas bravas’
“Callos”, Madrid style tripe at Estado Pu

Hotel Ritz by Belmond: this most luxurious hotel in Madrid is situated next to the Prado Museum and close to Retiro Park but in a quieter — and slightly less central — location than the two hotels listed above. The loveliest thing about this place is its terrace and gardens. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s worth visiting for an afternoon hot chocolate with churros in the garden.


1. PALACIO and LA LATINA areas

Savour old Madrid by walking from to the Royal Palace. Take Cava Baja, the most lively street in La Latina. The street is filled with good tapas restaurants. Pop into one of those restaurants or go to Almendro 13, hugely popular classic tapas place favoured by Madrileños. Get there before it opens at 1 pm or be prepared to stand in line.

Taberna “Almendro 13”


Almendro 13 fills up quickly.
‘Rosca con jamón iberico’ (ring shaped sandwich) and ‘croquetas de jamón’
“El Revuelto Habanero” – scrambled eggs with fava beans and morcillas (flavorful Spanish blood sausages).
“Los Huevos Rotos” – the most popular dish of the house that consists of a bed of crisps topped with fried eggs and ham. Wash it down with a cold beer.
After lunch, stroll through the narrow streets toward “El Palacio Real” (the Royal Palace) past Capilla del Obispo and Iglesia de San Pedro.
Palacio Real
“Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Amudena” across from the Royal Palace.

After lunch and a visit to the Royal Palace, cross Bailén street and let the children run loose at the playground at ‘Jardines Lepanto’. A minute away, visit the beautiful Plaza de Oriente, which is adorned with 20 imposing statues — 5 Visigoth Kings and 15 kings from the period of the ‘Reconquista’.


Plaza de Oriente


Once playtime is over, you can either sit at Cafe de Oriente and enjoy the view of the Royal Palace or, better still, go past Teatro Real on Plaza Isabel II and walk down Calle del Arenal to taste the best churros in Madrid at Chocolatería San Ginés. The chocolateria, with indoor and outdoor seating, has been serving only hot chocolate (extra-thick Spanish style) and churros since 1894. Try the well-known thin crunchy churro and as well as the thick doughy porra.

Café de Oriente
Chocolatería San Gines


Parroquia de San Gines

2. Easter Processions and Santiago Bernabéau Stadium

The parades during the ‘Semana Santa (Holy Week)’ are among the largest celebrations in Spain. Albeit sombre in character, the processions are still fascinating for children. The parade floats feature lavishly ornamental statues of Jesus and Virgin Mary, and marching with the floats are scores of hooded men — some with chains on their feet — re-enacting the passion of Christ.

Watching from the balcony of the Westin Palace.

IMG_6690If you have a little football fan in the house, the stadium of the Real Madrid football team is a fun outing. Have a quick tour and enjoy the stadium from the restaurant Puerta 57 accessed the gate 57, obviously, where you can dine with a view of the entire pitch in front of you.

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

3. Retiro and Salamanca

The area of the Prado Museum and Retiro Park is the place to enjoy outdoor space with grandeur. Spend the morning at outdoor spaces, then head to the upscale ‘bourgeois’ Salamanca for excellent meals and shopping in the afternoon.

Playground by Paseo del Prado


Outside the Prado Museum. Jerónimos Church in the background

From the Prado Museum, cross Alfonso XII street to access Retiro Park.

Felipe IV gate (“Puerta Felipe IV”) into the park, situated on Alfonso XII street
“Puerta de America”, another gate to the park on Avenida de Menéndez Pelayo


“Palacio Cristal”, Crystal Palace, in the Retiro Park.
Playground by “Puerta de America” accessed from Avenida de Menendez Pelayo

IMG_6976IMG_7130Once out of the park, have lunch at the hip, lively and super popular Arzábal, where adults and children alike hang around by the bar picking at tapas. Better yet, grab a table by the window and enjoy the afternoon meal like stylish Madrileños do.

IMG_7048 IMG_7067 IMG_7105 IMG_7075

Try ‘torrija’, a special dessert served around Easter. Similar to French toast, it’s more decadent — soft inside, crispy outside and lovely with lots of cinnamon

To those who like seafood, El Pesacador is a must-go place with the freshest fish in town. Alternatively, try La Trainera for excellent traditional dishes.

“Pulpo a la gallega” at La Trainera
“Salpicon”, seafood salad, at La Trainera

If you want to have the best al fresco lunch in the most upscale part of Madrid, head to El Paraguas, which offers excellent food with impeccable service in a sophisticated atmosphere.

“El Paraguas”


Jamón Ibérico at El Paraguas
Near the restaurant is this little passage lined with boutique stores. Boxcolt, on the corner of Jorge Juan offers a lovely selection of clothing and accessories.
Pedro del Hierro on Calle de Serrano