TENLEGEND, although with European roots, is currently headquartered in the U.S.A. It is a common saying that Americans live to work. The culture here is vastly different from most European countries, and if one would say that, in contrast, Spaniards work to live — there would likely be no argument. This is no more apparent than in the Spanish capital and financial center of Madrid.
Madrileños work hard and play even harder. It is not uncommon for dinner to begin at 10:00 p.m. with nightlife emerging near midnight. A typical nightcap might include an early morning churros con chocolate at the break of dawn. Full of cultural heritage, gorgeous artwork and magnificent architecture, and an undeniably delectable culinary scene, Madrid is a favorite destination – particularly for enjoying the finer side of travel.
While it is true that Barcelona has always won over the hearts of its visitors, more and more people are discovering the hidden gem that is the capital city and the beating heart of Spain. Madrid is a vibrant city steeped in tradition, culture, and of course, football. Let’s explore.
Paseo del Prado
The famed tree-lined boulevard, Paseo del Prado, is punctuated by fountains that link the city’s major museums. One of the area’s most elegant neighborhood is Jerónimos, where many members of the Spanish aristocracy had opulent homes in the handsome late 19th-century buildings. You can see the Parisian influence on the architecture of the area, with sensual curves softening the more austere traditional Spanish style. You may even recognize these streets from Pedro Almodóvar’s film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios).
Arts & Culture
Getting your cultural fix could not be easier in Madrid as it is packed with museums, art and culture. In this area, you will find the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s most celebrated art museums, as well as the infamous Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional, with artworks from the 13th century to the present day.
A few minutes’ walk away is the CaixaForum, remodeled by Herzog & de Meuron, which houses temporary exhibitions and cultural events. The CaixaForum is currently featuring an exhibit fully dedicated to tattoo art. The vast Reina Sofía Museo Nacional Centro de Arte contemporary art museum houses Picasso’s epic masterpiece, Guernica. Book ahead to visit the Palacio de Liria, which contains one of the most notable private art collections in Spain, including paintings by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya.
Botín is located in the city’s center, just a couple blocks from Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s most well-known plaza and a must-see for all visitors. Yes, there is a touristy feel to the area, but there are plenty of gems tucked into the smaller side streets surrounding the plaza, many housed in the capital city’s ornate 17th-century buildings. Cava Baja is a lively street filled with tapas bars and restaurants like the historic Posada de la Villa.
When in Spain, it is important to honor tradition and seek out the roots that laid the very framework for modern Spanish cuisine, and where better to start than the world’s oldest recorded restaurant? Madrid’s Restaurante Botín is known for its suckling pigs and lambs roasted in the same wood-fired Castilian oven it’s been using since opening in 1725.
Other tiny tapas bars specialize in particular dishes — Meson del Chimpiñón serves mushroom caps that are sprinkled with salt, parsley and Ibérico ham, then baked to succulence, while Meson de la Tortilla has perfected the art of the Spanish tortilla. Also be sure to try a bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich), a Madrid specialty found at area bars like La Campana and La Ideal.
Mercado de San Miguel
Also in the neighborhood is Mercado de San Miguel, a foodie paradise inside a renovated historic marketplace. Much like New York’s Gotham West Market or Mexico City’s Mercado Roma, San Miguel is a maze of bars, shops and stalls specializing in everything from olives and cheese to paella. By 9 p.m., the market is typically full of locals and tourists, socializing while sipping vermouth and sampling tapas from the kiosks. Yes, yes, we love amazing food… but, what about football???
It just wouldn’t feel right to talk about Madrid without talking about football. Madrid is home to several of football’s best teams, including Real Madrid, the most successful club in history. After all, this is home to the famous Bernabeu Stadium.
If you happen to be in Madrid during a big match at the stadium, make sure you elevate your game experience with VIP tickets to catch 360 views of the action on the pitch. The ticket also includes a visit to the Real Madrid Museum situated at the stadium itself, while enjoying fine-dining from on-site restaurants and five-star hospitality.
As the world slowly reopens, and we venture out again, we will be making the rounds to football's greatest cities, clubs and stadiums. Madrid is most definitely on the list.
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