Stay awake in Europe’s answer to the Big Apple

Retiro Park, Madrid
It will be my second wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks’ time and I am hoping to surprise my wife with a trip to Madrid. Neither of us has ever been there but we love Spain and have heard it is a fantastic city. Can you recommend what to do and where to stay?

It will be my second wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks’ time and I am hoping to surprise my wife with a trip to Madrid. Neither of us has ever been there but we love Spain and have heard it is a fantastic city. Can you recommend what to do and where to stay?

Madrid is like the New York of Europe in that it really is a city that doesn’t sleep. Tourists flock to Spain’s capital throughout the year to experience world class museums, Michelin Star restaurants and fantastic shopping.

There is so much to see and do and you really will be spoilt for choice. The official residence of the Spanish royal family, the Royal Palace of Madrid is not to be missed. This 17th century monument is extremely lavish inside with 2,000 opulently gilded rooms. If the weather is fine, then take some time to wander through the gardens of the palace and take in the panoramic views across the city and countryside from the vast courtyard.

Madrid is famous for arts and culture and is home to over 70 museums. While you won’t get around them all in one trip, if I had to pick a couple to visit be sure to check out the Prado, Reina Sofia National Art Centre, and Thyssen-Bornemisza museum which are undoubtedly some of the best in Europe. The cheapest way to visit all three is to purchase ‘Abono Paseo del Arte’, a package ticket for as little as €14.40.

I would also highly recommend that you purchase a Madrid Tourist Card which is available from the tourist information office. This will give you access to a wealth of museums and guided tours and many companies offer discounts when you produce your card.

If you like to shop, then Madrid is one of the best cities for designer clothes, shoes and fabulous boutiques. Calle Fuencarral, close to Gran Via, is a haven for shoe-a-holics and well worth a look. If you are looking for some traditional souvenirs, there are many great stalls and shops near the Plaza Mayor, selling handmade lace, ceramics and leather goods. El Rastro is an enormous outdoor market and is one of the most popular tourist attractions. There are market stalls stocking excellent value items, full of colour and a great option for a spot of morning shopping.

A visit to one of the many rooftop bars in Madrid is the perfect way to unwind after a busy day sightseeing. There are plenty to choose from and most are located atop some of the city’s most luxurious hotels. The Penthouse at the five-star ME Melia Hotel offers individual Balinese canopy beds where you can soak in the atmosphere and enjoy exclusive ‘top shelf’ drinks in private. For something a bit livelier, the Sky-Night Lounge on the 13th floor of the Puerta de America Hotel is the place to be, with luminous design and fantastic tapas.

Madrid is renowned for its impeccable parks and gardens so if you’re looking for somewhere to spend an afternoon relaxing, the Retiro Park, the Casa de Campo and the Juan Carlos Park are just a few places where you can take a picnic, enjoy the sun and relax.

For a real taste of the Spanish capital, have a “Cocido Madrileño”, a stew which is a speciality in Madrid. It’s also worth taking a trip to La Latina or the Chueca neighbourhood for the best tapas in town.

Where to stay:

Hotel Atlantico (****)

Prices start from €118 per room per night on Hotels.com

The Hotel Atlantico Madrid is a stately building, topped with a French dome which can be seen from a great part of the city. The hotel is close to the triangle of popular museums, the Prado, Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssan and features comfortable, individually styled bedrooms.

ME Madrid (****)

Prices start from €168 per room per night on Hotels.com

ME Madrid Reina Victoria is a luxury design hotel, set in Madrid’s historic Plaza Santa Ana. It offers elegant rooms with 32” plasma TV, home cinema and hydromassage showers. The Penthouse has a ‘top shelf’ bar which only serves premium brands of spirits and offers stunning views of the city.

Petit Palace San Bernardo (****)

Prices start from €81 per room per night on Hotels.com

This hotel offers stylish accommodation in a historic building, just off Madrid’s central Gran Vía. Every room at the hotel has a laptop computer with free internet access. The Petit Palace San Bernardo is just a short walk from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. The Thyssen, Prado and Reina Sofía Art Museums are 10 minutes away on foot. Free bicycle rental is available from the reception desk.

Dormirdcine Cooltural Rooms (****)

Prices start from €76 per room per night on Hotels.com

For something a bit different, check out the cinema-themed accommodation on offer in this hotel. Located in Madrid’s elegant Salamanca district, each stylish room has a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi access and a minibar. Dormirdcine’s rooms and public areas are bright and modern, decorated with murals and graffiti art related to popular films.

For more information and travel tips on planning your holiday visit www.hotels.com or call 1800 55 3338 to wake up happy on your holiday!