A Madrid design guide is a hard thing to create, given the massive possibilities it unveils. A thousand years after it was founded, Madrid continues to act as a beacon in the world of design. As the Spanish capital, much of its architectural diversity comes from the riches of the country’s former South American possessions. But as Spain’s political, economic and cultural hub, it has attracted the world’s best talent for centuries. This legacy means Madrid has been ranked one of the most livable cities in the world. It extends to the huge art collection of the Prado, the 3,418-room royal palace, and events including Madrid Fashion Week. Two of our other favorite cities for beautiful sites and stunning heritage are detailed in our Bilbao design guide and our Seville design guide.
Arrive by rail, or even metro from the airport, and you might well end your journey at Atocha Station. Instead of rushing to your hotel, take a moment to examine this modern palace to human achievement. Site of the tragic terrorist attack of 2004, it is none the less a mesmerizing space. Modern concrete supports rise high above commuters, connecting cleverly with the stone and ironwork of the original 1892 station. This is now an arcade of small cafes and stores. It even has a few turtles that enjoy the heat of a 4,000 square meter tropical garden. If you’re looking for more natural beauty, try a hiking tour of Guadarrama National Park just outside the park!
Av. De la Ciudad de Barcelona, 28045, Madrid
El Retiro Park
The private gardens of Spain’s kings until the late nineteenth century, now everyone is able to enjoy the follies of El Retiro. One of Madrid’s largest parks, its lakeside monument to King Alfonso XII is a popular spot. Dominated by mature tree cover and luscious lawns, one of its many attractions is the bronze Fountain of the Fallen Angel. It is said to be the only known monument to the devil – in public at least. More usual for gardens is the so-called Crystal Palace. This glass pavilion was constructed under the guidance of Ricardo Velazquez Bosco in 1887. It hosts regular photography and art exhibitions. You can add it to our customizable running tour of Madrid to see it in all its splendor.
Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001 Madrid
Paco Roncero Restaurante
There’s something a little Alice in Wonderland about Paco Roncero. While awarded with two Michelin stars for its menus, its difficult not to smile when you see its interiors. Here a shining black and white checkerboard floor acts as a backdrop to mustard yellow chairs. Pale chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, while cheery bright blue trolleys attend the tables. Unique artworks hang from the walls, and an exterior terrace has impressive views across the rooftops of several government buildings.
Calle de Alcalá, 15, 28014, Madrid
Dog and Fox Urban Kitchen
The Dog and Fox is as cool as Paco Roncero but in a very different way. You’ll find the thin red bricks typical of the region, alongside industrial-style bulbs hanging low over basic tables. It harks back to the idea of Madrid’s neighborhood bodegas, where used napkins still litter the floors. However, elevating this relaxed atmosphere is a menu of hearty dishes that spans the Latin American world. Somewhat oddly named after UK and US music acts, starters include deep-fried cheeses. For mains, there’s a variety of hamburgers, including Beck’s ‘Girl’ with mushrooms and cheese.
Calle de Rodríguez San Pedro, 64, local 1, 28015, Madrid
Hotel Urso has a majestic neo-classical exterior linking three of central Madrid’s main neighborhoods. It was built by native son José María Mendoza Ussía as the offices for a paper company. Since then, its original features, from stained-glass windows to wooden walls, have been retained to create a unique city stay. Rooms are inviting with soft, relaxing tones, while facilities include a spa that adds a further contemporary edge to this grand dame.
Mejía Lequerica, 8, 28004, Madrid
Hotel Wellington has welcomed everyone from the Spanish royal family to Nobel-prize winning author Ernest Hemingway. It is a short distance from El Retiro. Its corner plot hides sumptuous interiors, with thick carpets and comfortable seating. The classical look of the rooms matches the marble bathrooms. A rooftop pool deck provides a space to relax in the sun, while the spa offers a range of treatments. If neither of these hotels are your perfect fit, you can see our hotels in Madrid.
Calle Velazquez 8, 28001, Madrid
Not your average food hall, Platea Madrid occupies the once great Carlos III cinema. Its audience chairs are all gone, leaving a hall filled instead with food producers from around the world. That said, much of the wonderful original architectural features do remain. Narrow wooden beams stretch right around the ceiling, designed by Lázaro Rosa-Violán. He sought to recreate the glamor of the 1950s, which certainly seems true, especially after dark.
Calle de Goya, 5 – 7, Plaza de Colón, 28001, Madrid
A one-stop shop for books, jewelry, and clothing, Anclademar is one of Madrid’s coolest concept stores. With staff that are always seeking out new items to entice, its stock includes a range of ‘deco’ home décorations. Its layout creates the joy and feel of a thrift store, where any treasure might be found. And indeed, this is very much the case, with one-off pieces from small local designers contributing to the eclectic range.
Calle del Barquillo, 37, 28004, Madrid
If you’re planning a trip to the Spanish capital, be sure to check out our Madrid design guide. While its historic attractions are easy enough to find on your own, more recent locally-born trends and cool places to explore can be harder to find. We offer a large selection of tours of Madrid to see more of the city, and curated options for where to stay in Madrid. Or escape the city limits for a more unique experience and take a hot air balloon tour over Segovia!