Last week I visited Madrid, Spain’s capital, for the first time, extremely excited to see what wonders the city held. Over my week of visiting I was able to track down some really cool spots, great places to eat and shop in particular. Yet in all honesty, I wasn’t smitten with the city! It felt like it lacked a unique POV, it felt very generically “big European city” which, you know, isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it was also the fact that I was visiting in winter? I have a feeling that if I visited in late spring or early summer my opinion of the city might be different.
I also should say that I wasn’t a huge fan of either El Prado or Reina Sofia. Both places were incredibly packed, El Prado more-so, and the signage and flow of both museums were both confusing and frustrating. It was great to see Guernica, and I loved seeing all the Goya’s, but man, it felt like it was so much work to see anything!
Still, there are lots of great places to explore in the city. I had a number of incredible meals and was able to find some really next level places to shop. Here are my recommendations of places to visit “El Corazón de España.” And as I always do, this is my Google Maps of locations I bookmarked before and during the trip, in case you’re interested!
The first place I ate the when I arrived in Madrid set the tone for a series of amazing meals over the trip. ARAIA is a conceptual restaurant with a menu finding inspiration from a mythical, Mediterranean island called Araia, and those people’s culture. Don’t let the fanciful story mislead you. The service was impeccable and very friendly, my partner and I (plus our two dogs!) felt welcome as soon as we walked through the door. The vibes were spot on, plenty of mood and texture, great lighting throughout, and a soundtrack for the night that started out with The Roots. And of course, the food, which I felt was one of the best meals I had during the trip. The star dish in my mind being their take on a cassoulet, which really hit the spot on a cold, winter evening.
Mediterranean Restaurant — www.araia.es
One of the most beautiful cheese shops in the world. Formaje represents a quesariá that combines old world pragmatism with timeless interior design. The selection of cheeses is overwhelming though the friendly staff makes it easy to find your perfect queso for snacking.
Quesariá / Cheese Shop — www.formaje.com
There is one place I visited during my trip that I really wish existed in Barcelona, and that is SPORTIVO. A pair of clothing stores in located in the Conde Duque area, they carry, in my opinion, the best brands out there. Think A Kind of Guise, Dries Van Noten, BEAMS PLUS, Lady White Co. and so much more, amazing items for everyone. I loved that the store was packed with clothing, and you felt like you could dig around to find uncovered gems. I snagged this beautiful BEAMS PLUS cardigan and I’m obsessed with it!
Clothing Store — www.sportivostore.com
One of the very first spots on my list was GOTA, the quaint little wine bar which I wrote about last year. There’s so much to enjoy about the space, with it’s custom built bar area, a record player and mixer embedded within. The seating is limited but cozy, and the wine selection offered me a number of things I hadn’t heard of.
Natural Wine Bar — www.gotawine.es
The other most amazing place to go shopping is WOW Concept. There are two stores in Madrid, though I was only able to visit the Serrano location, which you can se above. Think Dover Street Market kind of vibes, lots to choose from, floors and floors of interesting products to peruse. Funny enough, I didn’t have this on my map initially, I luckily walked past it. Be sure to take the time to experience every floor, well worth it.
Clothing Store — www.wowconcept.com
So the other amazing meal I had was at Llama Inn, a contemporary Peruvian restaurant that is neighbors with GOTA. All the food was incredibly inventive, like a quinoa dish with banana, the cocktails were so tasty, and everything was incredibly fresh. I have to say the service here was also exquisite, so major props to Madrid on that.
Peruvian Restaurant — www.llamainnmadrid.com
I think the most eclectic and interesting spot I went for coffee had to be ACID, a chain of trendy (in a good way!) coffee shops. I stopped by their Bakehouse location which is, obviously, where they make all their baked goods. The coffees are extremely well prepared, and the aforementioned baked goods are top notch. I loved their grilled cheese sandwich with house-made kimchi. In fact, I liked it so much I brought a bottle home with me!
Coffee Shop and Bakery — www.acidcafe.es
There were few stores that really wow’ed me but I have to hand it to Veja, who has created a flagship store unlike any other. Instead of adding onto the space, the space was stripped back to to show the age and craft that went into it. Again, this is another space by Plantea Estudio, who are basically the kings of fantastic interiors in Madrid.
Sneaker Store — www.veja-store.com