Opera and the Palacio Real are two specific buildings but they also describe the area in which they are located, which is pedestrianised and beautifully preserved. There are gardens and bars which, on Saturdays and Sundays, are full of madrileños promenading and street artists playing music or dancing tango.
The Palacio Real (or Palacio de Oriente) is quite ugly itself, like an oversized wedding cake, but the Jardines de Sabatini are worth investigating. The area takes you to the end of Calle Mayor or to Pintor Rosales on the opposite side.
Metro Opera or Plaza de España
Take a window seat in the cafeteria of the Circulo de Bellas Artes, the huge cultural centre at the beginning of Calle Alcalá. Look down at the passers-by and traffic madness at one of the city's busiest spots. You'll be charged once at the door and then again for your drink.
Calle Alcalá, 42; Tel: 91 360 54 00; Metro: Banco de Espana; Admission: €1;
This is a new hotel in the centre of Madrid. The best bit though is the roof terrace bar where you can sit on the white leather recliners or big cushions by the pool and watch the sun set ... or have a sharpener before heading out ... or just watch the cool young things try to out cool each other!
Carrera de San Jerónimo, 34
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