Beautifully kept and little known ornamental gardens behind the Royal Palace. A total respite from the hustle and bustle outside. Frequented at weekends by swarms of meringue clad brides and their grooms posing for the album in the lush elegant surroundings. When tired of the peace and solitude it is just a stone's throw from the large converted Estación del Norte shopping centre, and when you are sick of that pop straight down to the Goya frescos nearby, right next door to Casa Mingo where you can eat there yummy chicken for lunch washed down with real Asturian cider.
Take the C circular bus or go to Principe Pio metro station. For the frescoes in the chapel where Goya is buried and which he painted himself walk straight down the Paseo de San Antonio de la Florida to the twin chapels of San Antonio - only one has the breathtaking frescoes, recently restored.
Small lightly fried very mild green chillies. They taste great with a small glass of beer. A plate of 20-30 lightly fried mild green chillies, all seemingly harmless until you eat the rogue chilli! Uncomfortably hot and a source of great amusement for your companions.
Any tapas bar
Madrid's second most famous art museum. It doesn't have Las Meninas or cute art students doing copies of the Old Masters. But nor does it have the Prado's crowds and the endless succession of suffering Jesuses and portraits of Spanish royalty and their mates.
Paseo del Prado, 8
As a university exchange student in Madrid, there was no better place to hang out and meet new people. Very laidback and no-frills vibe, almost like a local. Open beer and calimocho bar most nights.
Luchana,15, Bilbao Metro station, right next to the Palafox cinema
A Sunday street market something like a cross between Portobello and Brick Lane ... not to be missed, but be very careful with valuables; a friend of mine had the back pocket of her extremely tight jeans cut off with a razor without her noticing and lost 2000 pesetas ... and she's Madrileña ... that was years ago, they're more sophisticated and violent these days...
Metro: Tirso de Molina
A simple bar where you can find beer and marisco (sea food) by weight. Its always busy and it's in the centre of shopping neighbourhood Barrio de Salamanca. So it's the greatest pit stop.
Cervecería La Cruz Blanca
Goya, 70 (esq. Alcalá)
Tel: 91 575 00 52
Science museum up north not far from Parque Guell (the Gaudi park) - museum full of didactic machines and good explanations - kids loved it and so did us parents - to make a real day of it make trip coincide with planetarium thingys, etc.
Up the top of the city to the left of Guell park on the map
The museum not to miss while in Madrid is the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This private art collection housed right accross from the infinitely more famous Museo del Prado, features paintings from the 16th through the 20th centuries by some of the world's most prominent artists, including Caravaggio, Monet, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Picasso, O'Keefe and Hopper, among others. The quality an diversity of the collection is uncomparable, yet it is a size that is manageable and won't cause 'museum-fatigue'. So you'll have enough time and energy after your visit to get out and see the rest of what Madrid has to offer!
Paseo del Prado, 8
On Sunday afternoons, after a long lunch, this is the best park to laze around in. Surrounded by natural beauty, with the sun sparkling upon the waters of the boating lake, you can enjoy the spontaneous gathering of people as they dance amongst the statues to the beat of crazy tribal drums. Not to be missed if ever you are in Madrid.
Nearest Metro Stations: Retiro and Ibiza.
Excellent value hotel (45 euro - single, 58 - double). Ikea furnishings, but beautiful building. Fantastic location, close to P. del Sol, Plaza Major, etc., but not noisy. Internet access, air con and fridge in rooms! Very friendly staff.
Calle de la Cruz, 26 - 4° Piso
28012 - Madrid - Spain
Tel: +34.91 521 13 39, +34.91 521 56 12
nearest metro: Sol
It's a Moorish palace from the Moor occupation. It's much less manicured than al Hambra in Granada, thus much more human in atmosphere and scale. If you're a fan of Islamic art (I am) then your breath will be taken away by the exquisite, mathematically inspired carvings.
It's right in the centre by the cathedral, which is dark and dingy in comparison
Seeing as it's almost impossible to get a room now it's safe to say the secret's out. Hotel Banys Orientals is, possibly, one of the best value hotels in Europe - it's a boutique, designer property at a budget price.
Rooms come with hardwood floors, minimal four-poster beds, black-and-white prints on the walls, neutral décor and subtle lighting. And it's ideally located between the Gothic Quarter and the Born district. What's the catch? Well, there wasn't one. Now it's getting a reservation.
This is one of those great places that you think you've just discovered and then find every other visitor knows it. You get live music in a cool cavernous setting. Plenty of locals seem to go there too. Easily missed - just a small door in the wall and not much to advertise it. Especially good to hear a bit of flamenco, with some authentically gurning singers. Free entry.
Calle Levies - in the Barrio S Cruz. Best to ask someone
The Carmen is a large four-star hotel in the centre of Granada. It has a restaurant serving excellent breakfasts and evening meals, a large comfortable lounge with bar, a piano bar, outdoor pool and roof terrace. Everything about it is high quality; from the bedrooms and public rooms, to the efficiency and friendliness of the staff.
The Carmen is quiet and relaxing, depite being only a five-minute walk from the cathedral and a ten-minute bus or taxi ride from the Alhambra.
Acera del Darro, 62 Granada, ES 18005
Tel: +34 958258300
Some bars resemble shrines on which the faithful worship the gods of good drink, good food and good companionship. This is one of these. Just a hop from Picasso Museum (Barri Gotic), it melts ageing local customers, trendy young crowds and the odd tourist into revering its wonderful cava (really affordable) and great tapas (don´t miss the anchovies).
C/Montcada 22, Barcelona, phone(00 34 93) 319 7003
Located in the former Casa de la Caritat building, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona offers a wide range of multidisciplinary activities to visitors. The original, inspiring exhibitions on art, thought and contemporary society often take an alternative slant on life and usually have accompanying descriptions in English.
The museum also organises concerts, audiovisual festivals and debate, which take place in the open courtyard in the summer months. It also plays host to the famed Sonar music festival in June. There's a pleasant terrace at the back of the museum for a quiet coffee in the sun.
Tel. 933 064 100
Metro Plaça Universitat
Not far from the Ramblas, behind the MACBA
A restaurant above the world-famous cookery school where the waiters are chef's in waiting and the food is spectacular. You have to order your dessert as you order your starter and mains to give them time to construct the little pieces of art. It's a cracking little restaurant in the coolest area of Barcelona. Ignore the photo's of celebs on the wall and enjoy modern catalan cuisine with an artistic edge. Approx £50-60 per head.
Argenteria 74-78, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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