The Barajas Metro Line (number 8) takes only fifteen minutes to deposit passengers in the centre of Madrid's financial district (Nuevos Ministerios). Taxis are available from the airport, but be sure not to accept offers made inside the terminals.
This city tries not to take itself too seriously, so why not see Alex de La Iglesia's The Day of the Beast. This is a spoof terror film in which a priest convinces himself that the anti-christ will be born in Madrid on Christmas Day. He teams up with some local metal-heads as he tries to find a way to Satan in the city's sinful streets.
Currently being revamped and due to open in the spring of 2006, this boutique hotel is right on the Plaza de Santa Ana. It has traditionally been the bullfighters' hotel, so expect to bump into men in tight trousers and sequins during the season at Las Ventas.
Plaza de Santa Ana, 14; Tel: 91 5314500; Metro: Puerta del Sol; www.hardrock.com/locations/hotels2/madrid/
On Calle Santiago, 9, between the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de Oriente. No booking, so get there early. This is Madrid, so early means 8.30pm. Fusion of Mediterranean and Eastern cooking. Ask for the cherry gazpacho.
Calle de Santiago, 9; Tel: 91 5422460
At 14-19 euros the night, it is certainly cheap. Morisco style, chill-out, weekly parties and 24 hour opening make this a desireable spot in the centre. Two to 14 beds per room.
Calle Cañizares, 6; Tel: 91 369 28 07; Metro: Anton Martin; www.catshostel.com/
Paella deluxe or fideua (basically a paella with noodles) at the Champaneria Gala on near the Plaza Santa Ana. Book ahead and try to get a table in the conservatory greenhouse area. Great for lunch. Second lunch-time sitting is at 3.45pm at the weekend (really).
Calle Moratin, 22; Tel: 91 429 25 62; Metro: Anton Martin
The swimming pool on the roof of the Hotel Emperador is open to non-guests. It is expensive, but divine, with great views and has its own snack bar.
Gran Vía, 53; Tel: 91 547 28 00; Mon-Fri: €25, Sat-Sun: €35; www.emperadorhotel.com/
For a bit of arty sophistication, high ceilings, cigarette smoke and some decent cocktails. Gentlemen once met prostitutes here, which, they say, is why the blinds go down as soon as it gets dark (so no one can look in).
Calle Reina, 16; Tel: 91 532 28 26
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;
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