Standing in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square, a brass plaque underfoot marks the geographic center of Spain. It is the point from which the distance to the rest of the country is measured – it is literally the heart of the nation. Walk through here within the next year, however, and you’ll find this historic square undergoing a major redesign, with plans for glass pavilions, bicycle lanes and new granite paving.
Fitting for the literal core of the city, the transformation of Puerta del Sol is being mirrored in Madrid – the city is taking on a new topography. After Madrid Rio, the emblematic Plaza de España has recently received a makeover, while the Madrid Nuevo Norte urban regeneration project aims to breathe new life into the north of the city.
As its urban landscape evolves, so does the image of the Spanish capital, showing high style and polish without sacrificing its authentic character. From a string of new luxury hotel openings to a sophisticated dining scene that challenges the perception of Spanish culinary culture, Madrid’s importance on the world stage is growing, taking the lead in culture and creativity, retail, hospitality and gastronomy. Here’s the place to experience Madrid 2.0 in all its glory.
Madrid may be the proud home of Botín, said to be the oldest restaurant in the world, but the city’s contemporary dining scene is looking to the future, eager to cater to worldly, discerning diners.
The opening of Michelin-starred Dabiz Muñoz’s new venture, RavioXO — at El Corte Inglés Castellana — last month was a reminder of how Madrid’s cutting-edge gastronomical offering is reaching a wider audience. The broad appeal of Muñoz’s style – tough but approachable – began with his expanding street food offering, StreetXO, launched in 2012 at El Corte Inglés, which is leading its own food revolution, filling its in-store restaurants with Michelin-starred stars. Starred chefs.
Other revelations worth noting in the city’s smart dining scene: Saddle rolled out its uber-fine dining operation (think caviar, foie gras and Mont Royal pigeon), while the Sandoval brothers behind extravagant Coke unveiled a more casual sibling, Coqueto and Chef. Javier Goya in the Triciclo group opened Sua this year, a modern to spit For tasty meat.
Elsewhere, several recent openings have a global eye: Asiaco fuses Basque and Japanese cuisine and El Hombre Page explores the connection between Cantabria and India, while Nomada (designed to resemble a Bedouin tent) is a culinary journey through North Africa that celebrates Spain’s Islamic history. .
But where Madrid really wins is in showcasing Spain’s gastronomical diversity, gathering and improvising traditions from across the country. Gofioma Safe Cruise’s tasting menu reinvents the likes of Canary Island classics old clothes (pulled beef stew with pork) and meat party (Marinated pork). Cantabria’s Jesús Sánchez, Marbella’s Danny García and Dénia’s Quik DaCosta have also opened new restaurants here within the past two years, offering their regional delicacies to the capital’s palette.
As we look ahead, it’s worth saving a moment for the classics – and Madrid has historic bars in spades. Bow-tie servers pour classic cocktails at Prohibition-style boltholes Bar Cock and Museo Chicot. Both date back to the early 20th century and has been frequented by Spanish artists and intellectuals including Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, as well as Hollywood stars Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn. Steeped in history and expensive wines, such places retain memories of Madrid’s bygone days.
Others, meanwhile, refresh cocktail culture with contemporary flavors. Angelita’s artisanal drink menu features seasonal ingredients from the owner’s family farm; In the Lavapiés neighborhood, Lithuanian couple Gintas and Dovi offer a pared-back, carefully crafted selection at Savas, while a hip, cool crowd has been filling the modern-day speakeasy Syria Brown since it opened in 2019.
But to drink like a true Madrilenian, make time for some sweet vermouth as an aperitif. Casa Camacho and Bodega de la Ordosa are historic in the city vermouthsWhile La Gilderia (esp gildas – olives, anchovies and bell peppers on a cocktail stick – to nibble with your drink) and La Hora del Vermut (quite simply, “Vermouth Time”) seeks to revive this robust liquor for a new generation.
From emporiums under one roof to independent concept stores, Madrid’s streets are lined with establishments that capture the creativity and diversity of the city’s design scene – and in recent years, their appeal has broadened to visitors from the UK, who now shop duty-free.
Almost as prestigious as Puerta del Sol is the distinctive green letter of Spain’s shopping mecca El Corte Inglés – whose flagship on Calle de Raimundo Fernández Villaverde, one of the world’s largest department stores, champions Madrid’s new generation of designers alongside luxury brands. And it’s good news for Brits: El Corte Inglés offers extra incentives for UK shoppers.
Outside, take to the streets to browse what the city’s neighborhoods have to offer. Start on the swish boulevards of the Salamanca district, visiting Spanish powerhouses like Adolfo Domínguez, Balenciaga and Loewe. Then, visit the smart concept stores in Barrios Malasaña and Chueca, from Casa González & González and Amen to El Moderno and Despacio.
Fans of interior design should also stop and look at Iñigo Aragón and Pablo López Navarro at Casa Josephine, among the many furniture and decor outlets at El Rastro – where you’ll also find a lively flea market on Sundays.
Shopping in Madrid is also a deep dive into one of Spain’s most important craft traditions. The trailblazing brand Loewe began as a humble collective of leatherwork artisans in 1846, today it is a global champion for craftsmanship in the luxury sector. To get a first-hand experience of Spain’s rich history of leatherwork, pop into ateliers such as Taller Puntera and Mayorpiel. Evidence of Spain’s ceramic traditions are Cergaledos – Galician ceramicists whose wares feature their signature cobalt blue – and La Officiel, where you can buy beautiful pottery by the weight. Ribes y Casals and Julián López are immersed in the elegance of Spanish textiles.
Calling Madrid an arts powerhouse is nothing new, but the historic institutions that gave the city its first cultural capital are also shaking things up – adding modern perspectives to classical foundations.
Behind the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is French architect Jean Nouvel’s 2005 extension: its angular form, red color and glossy finish are an exciting departure from the 18th-century building that houses the rest of the museum. Together with the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo Nacional del Prado (where the renovation of Norman Foster’s Hall of the Realms is expected to take place in the coming years), you’ve got Madrid’s well-trodden “Golden Triangle” of art. It’s essential for historical blockbusters, from Diego Velazquez and El Greco to Francisco Goya. and Pablo Picasso – but an alternative route might paint a more up-to-date picture…
La Casa Encendida hosts an adventurous program of offbeat exhibitions, including the annual Generacion festival celebrating young artists. At Matadero Madrid, set in a former slaughterhouse, recent events include sound installations by Janet Cardiff and George Buress Miller and an immersive digital experience of Gustav Klimt. Nearby, Conciencia Afro, a black Spanish collective that organizes Madrid’s annual Afro-awareness festival, recently opened a new cultural space.
Host of the annual Arco Madrid art fair, the Spanish capital also has a wealth of homegrown contemporary art dealerships such as Elvira González, Juana de Azpuru and Max Estrella, which trade some of the market’s most valuable names. Across town, Calle Doctor Fourquet is the center of commercial art galleries in the Lavapiés neighborhood, home to Helga de Alver and Maisterravalbuena.
Getting where the action is – a great indicator of the city above – major international hotel brands have recently set their sights on Madrid, drawn to the charm of its historic buildings and seeing an opportunity to refresh them for modern-day travellers. .
The Four Seasons marked its Spanish debut here in 2020; After a major makeover of the 110-year-old Ritz by the Mandarin Oriental Group; And the cherished Villa Magna Hotel relaunched last fall as a stylish Rosewood property. Joining it is the Madrid version, which recently opened with a clean-lined, contemporary look that stands right opposite the 16th-century monastery. Bringing a touch of glamor to Madrid’s hotel scene, it’s another tête-à-tête between old and new that’s found in the Spanish capital.