One of Madrid’s most affluent neighbourhoods, Salamanca is named after its founder, José de Salamanca y Mayol (1811–83). The Marquis first saw the commercial possibilities of the area in the 1860s and transformed it with grid-patterned streets and elegant mansions. The new neighbourhood was an immediate hit with the upper classes who found the central districts stifling, and their antiquated homes lacking in things such as flushing toilets and hot running water. Salamanca soon acquired a reputation as a bastion of conservatism and its residents were among the most loyal supporters of the Franco regime. Today the streets around Calle de Serrano, Calle de Goya and Calle de Velázquez form Madrid’s premier shopping district.
Paseo de Recoletos 21 • €€
The haunt of journalists and leading cultural figures, the Gijón was founded in 1888 and is one of the few surviving tertulia cafés where, traditionally, men gathered to discuss issues of the day. Former patrons include the poet Federico García Lorca, the American film director Orson Welles and – more improbably – the famous Dutch spy Mata Hari. Order tapas and drinks at the bar or book a table for lunch. The windows look on to Paseo de Recoletos where the café has its own terrace.
The scale of the Archaeological Museum’s collections can be daunting, so home in on what interests you most. The star turn on the main floor is the Lady of Elche, a stone bust of an Iberian noblewoman from the 4th century BC. There is a niche in the back to hold the ashes of the dead, which is typical of the funerary rites of Iberian culture. Other highlights include a Roman mosaic floor, the Recesvinth crown from the Guarrazar treasure (Toledo, 7th-century) and an ivory cross from the church of San Isidoro in León (1063). Family activities and workshops relating to the exhibits are held every Sunday, from March until December, 11:30am– 2:30pm (see Museo Arqueológico Nacional).
Named after Christopher Columbus, this expansive square commemorates the discovery of the New World. The three monumental slabs near Calle de Serrano symbolize the ships that made the voyage to America in 1492. There is also a conventional sculpture of Columbus, dating from the 19th century. The base shows Queen Isabella I of Castile selling her jewellery to finance the trip.
Calle de Serrano 122 • Metro Rubén Darío or Gregorio Marañón • Open 10am–4:30pm Tue–Sat, 10am–3pm Sun • Closed Mon, public hols • Adm (free 2–3pm Sun & 3:30pm–4:30pm Tue–Sat)
José Lázaro Galdiano (1862–1947) was a patron of the arts and a collector whose Italian-style palazzo is now a museum showcasing his fabulous possessions. There are Spanish works by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya, and European paintings by Constable and Gainsborough. There are spectacular objets d’art, too.
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Situated beneath a road bridge, the open-air sculpture museum is easily overlooked. Nevertheless, exhibited in its windswept precincts are works by a number of outstanding modern Spanish sculptors, including Eduardo Chillida, Julio González, Joan Miró and Pablo Serrano.
Castelló 77 • Open 11am–8pm Mon–Sat, 10am–2pm Sun • Closed public hols
One of Spain’s most vital cultural institutions was founded in 1955 by the banker Juan March Ordinas, to promote contemporary Spanish art. Madrid shares the permanent collection (especially strong on abstract artists of the 1950s such as Tàpies, Sempere, Saura and Millares) with other branches of the foundation in Cuenca and Palma de Mallorca, but the foundation’s (see Fundación Juan March) main attractions are its outstanding temporary exhibitions.
“Paseo” implies a stroll and this lovely avenue, at its best on a sunny morning or just after sunset, was designed precisely for that purpose. The first cafés began to appear in the 19th century when the boulevard was nicknamed “Recoletos beach”. Most of the originals had disappeared by the 1980s when the Movida gave the terraces a new lease of life. The Pabellón de Espejo looks the part with its painted tiles and wrought-iron adornments but actually dates from the 1990s. No. 10 was the residence of the Marqués de Salamanca.
Madrid’s smartest shopping street runs through the heart of the Salamanca district. Here, top Spanish designer names such as Loewe, Purificación García and Roberto Verino rub shoulders with Armani, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Cartier. Even if you’re not especially interested in fashion, there’s plenty to amuse you. Madrid’s best-known department store, El Corte Inglés, has branches at Nos. 47 and 52, while Agatha Ruíz de la Prada is at No. 27. If you’re looking for gifts, visit Adolfo Dominguez’s concept store (No. 5), which stocks great gifts, jewellery and accessories. For a bite to eat, head to the Corte Inglés (No. 52) and choose from one of their restaurants in the Gourmet Experience (6th & 7th floors).
Paseo de Recoletos 20–22 • Library open: mid-Sep–mid-June: 9am–9pm Mon–Fri; Museum open: 10am–8pm Tue–Sat (until 2pm Sun & public hols)
Founded in 1712 by Felipe V, Spain’s National Library is one of the world’s largest. It has occupied its current home, an immense Neo-Classical building on Paseo de Recoletos, since the end of the 19th century. Highlights of its collection include 26 rare 17th-century editions of Cervantes’ classic, Don Quixote, and drawings and etchings by illustrious artists from Goya to Velázquez. The reading rooms are open only to holders of a reader’s card, but the exhibition galleries and fascinating museum are open to all.
Paseo del General Martínez Campos 37 • Open 9:30am–8pm Tue–Sat, 10am– 3pm Sun & public hols • Closed Mon & some public hols • Adm
This museum (see Museo Sorolla) is devoted to the Valencian artist Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863–1923) who spent the last 13 years of his life here. Some rooms have been left as they were in his lifetime, while others are used to hang his work. Dubbed “the Spanish Impressionist”, his subject matter varies hugely, but Sorolla is at his most appealing when evoking the sea. Don’t leave without seeing the Andalucían-style garden.
Minister of Finance at the age of just 34, the Marqués used his position to amass a personal fortune, but his free-spending ways landed him in trouble and in 1847 he fled to France to escape his creditors. On his return two years later, he launched himself into property speculation, but his career as a developer was to be his undoing and he died owing more than six million reales.
Leave Serrano metro station, heading south and limber up with a spot of window shopping on Salamanca’s main fashion drag. Turn left into Calle Columela – try not to pay too much attention to Pastelería Mallorca’s mouth-watering displays of cakes and pastries – then left again into Calle Claudio Coello, a delightful street lined with antique shops and boutiques. Don’t miss Galería Fernando Pradilla (No. 20), Monasterio Antigüedades (No. 21), Cristina Castañer (No. 51) and stylish concept store Isolée (No. 55). Look left at Calle de Goya for the entrance to the shopping mall, El Jardín de Serrano. Cross Goya, then continue along Calle de Claudio Coello to Calle de Hermosilla.
Many Spanish shops take a long lunch break so this is the perfect moment to stop for lunch. Choices abound, but leading contenders include Loft 39 (Velazquez 39), the tapas bar at Estay or Restaurante La Maruca (Calle de Velázquez, 54) for a wide variety of Spanish food.
When you’re ready, head south towards the vibrant thoroughfare of Calle de Jorge Juan, which boasts a number of designer shops, such as Pedro Garcia and Kenzo. Return to Calle de Serrano, Madrid’s boutique boulevard, where you can either ogle over the designer goods and dream, or blow your budget on a beautiful handbag or a pair of shoes.
Calle de Goya 76
This branch of Madrid’s best-known department store also has a beauty parlour, restaurant and supermarket, as well as the usual departments.
Calle de Castelló 8
Rifle through an amazing range of antiques and objets d’art, from retro sofas and Art Deco lamps,
to original oil paintings and gilded-looking glasses.
Calle de Serrano 61
Salamanca’s other main shopping centre also has a good selection of boutiques (including a branch of the Spanish chain of children’s clothing, Neck & Neck).
Calle de Lagasca 36
Antiques-lovers can save time exploring individual shops by visiting this gallery, which brings together Madrid’s reputable dealers.
Calle de Serrano 56
If you love chocolate, look no further than this tiny outlet on Serrano which also sells gift-wrapped sweets. The speciality here is leña vieja (chocolates that are cast to resemble tree trunks).
Calle de Ayala 28
Salamanca’s best-known food market is hidden away on this side street and is worth tracking down for its Spanish delicacies, as well as for its surprisingly wide range of international cheese.
Calle de Ayala 11
This small but famous fruit vendor includes, it is said, Queen Sofía among its patrons. The selection of tropical fruits in particular will stir the taste buds.
Calle de Serrano 6
This reputable delicatessen chain offers a mouth-watering selection of cheese, ham, pastries, filled rolls, cakes and ice cream. Stock up for a picnic, or there’s a small bar if you can’t tear yourself away.
Calle de Goya 6–8
One of Madrid’s most exclusive shopping malls. It has the top names in fashion, accessories and jewellery, as well as a branch of the Mallorca café and delicatessen chain.
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Part of the Inditex Group, which also includes the clothing brand of the same name, Zara Home stocks a great range of stylish and affordable household goods.
Calle de Serrano 68
Spanish celebrities love Alfredo Villalba’s luxurious and highly original designs for women, and his dresses, often elaborately beaded, have adorned many a red carpet.
Calle de Serrano 27
Men and women’s fashions by one of the country’s most original designers, noted for her daring use of colour. Her name can also be found on the accessories, stationery and household goods sold here.
Calle de Hermosilla 34
A favourite with Madrid’s fashion connoisseurs, NAC selects designs from more than 50 labels to create a chic, urban yet relaxed look.
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Loewe may not sound Spanish, but is in fact one of Spain’s longest established names – the first Madrid shop opened in 1846. Renowned for accessories, especially leather.
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Men’s and women’s fashions and accessories by another of Spain’s flagship designers. Claims to cater to confident women who know what they want to wear.
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Like Roberto Verino, Spanish designer Angel Schlesser was once labelled “dissident” but has now moved into the mainstream with his distinctive style of clothes and accessories for men and women. Trademarks include low-key colours and attention to detail.
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When it opened in 1963, Pili Carrera specialized in hand-knitted clothing for babies and children. Today the store is the go-to place for high-end baby and children’s clothes.
Claudio Coello 61
Head to this flagship shop where you can discover the flamboyant shoe and handbag designs of Ursula Mascaró.
Calle de Claudio Coello 51
Espadrilles are not generally associated with high fashion, but this Spanish designer has turned them into an art form. All colours and styles from casual to evening wear.
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One of Madrid’s first concept stores, Isolée mixes fashion, design and gourmet food under one roof. It’s ultra-hip, from its sleek café to its cool choice of music.
Calle de General Pardiñas 21 • Metro Goya • 915 75 23 29 • €€
This traditional azulejo-decorated taberna serves a very tempting tapas selection. The three-course cocido (Madrid stew) is also worth trying.
Calle de Diego de León 9 • 915 64 86 52 • Closed Sun, late Aug • €
This former pharmacy has attractive azulejo decoration (see Tasca La Farmacia). The house speciality is bacalao (cod) prepared in different ways.
Calle Villalar 1 • 914 35 51 06 • €
Great selection of quality, reasonably priced tapas, plus regional mains. Unwind with a glass of wine on the outdoor terrace.
Paseo de Recoletos 31 • 913 08 23 47 • Closed 24 Dec • €
You can choose between the main restaurant or the elegant terrace and conservatory. The terrace serves only a set menu or tapas, and a pianist will serenade you during the summer.
Calle de Serrano 89 • 915 63 09 58 • €€
Attracting a loyal local clientele, the tapas here are said to be among the best in the city. The tortilla is heavenly.
Calle de Lagasca 48 • 914 35 76 08 • Closed Sun D • €€
Decorated with scenes of old Madrid, this place (see El Rincón de Goya) serves standards such as the Madrid stew cocido.
Calle de Hermosilla 46 • 915 78 04 70 • Closed Sun • €
With a touch of sophistication, Estay offers a selection of imaginatively prepared tapas, pinchos and entrées, plus some 60 wines by the glass. The desserts are to die for.
Calle Lagasca 74 • 915 75 70 14 • Closed 1 Jan, 25 Dec • €€
This classic tapas bar has been serving delicious seafood in an elegant setting since 1973.
Calle de Serrano 6, Velázquez 59 • 915 77 18 59 • €
This popular Mallorca chain serves canapés, quiches and other delicious savoury pastries.
Plaza de la Independencia 4 • 914 35 16 66 • €€
This super-stylish restaurant serves an eclectic mix of international dishes. Alfresco dining is available throughout the year.
Calle de Padre Damián 23 • 915 70 07 66 • Metro Cuzco • Closed Mon • €€€
Indulge in the exotic experience of a three-hour gastronomic journey at this three-starred Michelin restaurant (see DiverXO).
Calle de Ortega y Gasset 83 • 914 02 15 83 • €€
Located on a famous street in Madrid, this eatery serves superb Mediterranean cuisine. It is especially renowned for its 34 variations of out-of-this-world rice dishes.
Calle de Lagasca 60 • 915 76 80 35 • Closed Sun, Aug • €€€
Renowned for its seafood, this place (see La Trainera) has a well thought out Spanish wine selection to complements the daily catches from Galicia. Half portions are perfect for sharing.
Hotel Hesperia, Paseo de la Castellana 57 • 912 10 88 40 • Closed Sat L, Sun, public hols, Easter, Aug • €€€
Santceloni with its recipes will transport you to different countries. Apart from the delicious dinner, they also have kitchen workshops.
Calle Ortega y Gasset 29 • 912 75 23 25 • €
A popular Italian restaurant chain, Gino’s offers a wide selection of pizzas, pasta and meat dishes. Their daily menus are especially good value.
Calle de Recoletos 5 • 914 35 08 28 • Closed Easter, Aug • €€
North African specialities are served at this stunning restaurant. Belly-dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
Calle Ayala 6 • 915 75 92 54 • Closed Sun, public hols • €€
This stylish restaurant has several beautifully decorated dining rooms.Meticulously prepared dishes include beef with truffled mashed potatoes.
Calle de Ortega y Gasset 75 • 914 02 12 90 • Closed Sun, Aug • €€
This place serves delectable fresh fish and seafood in an intimate setting.
Calle Claudio Coello 67 • 917 81 82 62 • Closed Sun, Mon, Easter, Aug, Christmas • €€€
Star chef Ramón Freixa’s gastronomic mecca received its second Michelin star in 2010.