Poolside indulgence in Barcelona.
For history, architecture and culture, look no further than the Madrid, the rather photogenic Spanish capital. Often overlooked in favour of vibrant Barcelona, Madrid perfectly marries tradition with contemporary cultural movements.
In the art department, Madrid will satisfy even the most cultured individuals. There are the big players like The Prado and Sofia Reina yet the smaller spaces, dotted throughout the city, are perhaps even more enjoyable. For a truly unique experience, head to Museo Sorolla in the Chamberi area. The museum is the former home of impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla, arguably Spain’s most famous artist, after Picasso of course. The space itself feels incredibly intimate and is surrounded by Andalucian-style gardens.
If you’re a foodie prepare yourself to fall head over heels for Madrid. You’ll be spoilt for choice in a city that boasts the highest number of restaurants per capita in the world. Not so long ago the options extended to unfussy tavernas and terribly lit bars serving simple traditional Spanish fare - think croquetas, and jamon Iberico. But wander through neighbourhoods like Chueca or Malasana, and it won’t take long to find beautiful, contemporary spaces serving fresh, delectable food for a fraction of the price you’re sure to pay in other European destinations. If you’re after value, you can’t go past a ‘menu del dia’, the two or three course daily lunch special that includes a glass of wine. They range between 10 to 13 euro and will leave you more than satisfied until dinner at 10pm. Try chic Sexto in Chueca for a top quality meal or head to Ochenta Grados in Malasana for a true gastronomic treat.
Shoppers paradise can be found in every corner of Madrid. Head to stylish Chueca for upmarket boutiques and the famous leather strip on Calle Augusto Figueroa for great value shoes. Malasana is the local hipster hangout, so expect to find a host of emerging Spanish designers and pre-loved garments for days. If it’s high-end brands you’re searching for, look no further than Salamanca or head to Calle Fuencarral in the centre for the city’s ‘high-street’ equivalent. Madrid is moving up in the market stakes too. There are markets galore every weekend ranging from the weekly El Rastro flea market to the once-monthly Mercado de Motores, which is held in Delicia's train museum and hosts professional and casual sellers and a live entertainment area where the various food stalls and bars will ensure you stay for hours.
Majestic Madrid will keep travellers of every taste satisfied. Every street holds undiscovered delights and plazas are the perfect place to people watch over a 2 euro glass of Rioja. It’s possible to spend days strolling through the maze-like gardens of Retiro Park or the winding paths of Casa de Campo, which is four times of the size of New York’s Central Park and charming in all seasons. Catch the gypsy art of Flamenco, brave a bullfight at Las Ventas or watch a dramatic sunset at Circulo de las Bellas Artes. To top it all off, the Spaniards welcome travellers with open arms and will revel in sharing with you their brilliant capital and rich traditions.
Against the molten rise
and flight and winged
weight of the church walls
The apartments buckle back
slapping FC Barcelona vests
and lingiere against turmeric brick.
The church is like something
gone extinct and then unforgotten,
a churn of stone, victim
Of accidental apocalypse. Under
a mad gaze it was trumpeted to life,
our last stand against heaven.
Inside, organs and drills unharmonise
a music in the light stone vastness
while tourists flap and pose
For photographic proof of their very
small existences: as if they will become real
in this petrified wood of belief.
Words by Raphael Kabo. Images by Angela Terrell.
If you truly want to lose yourself in the thoroughly Spanish city then make for the iconic Real Alcazar de Sevilla, once the residence of the King of Spain. Pass though an interlinked series of buildings, each as ornate, unique and exotic as the last, and enter the gardens proper. Vibrant, tiled filled and capable of making you feel as if you’re miles away from the bustle of the city centre, this is a blooming nirvana. Here there is nothing but the buzz of dedicated gardeners and a labyrinth-like layout made up of well-trodden paths, themed floral creations, water features, ancient seats and cat-shading trees. All you can do is walk from flowery spot to flowery spot and bask in the beauty (and sun) that surrounds you. It’s re-tamed nature at its best.