Madrid – tips from a local

Madrid is huge, with lots of places to see, buildings to discover and museums to visit. The city is easy to enjoy, walk and you’ll find everything. Here’s my friend Ana’s recommendations for a great visit:

Walk around as much as possible and don’t visit over summer or you’ll melt under the burning Spanish sun with temperatures hitting 40°. The best seasons are spring and autumn: March to June and September to November. Winter can be ok too, but the days are shorter and what’s more, you won’t sit outside a bar to have a drink, the best thing to do in Spain.

It’s difficult to discover all what Madrid has to offer in a few days, but here are some of my top tips:

Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Market, Royal Palace, Royal Theatre, España square, Gran Vía street are some places that can be seen in a morning by walking around, they are next to each other. Don’t eat in the Plaza Mayor, as it’s expensive, even more for tourists and the food is not as good. There are better places in streets going out from the square, but if you want to have a great culinary experience, go to San Miguel Market, a former market where you will find more than 20 stands specializing in a different food type including: smoked fish, vines, pickle and meat. In the afternoon near Opera square, you can enjoy a coffee in Cafe Madrid.

Some sights you cannot miss are in Álcala Street and admire the oldest palaces converted into bank offices, don’t miss the statues on the top of the buildings!! Where Gran Vía and Álcala streets converge, you’ll find the Metropolis building, with a spectacular facade and further down, on the right is Circulo de Bellas Artes, with a great area to sit outside. You can go up on the roof for a view of the Madrid skyline.

The next square you will find is Cibeles, with 3 extraordinary buildings in the “corners”: Bank of Spain (Banco de España, next to Circulo de Bellas Artes), Palacio de Telecomunicaciones (ask whether you can go up this building) and Linares Palace. From this square, you can go up or down Paseo dela Castellana, one of the longest avenues in Madrid where you can find museums and the Atocha rail station. So we are still in Alcala Street, walk across Cibeles square and up to Alcala’s door where you go for a walk around Retiro Park.

If you decide to visit Atocha station, you will find the Prado Museum on the way. There are some places to have eat: Museo del Jamón (Ham museum) or El Brillante, in Carlos V square (where Atocha is) for a squid sandwich which is very typical. In the rail station there’s a greenhouse with turtles and enormous palms trees.

Madrid as a big city full of countless of bars, discos for a fun night out. Many of them are near Puerta del Sol, so if you are staying in close proximity, you will have no problem finding them. People will offer discounts drinks and shots in the street, so take advantage. In Plaza Santa Ana, when its warm, make sure you sit outside and enjoy. This zone, called Huertas has lots of places to eat and drink. Another great zone with many clubs and bars is Chueca, it’s the gay area and personally speaking, the best environment I have ever stayed in when going out at night: party, party, party… you will also find many good restaurants here.


Macaron making class

Last week my sister and I learn how to make Macarons at On Patisserie owned by award-winning chef: Loretta Liu. Macarons are made from egg white, ground almonds and sugar – delicate and totally delicious but really difficult to make.

We started off making the macarons which are french meringue. You need to:

  1. Separate eggs three days ahead and leave the egg white in the fridge
  2. Whisk egg whites (at room temp) for about a minute and add 95g caster sugar gradually for another 3-4 minutes till it’s very stiff
  3. Sift 170g ground almond and 260g icing sugar. You can add colour gel here
  4. Fold in the merengue into the dry ingredients using circular movements until it’s all mixed in
  5. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out 4.5cm diameter circles on a silicon mat. Leave until the skin dries (20 minutes)
  6. Bake at 160 C for ten minutes and when ready take out the baking tray. Leave till cool and scrape off.
Chocolate ganache:
  1. Add 200g of dark chocolate into a pan
  2. Heat 190g of whipping cream in a saucepan – stir occasionally and add 50g of unsalted butter
  3. Add chocolate and leave to cool
  4. Once cooled, add to the shells of the macaron.

Have fun making the macarons and more importantly enjoy eating them.