If you’re visiting with a group (or you and your partner have different tastes), avoid deliberations about what and where to eat with market dining. Instead of stalls piled with produce and people calling out their wares, the mercados in Madrid host gastronomic gems, chef-led workshops and daily cooking demos.
Take Mercado de San Ildefonso. You all pitch up in the market centre on a long, communal bench. Then, while one of you dashes off to order steaming croquettes from one outlet, another could be knocking back cool Galician oysters. In Platea, you’ll have your pick of Basque pintxos, plates of squid and platters of sushi, and macarons to rival Parisian patisserie. There are even chic bars for late-night stop-offs.
While many visitors pound Madrid’s sightseeing trail, thrill-seekers look elsewhere to get pulses racing. After all, there aren’t many places you can go skydiving or skiing in the middle of a major city.
Indoor wind tunnels let you experience freefalling without going near an aeroplane – or venturing far from the best Madrid hotels. Visit the drop zones at Madrid Fly or Windobona for an adrenaline-raising fall, whether you’re a junior jumper or parachute pro.
Closer to the ground, Madrid SnowZone lets you ski in mid-summer. There’s everything from beginner slopes to black runs – and even toboggans. Or, you can combine sightseeing with sports on a running tour. It’s easy to get to Casa de Campo – and back to nature – in just minutes from the centre. If you plan to stick to a city-based route, brace yourself for the hills.
Go curio chasing
Madrid has its share of department stores and international brands, but quirky shops still stand the test of time here. Seseña, for example, has sold capes (and capes alone) since the turn of the century.
By contrast, you never know what you’ll find at El Rastro. What was once a cattle market has become the capital’s largest open-air flea market, with thousands of stalls clustered through old streets and plazas each Sunday. Just have your wits about you – it draws pickpockets as well as shoppers.