Madrid, Spain’s second-most-visited city after Barcelona, is home to
3.4 million people of more than 180 different nationalities.
Cosmopolitan and diverse, the capital contains a wealth of cultural and
natural attractions, and one of the continent’s most celebrated food and
Still, in recent years, its population has decreased by nearly 35,000
people, with many, especially millennials, seeking the wide-open spaces
and lower cost of living of small towns. Now, Madrid is in the midst of
an image overhaul meant to attract new visitors and residents, with a
singular promise: This isn’t your grandma’s capital city. Between now
and mid-2023, guests can visit freshly renovated historic places, new
museums, the city’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and an array of
hotels and chef-driven restaurants.
“We’re trying to build a new Madrid,” said Hector Coronel, CEO of the
Madrid Tourism Board. "We recognize that we need a good balance between
tourism and the citizen.”
Plaza de Espana has undergone a US$85 million renovation with higher accessibility in the form of new pedestrian and cyclist areas, and greener features. Photo Credit: Adobe/Valery Bareta
Madrid’s 13 plazas, or urban squares, are hubs for socialising and
dining. They’re also centres for community celebration, particularly
during the holidays. So, it's no surprise that serious money is being
invested in rejuvenating these spaces.
Following a four-year, US$85 million renovation, the Plaza de Espana,
one of Spain’s largest, reopened late last year, with live plantings,
lighting and improved pedestrian access. From above, the new design
looks a bit like an ice cream cone, with a broad circular section — home
to weekly food vendors and pop-up markets — that tapers at the monument
to Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. Visitors can now
walk between Gran Via, the Nubian Temple of Debod, Plaza de Oriente,
Sabatini Gardens, Campo del Moro Gardens and Madrid Rio Park.
Renovations are underway at Puerto del Sol, a central square that
sits at the confluence of some of Madrid’s most historic and busiest
streets. In addition to a new glass-walled commuter train station and
live plantings, the city will improve pedestrian access by relocating
two iconic statues of King Carlos III and a bear sniffing a strawberry
tree. Puerto del Sol is scheduled to reopen in time for eating the “12
grapes of luck” as the clock on the Royal Post Office rings in the new
New hotels and restaurants in Madrid
Four Seasons Hotel Madrid is located in the city centre offering 200 rooms, inclusive of 39 suites, two restaurants, a spa, meeting rooms, an indoor swimming pool and a roof terrace.
Four Seasons Hotel Madrid, which opened during the pandemic, has so
far flown under the radar. Located on the corner of Calle de Sevilla and
Calle de Alcala, the hotel is an architectural stunner that pays homage
to the building’s historic roots, with plenty of swanky modern touches.
It also features a 1,500-piece collection of original art, and a
rooftop brasserie and bar from Andalusian star chef Dani Garcia.
The newly opened Thompson Madrid, on Plaza del Carmen along Madrid’s
high-end “Golden Mile,” has 174 luxury rooms and suites with a sleek,
mid-century aesthetic. Its food and beverage venues are managed by
premium brand Grupo La Ancha, and include a rooftop terrace bistro and a
speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
Mid-priced Ocean Drive opened its doors earlier this year on Plaza de
Isabel II, opposite the Teatro Real opera house. A four-star hotel, it
has 72 spacious, modern rooms (some with private terraces), as well as a
restaurant and rooftop bar and sun deck.
VP Plaza Espana, which overlooks the namesake plaza, is ideally
positioned to capture both executive travellers and vacationers. It has
214 rooms and suites, a fitness center, a spa and a rooftop pool, plus
1,400sqm of flexible conference rooms. Some of the best views in the
city are available from the hotel’s upper floors and Ginkgo Restaurant
& Sky Bar.
Value accommodation Hotel DWO Yuste Alcala has an easygoing,
minimalist vibe, with an outdoor snack and cocktail bar. The Social Hub
Madrid, about 10 minutes from the Royal Palace, was created for students
and long-stay visitors. It offers furnished rooms with a private bath,
and access to a variety of communal spaces, a gym, laundry facilities
and a bike-share program.
Madrid has welcomed a number of new eateries from prominent
international chefs. These include Robuchon, from the restaurant group
founded by late, lauded French chef Joel Robuchon. The interplay between
the “mathematics of spices” and typical Spanish ingredients is the
focus of NAMAK, by Nadeem Siraj.
Meanwhile, Dabiz Munoz, named the world’s top kitchen alchemist two
years running by the Best Chef Awards, helms Ravioxo, a pasta- and
dough-themed restaurant within the El Corte Ingles complex on Paseo de
And Nobu Madrid, opening in 2023, will bring the American icon to
Spain in the form of a luxury hotel with a three-level restaurant and
The sprawling grounds of Liria Palace allows guests to immerse in 19th-century opulence. Photo Credit: Palacio de Liria
Liria Palace, the circa-1770 palatial private residence of the Alba
family and one of the most architecturally important buildings in the
city, opened just prior to the pandemic, only to shut down again until
this year. The family’s extensive art collection contains paintings,
sculpture, tapestries, documents and personal effects. Like the Prado,
it’s heavy on masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Francisco Goya, El
Greco and Diego Velazquez. Unlike Madrid’s best-known art museum, Liria
Palace is rarely beset by crowds.
As hard as it is to believe, Madrid didn’t have any UNESCO World
Heritage sites until last year. This has been rectified with the
designation of the “Landscape of Light”, comprised of the tree-lined,
scenic Paseo del Prado and El Retiro Park. Paseo del Prado stretches
from Atocha Plaza to Plaza de Cibeles and contains dozens of historic
buildings and monuments, plus the entrance to the massive Royal
Botanical Gardens. The 300-acre El Retiro is one of Europe’s prettiest
urban parks, with 15,000 trees, five gardens, a large lake, dozens of
sculptures and the spectacular Glass Palace.
Look for two major openings next year, as well. The Gallery of Royal
Collections, on the Plaza de la Almudena, will highlight the history of
the Spanish monarchy, from the 1400s through Juan Carlos I, through its
art collections. Following a seven-year facelift, Santiago Bernabeu
Stadium will usher in a new era of championship soccer for home team
Real Madrid. The 85,000-seat arena will also be used for other sporting
events and for concerts.
Source: TravelAge West