Acquaint yourself with some of the best artists to have ever worked in Spain, plus other masters from across Europe. El Greco, Goya and Velázquez are all on the must-see list, including the latter’s stunning 'Las Meninas'. Frankly, that would be enough to satisfy most artistic appetites for an entire week, but if you have the stamina, it is also well-worth seeing Dürer's extraordinary 1498 'Self-Portrait', and the unparalleled collection of paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and… and… and… the list goes on, really. This is the big daddy of all the art galleries in the city, and it is unmissable.
Every Sunday the Ribera de Curtidores transforms itself into a giant cauldron of curiosities. Antiques, handicrafts, clothing, jewellery, leather goods and more all have their place in the jumble of street stalls that begins to spring up from 7am. Each week the market is awash with locals and visitors alike, all keen to be part of the Rastro’s rich 500-odd-year history – but pickpockets work the crowds, so don’t drop your guard when visiting this must-see phenomenon.
Some paintings are so good they are worth getting on a plane for just to see once. Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ is the showpiece. This stunning anti-war image is even better when seen in the flesh. Be warned: it is incredibly moving. However, once you have paid that masterpiece suitable homage, we recommend checking out the permanent collection and the top-notch temporary exhibitions at this former hospital.
San Ginés has been serving chocolate and churros 24 hours a day since 1894. It uses a prepaid ticket system to accommodate 5am queues of late-night revellers and chipper old ladies. If you fall into the former category, be warned: this place is very well-lit. At least there are tables outside.
You don’t have to travel to Cairo to see Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Strangely enough, Madrid has one too. The Templo de Debod dates back more than 2,200 years and honours the gods Amun and Isis. But wait, the history boys shout, when did the Egyptians come to Madrid to build a temple? Well, they didn’t. But in 1968, the Egyptian government sent every historic brick of this place to Spain as a thank you for helping to preserve monuments that could have been destroyed by the Aswan Dam. Which is almost as cool a story as if it had been in Madrid for thousands of years.
The Círculo de Bellas Artes is the place to be if you love high-quality culture, including concerts, plays and a changing schedule of exhibitions. Or, it is the place to be if you want to take in beautiful vistas across Madrid. Personally, we love doing a bit of both while making sure never to leave the building without at least a quick trip up to the rooftop terrace.