11 am – As soon as you arrive in Madrid, head for Mallorca en Madrid at Calle de la Cruz de Sur. This is not part of the Pasteleria Mallorca chain, which has locations all over the city and isnt nearly as good. Try the multi-coloured ensaïmades and the chocolate churros- complete foodie heaven. Once you’ve recovered from the sugar coma, pick up a picnic for lunch as you have a busy day ahead of you.
12pm – The first place on our list is the Thyssen museum, around 5 minutes walk from Mallorca en Madrid.
2.30pm – Lunch in Retiro park, immediately behind the Thyssen museum. There’s plenty of shade if the sun is pounding down and around the boating pond is particularly nice. Many guidebooks mention the statue of the devil, which is supposedly the largest in the world- don’t bother visiting it. It is at the furthest corner of the park and when you ignore the massive column that it sits on is only around 3 or 4 feet tall. If you visit anything in the park while you are there, make it the Palacio Velasquez a spectacular building which is home to temporary exhibitions from the Museo Reina Sofía- our next stop.
4pm – After lunch head for the Museo Reina Sofía, just outside the park. Mostly known as the home of Guernica, it houses some fantastic exhibits- especially those about life under Franco, a time rarely discussed in Spain.
6pm – Pass the foutains of Cibeles and Jupiter to arrive at the Museo del Prado.
9pm – Catch the subway to Puerta del Sol, and have a walk around. Book a table at Restaurante Botin, the oldest restaurant in Europe and home of the best pork that I have ever tasted. Alternatively, try La Capilla de la Bolsa- my personal favourite restaurant in Madrid. Everything is excellent, so plump for the tasting menu. It features a lot of fish and truffles and will not disappoint. Remember to save room for dessert at all costs, I have made the mistake of finishing my main course before and I have come to seriously regretted it when I see other people’s desserts!
11pm – Visit the bars around Sol, stopping for a drink at any that don’t seem packed. You may want to go clubbing at this point but this is still dinner time for Spaniards. Another option is the terrace of ME hotel on Plaza de Santa Ana, with superb views over the whole city. Whilst the Urban Hotel’s terraza is more well known, it’s clientele appears to be made up almost exclusively of groups of sleazy forty-something men.
2am – This is probably the best time to head out and the one standout club that I would recommend is Tupperware (madrilenos call it Too-per if you’re booking a taxi). Behind the bar are fake TV sets which they’ve used as boxes within which to create their own homages to pop culture- they have everything from the Beatles figurines, complete with instruments to the Brady Bunch and Dracula dolls. The music is superb, the drinks measures are generous and the regulars are extremely friendly. Order a red vermouth (the barman will not understand vermouth until you say ver-moo) or one of their cocktails- they don’t advertise them but have a range of signature cocktails that are truly superb.
10am – Start the day with a stroll along Gran Via and stop for breakfast at one of the cafes that pave it. After breakfast, spend a few hours shopping, even brands like Zara and Mango that we have in the U.K have completely different stock here, and many of them have their flagship stores here.
2pm – Visit the Palacio Real, the Spanish (and even more opulent) equivalent of Buckingham Palace. There are guided tours available but you can rent a headset that lets you move around at your own pace. In the basement they have armour for tiny children and dogs, which is well worth a visit. The restaurant is really good for a museum, and you could easily spend all day here- if you have more than 36hours in Madrid then I would recommend that you do this. Outside the Palacio Real there are lots of Thai masseurs and acupuncturists and they are fantastic. Stop for one and then continue the relaxation at Plaza de Oriente, a beautiful cafe opposite the palace.
6pm – Take a taxi to Parque Europa, in Torrejón (close to the University of Madrid). It features scaled-down models of all the major landmarks in Europe and proves once and for all that Madrid is the only European capital that you really need to visit.
9pm – Pass the house where Cervantes died, just off Calle Huertas, on the way to its jazz bars. For dinner, visit the many tapas bars that are scattered around the street. I would particularly recommend La taberna de Huertas.
11pm – Grab some chocolate churros at Chocolat on Santa María, 30 before heading back to the airport.
Photo credit: Wiki commons & Anya Fitzpatrick