Barcelona's nightlife and restaurant scene may seem like Spain's answer to romance, but Madrid is quickly proving the capital can be just as romantic with its palaces and rose-filled parks. Spend your Spanish honeymoon strolling through Madrid's café-lined streets and toasting to your newlywed status on rooftop bars at sunset with flutes of Cava, Spanish champagne. When you're ready to rest your feet, the ancient Arabic baths will offer just the right remedy to get you feeling relaxed before the long evening ahead of tapas and craft cocktails in tucked-away spots where you'll feel just like one of the locals.
Where to Stay
If you're looking for sweeping city views, the newly opened Barceló Torre de Madrid in the Plaza de España is your place. Housed inside the Torre de Madrid—one of the city's most iconic landmarks—the 258-room hotel sits just steps away from the main drag (and Spanish version of Broadway), Gran Vía, with views looking out across the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral. Head to the eighth floor and relax on the rooftop solarium overlooking the city's skyline. If this doesn't help you feel refreshed after the international flight, get your glow back with a rejuvenating facial treatment at the hotel's spa, French-based Ella Baché.
Near Retiro park, boutique brand Only You just opened up its second location in the city. Fans of spots like Ace Hotel and Soho House will love the scene at Only You Atocha, with its living room-style lobby and buzzy New York-inspired cocktail bar. The seventh-floor wrap-around terrace also happens to be a great place for cocktails come sunset, with DJs spinning as chefs whip up a variety of cuisine from street cart stands.
What to Do
In the center of the city, you'll find Madrid's version of Central Park, the sprawling 300-acre El Retiro, home to glass palaces, a lake with rowboats and the most romantic of rose gardens, filled with 4,000 roses and dating back over a century. The park is perfect for picnicking and laying out when the weather is nice, but if you're looking for relaxation of another form, head to the Hammam Al Ándalus. The Arabic baths sit in a cistern on top of a century-old well in the Almudena neighborhood. Here, you can take your pick of bathing ritual and massage, soaking away any lingering jetlag so you're fresh and ready to take on the town.
While you won't find specific landmarks like Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona, art lovers can still get their fill at Madrid's three main museums: Museo del Prado, Spain's national art museum, whose collection dates from the Middle Ages to the 19th century; the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, home to Europe's largest private art collection; and the Museo Reina Sofía, where you'll find over 20,000 pieces of modern art from the likes of Miró and Picasso. If you're visiting Reina Sofía in the evening, round out your cultural experience with the culture of another form on the alfresco terrace of the café and bar, NuBel. Another cultural center that doubles as a rooftop bar is Circulo de Bella Artes, where you can take in sweeping 360-degree views of Madrid's skyscrapers and domed churches under twinkling lights on the terrace at Azotea del Círculo.
If you're spending a weekend in the city, start your Sunday with a trip to the El Rastro flea market, one of the largest in Europe, with over 3,500 stands spilling out on to the streets around Plaza de Cascorro. Stroll through the stalls of vintage treasures, leather bags, and hand-made jewelry. After getting your shopping fix, do like the locals and take a tapas crawl around nearby La Latina, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods. The trick here is to sample a little bite at each spot, such as Spanish tortilla at Juana La Loca and prawns at Marisquería La Paloma. Don't worry about the food being a bit messy. Half the fun is eating with your hands and throwing napkins on the floor right after. It's all part of the tradition.
Where to Eat & Drink
In addition to La Latina, you'll find tapas at the many markets scattered around the city. The wrought-iron Mercado de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor—the main square that turns 400 this year—is one of the most famous in the city and dates back to 1916. You'll find 33 stands serving up oysters and Cava, as well as classic tapas like banderillas, skewers of olives, pickles, and peppers. For something on the more modern side, turn market dining into a more formal dinner at Platea, a newish food hall set in a former theater modeled after 1920s industrial New York. Start with a drink at cocktail bar El Palco before making the rounds at the stalls in the tapas area, El Patio, featuring some of the best chefs from around the globe.
Over in the trendy Malasaña neighborhood, you'll find streets lined with intimate craft cocktail bars and charming eateries, making it the perfect place to hop around come evening. Dinner in Madrid starts late, so reserve a 10 p.m. seating at one of the newer eateries like the French country chic Bar Galleta, or cookie bar, which serves up a fusion of the Mediterranean and international cuisine to just a handful of tables.
After dinner, head to the "American Bar" downstairs at Angelita, a cozy cocktail bar with plush couches and vintage bar carts that are known for its whimsical anything-goes mixology (think shrimp-infused mezcal). Round out your moveable feast around the city with something sweet like a macaroon from Mamá Framboise, a bakery and tea room that's Spain's version of Ladurée.