Lucie Loves... Travel // How to spend a romantic 2-night city break in Madrid – roof terraces, pretty parks, M.C. Escher and cocktails at 1862 Dry Bar
With thousands of cities all over the world to choose from – how do you pick just one for your next city break? In spring 2017, I took an impromptu trip to Madrid, after spying an offer in the British Airways sale, for 2-nights hotel accommodation and flights for just £100 per person.
Feeling slightly rebellious with a wanderlust-fuelled itch to scratch, I booked it. As luck would have it, our 2-night mid-week mini-break (flying out Tuesday and coming back Thursday) straddled that funny heart-shaped date in the diary, 14th February aka Valentine's Day. A day that's well known for dividing opinion amongst many.
I hadn't intended to do anything in particular on this day. To be fair, I hadn't planned on meeting a significant (again) other any time soon.. especially not one that I might be tempted to celebrate V-Day with... But give me an excuse to see a new city and I will bite your hand off!
As with any city break, road trip or holiday that I like to embark upon, I always do a little bit of research before-hand to find places of interest, independent shops, cafes and cocktail bars to visit.
2-nights isn't very long in any city, but if you plan your time and location wisely, you can see a lot! To make the most of the 3-days we had in Madrid, we chose a 07:25 flight from London Heathrow on the Tuesday morning, which would get us into Madrid for 10:55 and a 20:50 flight home, getting us back to London for 22:05 on Thursday. Making good use of Gordon Ramsay's restaurant 'Plane Food' for an early breakfast before take-off.
One of the things to be aware of when booking any cheap city break is that flight times and/or airports can often be a little inconvenient and eat into the precious hours that you have to explore. To avoid this, check how far the airport in your chosen city e.g.Madrid, is from your hotel, and then look at what transfer options are available.
How much does a taxi cost from Madrid Barajas Airport to Madrid city centre?
Uber fans will be pleased to hear that, at the time of our visit in February 2017, your Uber app will allow you to hail a taxi anywhere in the city.
Never tried Uber? Use my code and get your first ride free (value amounts vary by location): https://www.uber.com/invite/6xwir
We jumped in a taxi at Arrivals and, 35 minutes and 34 euros (approx. £28) later later, arrived at Calle de San Bernado, which is pretty central, but not before marvelling at the fabulous architecture of Madrid Airport.
My thoughts being that we could find a decent cafe bar to settle in, to wile away a few hours before we could check into our hotel, The Holiday Inn by Piramides metro station. Our hotel was situated in a much quieter neighbourhood, in the southern part of the city, but it was still well located, and easy to jump on a tube to visit the livelier parts of the city.
Q. How do you order a beer in Spanish?(A phrase we put to good use!)
A. Por favor puedo tomar una cerveza
We stumbled upon a bar called Cervecería Restaurante Estrella de Galicia Gran Vía – unfortunately, this location is now closed, but there's another one in Madrid that's probably worth checking out. We ordered a couple of Estrella 1906 beers and a selection of Spanish tapas to share – scallops, calimari, croquettes, bread and olive oil.
Total cost – 44 euros for two people (approx. £38)
Dinner @ La Neuva Troje, Cheuca
After heading back to our hotel for an afternoon siesa, we freshened up and headed out for the evening. I'd seen a cool bar in an area called Cheuca. If you're familiar with and a fan of the vibrant and LGBTQ-friendly Soho in London, then this is definitely the area for you to check out at night. I'd pinned a bar called La Neuva Troje onto my Google Maps and we decided to check out of dinner.
From the street, first-impressions of this place are a little ominous... It isn't much to look at, in fact it's a little worn around the edges, but we persevered after reading such good reviews and were glad we did. Inside it's low-lit, artsy (definitely one for the Lego fans out there!) and extremely cosy. I opted for their three-course set menu for a bargain 14 euros, which came with a massive tuna salad, a pork fillet with potatoes and a panacotta with white chocolate for dessert. Rich opted for the tortillas and certainly wasn't disappointed. Is any Spanish holiday complete without a jug of homemade sangria? I think not! A few sangrias, beers and Negronis later (yep! they do great cocktails) having puffed away on a watermelon shisha, we were ready for our beds.
Total cost – 54 euros (approx. £46) for two people for dinner, drinks and shisha.
Brunch @ Pum Pum Cafe
The next morning we walked from our hotel to a little place called Pum Pum Cafe for brunch. It's a hipster-friendly little place, serving great coffee, homemade cakes, avo and eggs and an array of arty magazines. We chose the double eggs Benedict, an espresso, a latter, and fresh orange juice. If you're a big fan of breakfast or brunch, you should add this to your list when you visit Madrid.
Total cost – 24 euros for two people (approx. £21)
Sightseeing @ Madrid's Museum of Archaeology
A visit to the Museo Arqueologico Nacional is a very purse-friendly way of adding a little bit of history to your city break. Step back in time and marvel at the many museum treasures, and learn about prehistory, protohistory, Roman Hispania, Middle Ages, the Modern Era and much more. The museum also offers themed itineraries for those wishing to maximise their visit.
Total cost – Tickets are priced at 3-4 euros for entry to the museum
Rooftop drinks @ Tartan Roof Terrace, Madrid
Now there's a few roof terraces in Madrid to enjoy cocktails, but I'd read that the Tartan Roof Terrace was pretty fancy. What I didn't realise, beforehand, was that you need to pay to get up there in a rickety lift. It was a Wednesday afternoon when we visited, and I expected it to be a bit quiet, but nope! There were plenty of others enjoying afternoon drinks with an almost 360º view of Madrid on the side. We ordered Mojitos, which were ever-so moreish!
Total cost - Entry to the roof terrace costs 3-4 euros per person
Drinks & Tapas @ Alimentacion Quiroga
We had tried to get a table next door at the Italian Restaurant, but found that it didn't open for dinner for another 30 minutes or so. The tapas at Alimentacion Quirogo, just on the corner, looked pretty tempting as a little treat to put us on while we waited. I mean, there's only so long you can go without food, before one of you gets hangry...
Total cost – 20 euros for two people (£17)
Dinner @ Come Prima, Italian restaurant
I'm always a little bit nervous when I get to a restaurant and find that we're either the first or the only couple in there. But, too tired to find somewhere else, we decided to wing it and order the Spaghetti Bolognese, Lasagne, a bottle of delicious Montepulciano red wine, and a selection of warm bread. It would have been nice to see visit on a weekend or perhaps in peak season, then maybe wed this little restaurant come alive
Total cost – 50 euros for two people (£42)
Cocktails @ Zombie Bar
I was surprised at how many quirky bars there are in Madrid within walking distance. I'd pinned Zombie Bar on my Google maps before arriving in Madrid, and again like Come Prima, it was empty when we got there. It felt like, on a weekend, it would have usually catered for a more alternative crowd – at least that's what the skateboards, artwork and music led me to believe. We ordered a plate of Nachos, two house Zombie cocktails, a beer, and some Tequila shots. It's pretty reasonably priced, and also only a short walk to our next bar...
Total cost – 30 euros for two people (£25)
Cocktails @ 1862 Dry Bar
Now, this is the place I was MOST excited about visiting during our stay in Madrid. Entering 1862 Dry Bar is a little bit like stepping back in time, and this time, despite it being a Tuesday evening, it was pretty packed! The place is low-lit with a well-stocked bar. It's the perfect romantic date venue – especially if you can get a coveted seat in the cellar bar. On arrival, I introduced myself to the owner, Alberto, who took the time to talk us through their cocktail menu, and also their extensive selection of whiskey, whisky and bourbon.
There aren't many cocktail bars that have blown me away like this, but, in my opinion, 1862 Dry Bar is up there with Dr. (pronounced Doctor) in Rotterdam, Dandelyan at the Mondrian and Mark's Bar at HIX, in Soho London. Alberto explained that the menu is made up of Classic cocktails (something that are pretty scarce and hard to come by in Madrid) and then each member of their bar team has their own signature cocktail too. There's even one drink, said to be inspired by a cocktail from a very renowned bar called Happiness Forgets, in East London.
If you visit one cocktail bar in Madrid, make it 1862 Dry Bar.
We. Were. In. Heaven!
Cocktails @ Bar Cock
It was closing time at 1862 Dry Bar, but we weren't ready to end our evening yet, so Google Maps in hand, we navigated our way to Bar Cock for more cocktails. I believe the chap is making us a Mint Julep in the photos above. This bar was pretty empty, but I reckon at the weekend it will draw a crowd.
On our final day in Madrid, we wandered the streets doing a bit more sightseeing, had smoothies and crepes, whilst ogling a pretty impressive bridge, and then popped over to Retiro Park. Then it was time to check out the M.C. Escher exhibition at Palacio de Gaviria, eat kebabs for lunch at Greek and Shop and squeeze in a quick trip to Las Ventas Bullring – grabbing a spot of tapas and beers at a nearby cafe, before catching a taxi to the airport for our flight home.
Sightseeing @ Retiro Park
Sightseeing @ Palacio de Gaviria – M.C. Escher art exhibition
Total cost – approx. 30 euros for two people (£24)
Lunch @ Greek and Shop
Two chicken pita and chips, lemon iced tea and 7UP
Total cost – around 15 euros (£13)
In comparison to places like Prague or Barcelona, Madrid feels a little bit more grownup and less stag do-y. If you're looking for a city break that's inexpensive, feels safe to travel around and offers delicious food, add Madrid to your list!
Got any favourite places in Madrid that have been missed off this list? Please share!
Photography © Lucie Kerley