Skip to main content

Madrid Basics

Eat well


Casa Labra has been around since 1860. This historic tapas bar still continues to draw a crowd. Follow the long line if you wish to load up on tapas and eat outside at one of the hard to get tables. Or try to secure a seat in the small restaurant indoors where you can order the specialties of the house which are the croqueta de bacalao (cod croquette) and empanadilla de carne (meat turnover). Casa Labra is on Calle Tetúan. Check their website for their menu and prices.

Gourmet Experience at El Corte Ingles on Plaza Callao
The Gourmet Experience is on the top floor of this department store. There are a number of counters offering different kinds of tapas. I ordered a pintxo of cod with a cool and light tinto de verano. There's also a gourmet store on this floor where you can find wine, Spanish olive oil, olives, chocolates, delicacies and kitchen accessories for the gourmand. The view from the balcony of the rooftops of Madrid is probably enough to entice anyone to check this place out. Drink plus pintxo at Me Voy a Tomar Una Cai equals 6,25€.

A pintxo of cod and a tinto de verano

Pastries and Hot Chocolate:

Chocolateria San Gines
I love that thick chocolate taste. It reminds me of my childhood days. And those long churros are great for dipping. It's not coated with sugar as they are in the United States. Chocolateria San Gines is the go to spot for the after theater crowd and late night revelers. This is another one of those old institutions in Madrid. It dates back to 1894. It's open 24/7.

El Riojano

El Riojano is an elegant little teahouse established in 1855. It has an irresistible array of pastries and cookies to choose from. And there's ice cream too! Great place for breakfast or afternoon merienda. Calle Mayor, 10.

La Mallorquina on Puerta del Sol

La Mallorquina is a good place to load up on pastries. They have not raised their prices much over the years. Most of their rich pastries like the plain napolitana sell at 1,20€ and 1,10€ for a rosquilla. They have a stand up counter where you can sip your coffee or drink your soda if you're in a rush. There's also a sitting area on the second floor.


Lara - Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 4 (near the Gran Via)
Lara is known for its comida casera or "home cooked" cuisine. They serve generous portions with each course. We had the fixed menu with appetizer, entrée, and dessert and I was already full with the eggplant I ordered for starters. The proprietors were gracious and we were well fed. Though the restaurant is close to the Gran Via, the neighborhood is nice and laid-back.

Mercado San Anton in the Chueca neighborhood, Calle Augusto Figueroa 24
I ordered skewered tuna from 7 Delicatessen Islas Canarias on the second level. It was a novelty for me to eat tuna marinated in adobo sauce. The adobo sauce really transformed the tuna. It was quite tasty. 12€.

Garbo Restaurante on Plaza del Carmen
I love truffles so I ordered pasta with truffles. I sat in the main dining room as it was too hot to sit in the terrace. I like the relaxed ambience of this restaurant. It's great for solo diners. Tallarin tartufo plus a glass of wine added to 16,65€. Price includes a 1,50€ cover charge. 

dNorte Taberna at C/Mesoneros Romanos 8

Merluzza Cantabrico

I ordered the Merluza Cantabrico and it was soft, moist and flavorful. With wine the bill came to 15,50€. The restaurant consists of three floors plus an outdoor terrace. Fast and efficient service.

Gino's - C/Gran Via 43

Tavola di Crostini

The Tavola di Crostini above is more than enough for three people. Our bill with wine was 33,40€ including a Pizza Pollo Marinato and a Merluzzo prezzemolo. Enter the restaurant through the VIPS bookstore on the Gran Via and take the stairs down to the basement.

People Watch

La Marinera on Plaza Mayor
For the price of a glass of wine, you can sit at any of the outdoor cafés for as long as you wish. This can be habit forming. So much going on at Plaza Mayor. I watched a group of joggers run across the square while one of them took a group selfie with his monopod as he jogged along. What will they think of next? Glass of wine is 4€. They'll give you chips to munch on for free.

Plaza Santa Ana

This is a nice neighborhood close to the Puerta del Sol but less hectic. Lots of good tapas bars in the neighborhood. 

Sleep well
Hostal Triana
Calle de la Salud, 13 (at Plaza del Carmen)
Convenient location, friendly staff and reasonable room rates. Request for a room away from the street. Close to Puerta del Sol and Gran Via, shopping, restaurants. Metro stop is Gran Via or Sol.

Free entry days and times at these museums:
Reina Sofia
Saturday from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

6 to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Airport transportation
The Metro is a convenient and least expensive way to go to the center of Madrid. The transfer station is Nuevos Ministerios if your destination is Gran Via, Sol, or Callao. The ticket as of the writing is 5€ which can be purchased at any machine at the Barajas airport station.  It's difficult to take the Metro with heavy or oversize luggage as there are no elevators and not all stations have escalators. I had to lug my 21-inch suitcase up several flights of stairs. Though I packed light, it was still a challenge!

Alternatively, there are airport shuttles that can be arranged in advance. Check with your hotel if they can set up your airport pick-up or drop-off.  I paid 22€ for the trip back to the airport with Aerocity. 


Calle del Carmen

The biggest sale of the year in Madrid is in July.  This is also when Madrid is inundated with visitors so the shops are packed with people. Since Spain is the home of Zara, they have branches all over the city. But there are many similar boutiques to browse for clothes and accessories like Sfera, Lefties, Lft, and the popular H&M. I bought several blouses to replenish my meager wardrobe. The department store, El Corte Ingles, has clothes and accessories as well as souvenirs, home goods, electronics, and a supermarket. I fell for a leather handbag and some wallets. And they provide assistance with filing VAT forms so you can be reimbursed for the taxes you paid for your purchases. There's a minimum amount of purchase to qualify for reimbursement.


Images by TravelswithCharie


Popular posts from this blog

Carlos "Botong" Francisco, A Nation Imagined

Carlos "Botong" Francisco, FILIPINO STRUGGLES THROUGH HISTORY Oil on canvas, 1964, (located at ManilaCity Hall) A National Cultural Treasure owned by the City of Manila
Carlos Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined is the latest art installation at the AyalaMuseum in Makati to celebrate the 100th birthday anniversary of Carlos “Botong” Francisco (1912-1969), a Philippine National Artist. Forty paintings and lithographs were culled from various private collections to form this exhibition. Of the large scale paintings on display, Maria Makiling and Fiesta, both oil on canvas, are representative of the indigenous genre which Botong loved to portray. In Maria Makiling, Botong reveals a relaxed and recumbent woman with her legs dangling in the cool waters of the stream and playing with an exotic deer by her side. Fiesta is about how the Filipino people gather to celebrate an important occasion, be that a religious feast or a wedding. The central figures are dancing the tinikling, a po…

Sonnet of Sweet Complaint - Federico Garcia Lorca

Lorca's house in the outskirts of Granada
Today I gave a travel presentation at work about Spain and I included this sonnet from one of Spain's greatest poets/playwrights, Federico Garcia Lorca. It's full of visual imagery which not only gives the reader the ability to see what he's written but it also leads the mind of the reader in search of meaning.

Sonnet of Sweet Complaint
Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose your breath
places on my cheek at night.
I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair.
If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master,
never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

The original Spanish version below is from

Soneto de la Dulce Queja

Greenhills Shopping Center Revisited

Religious articles
It's been years since my last shopping trip to Greenhills Shopping Center. We were looking for some giveaways for a big meeting and Greenhills has an incalculable array of gift ideas. We started in the jewelry section and found a fresh pearl bracelet with an attractive and colorful accent stone for P95.00. We were able to bargain with the vendor since we were buying 50 pieces. She marked down the price to P70.00 for each bracelet.
Greenhills is divided into sections - handbags and accessories, clothing (separate sections for men and women), jewelry, home decor, souvenirs, Filipiniana arts and crafts, shoes and knick knacks. It's especially fun to shop here in November for Christmas decorations and gifts though the crowd might be unabearable. 
Many shoppers come to Greenhills to buy knock-offs. And there are gobs to choose from. Be careful though if you are bringing this to another country because Customs at your destination may fine you…