Madrid See And Do
Tel: 34 91 356 2200 (box office)
Even as modern Madrileño culture continues toward yuppiedom, the proud old tradition of the corrida de toros has not died. Yes, young people now make fun of it: 20-somethings will tell you that they've never been to a fight in their lives, that it's inhumane, that it's a dying relic of their grandfather's era (or, if you prefer, Hemingway's era; read Death in the Afternoon for his greatest account of the sport). All of these things may be true, but Las Ventas, Madrid's central and most famous bullring, continues to thrive, and its fights are still televised in bars all over the city, where the older male crowd gathers around televisions to watch the bloody proceedings over beer. The season runs from March to October; the center of it all is the San Isidro bullfight festival from mid-May to mid-June, when fights take place daily. Otherwise, fights are on Sundays and sometimes Saturdays, usually in the pleasant weather of the early evening (around 5:30 p.m.). The novillos are periodic fights featuring rookie bullfighters. Novillo tickets are cheaper, and the quality is lower—expect to see some young fighters stalk off in disgrace to a chorus of boos after failing to kill the bull, even after four or five stabs. For tours of Las Ventas, call 34-91-556-9237.
2 Avenida Juan de Herrera
Tel: 34 91 549 7150
The new fashion and costume museum was, until 2004, the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Now there's an incredible range: from crinoline frames, doublets, and 20th-century designers' pieces (Fortuny, Balenciaga, Paco Rabanne) to 19,000 household objects.
52 Calle Santa Isabel
Tel: 34 91 774 1000
A spectacular triangular-roofed addition by French star architect Jean Nouvel has boosted what was already Spain's most important modern-art museum into the capital's new must-see. The $120 million building houses exhibition spaces, a 350,000-volume library, two auditoriums, a bookshop, a tapas bar/restaurant called Arola, a fabulous interior plaza, and a sixth-floor terrace with stunning views of the city. The permanent collection, which stays in the 18th-century hospital it's inhabited since 1992, still makes essential viewing: Miró, Dalí, and Barceló are especially well represented, and Picasso's iconic Guernica is here.
Open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 am to 9 pm; Sundays from 10 am to 2:30 pm.
Paseo del Prado
Tel: 34 91 330 2800
One of the world's greatest art museumsin Europe's top three, with Paris's Louvre and the Uffizi in FlorenceEl Prado is now bigger and better thanks to Pritzker Prizewinning architect Rafael Moneo's addition, which doubled the museum's floor space. Moneo's $100 million extension links the original 18th-century Prado with the Iglesia de los Jerónimos buildingwhich has a new skin around its crumbling cloistersand an underground passage. The extra space has allowed much more of the museum's collection of more than 7,500 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 2,400 prints, and 6,000 drawings to come out of storage. Highlights include Velÿzquez's Las Meninas; a sweeping collection of Goyas, including the canonical war image Tres de Mayo; and a fascinating group of paintings by El Greco, with his trademark pallid, ghostly use of color.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 8 pm.
8 Paseo del Prado
Tel: 34 91 369 0151
The collection of old masters and major 19th- and 20th-century works amassed by the late Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza has graced Madrid since 1992. In summer 2004, a five-story, 250,000-square-foot addition by the Barcelona architects BOPBAA opened, making room for some 200 more pieces from the collection of the Baron's widow, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. These include canvases by Hopper, O'Keeffe, Kirchner, Kandinsky, Picasso, Fragonard, and Corot. There are now two happening restaurantsParadis, in the new wing, and rooftop restaurant El Miradorplus an amazing design store.
Open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 7 pm.
Madrid is a wonderful walking city. You'll doubtless find yourself, sooner or later, along the Paseo del Prado, in Plaza Mayor, and in Puerta del Sol. Stop for a quick look, but don't sit at any of the overpriced cafés in these areas, where you'll be serenaded by patronizing Spanish guitarists, condescended to by uppity waiters with tuxedos and A.D.D., and generally made to feel like a fanny-packed loser.
The key to seeing Madrid is, instead, to escape from these places and explore the neighborhoods, where the changing nature of the city is more palpable. First and foremost, this means Chueca, long known as the city's gay neighborhood but now also housing the hippest restaurants, nightspots, and boutiques—most among streets and buildings that only a few years ago were ready to be condemned. Las Letras, the rapidly gentrifying old literary district, is also fascinating, and by night on weekends, Malasaña is a scene of throbbing street culture that has to be seen to be believed.
Another way to walk the city is by art gallery–hopping. Chueca and the Lavapiés neighborhood are where the new galleries and foundations are clustering. Check out the Galería Travesía Cuatro (4 Travesía de San Mateo; 34-91-310-0098; www.travesiacuatro.com), the Fundación Juan March (77 Calle Castelló; 34-91-435-4240; www.march.es), and the Círculo de Bellas Artes (42 Calle de Alcalá; 34-91-360-5400; www.circulodebellasartes.es).
13 Calle Alcalá
Tel: 91 524 0864
The go-to gallery for Goyas; including two of the artist's self portraits, as well as paintings by Ribera and Velázquez. But it's not only the Spanish Masters, there's also pieces by Rubens and Van Dyck. Don't let the city's big three galleries prevent you from coming here.
Anyone who even nominally follows soccer is in awe of Real Madrid, and if you're lucky enough to be in town for a game (half the weekends from September to May, generally), you should try to get a ticket. Real Madrid plays at the legendary 75,000-seat Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Chamartín (34-902-324-324; www.realmadrid.com). If you can't score tickets on the phone, you can buy them from scalpers outside the stadium, sometimes at only a mild markup. And if Real is playing away, Atlético, known as "Atleti," another distinguished club, might be at home; they play at Vicente Calderón stadium, closer to downtown (www.clubatleticodemadrid.com/en/). In keeping with Madrid's born-again culinary identity, there's now an ambitious and creative restaurant right in Bernabéu stadium called RealCafé Bernabéu, where you can dine on bonito over quince and Thai tomato, or baby squid with shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, and mushroom reduction, in front of plate-glass windows overlooking the field, even when there's no match going on (www.realcafebernabeu.com).
Tel: 34 91 454 8800
The official residence of Spain's royal family (now only used to host official ceremonies) was commissioned in 1738 by King Felipe V and was first used by Carlos III in 1764. Although much has changed since then, the palace still retains the original Throne Room with frescoed ceiling, the King's Chamber, and a rather ostentatious but impressive Porcelain Room. Of note is the Painting Gallery, which includes works by Caravaggio, Velázquez, and Goya. The Royal Gardens are also open to the publicin front is the recently remodeled Plaza del Oriente, which contains a series of statues carved during the reign of King Ferdinand VI. At the far side of the square, the Café de Oriente is the perfect place to end the tour with a drink on the lively terrace. Palace admission is free to European Union residents on Wednesdays, so if you are not from a member state, you'd be better off going any other day of the week to avoid the crowds.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 9:30 am to 5 pm, Sundays and holidays 9 am to 2 pm.