29.6.11

Yo me bajo en Atocha... (Madrid)

There's a song by singer and poet Joaquín Sabina called "Yo me bajo en Atocha" (I'll get off in Atocha - Madrid train station-); the place, Atocha, is sadly remembered by all of us because it was where the terrorist attacks of March 11, 2004 took place. The song talks about the beautiful city of Madrid, its art, its monuments and its culture.
view of Atocha station from the Museo Reina Sofía
So here's my personal guide to the city:

FOOD&DRINK
- Cervecería La Fabrica - Calle del Jesus, 2 - Best tapas (called canapés), small bar near the Prado, discrete selection of wines & drinks, local environment - Must eats: canapés al salmon / pulpo a la gallega (octopus w/garlic, oil & paprika) / bacalao / jamón ibérico (best variety of ham in Spain).
- Mercado de San Miguel - Plaza San Miguel, 1 - Historic site, it was an old market that has been rebuilt recently, inside you will find nice gourmeries where  you can taste good fresh seafood, wine and oysters, just steps from Puerta del Sol - it's always crowded so be patient.
Mercado de San Miguel from the outside
- Cervecería Alemana - Plaza Santa Ana, 6 - Nice place to hang out in the city center, to get a cold beer and do some people-watching in the square.
- For a drink and a snack, any bar in La Latina quarter, just pick the one you like.

- Museo del Jamón - various locations - You won't have trouble finding one of these restaurants decorated with ham. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a quick snack, they offer all kinds of cold meats (ham, chorizo, etc.) and typical dishes at very good prices. Some of their locations in the city center: Calle Alcalá, 155 - Gran Vía, 72 - Calle Atocha, 54

inside Museo del Jamón
ACCOMMODATION
Hostal Bruña:definitely not a 5-star hotel, this cozy little family hotel is in a quiet square steps away from the Prado museum and Atocha train station. Don't expect pools or spa (or breakfast), but just a very clean, simple room with bathroom; which is all you need after a full day wandering around Madrid. There are some good bars in the area so meals are not a problem. Oh, and the prices are really good!

SIGHTSEEING
The usual: Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen museums (all conveniently located not far from each other) - check on their websites when they offer free or reduced entrance fees; a walk in the Retiro park; typical sightseeing in Puerta del Sol, the royal palace, the Cibeles fountain, the Alcalá gate, etc.
the Alcalá gate

DAY TRIPS
- Toledo 
- Alcalá de Henares (Cervantes' birthplace)
- Escorial

somewhere in beautiful Toledo

SHOPPING
On the Gran Vía (Madrid's main street) you can find at least one shop of the main Spanish street fashion chains (which are a bit cheaper than in any other country): Zara, Mango, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull&Bear, Oysho, Blanco, Women's Secret, Sfera, etc.
On Calle de Fuencarral, a street off the Gran Vía, you can find other famous brands like Desigual, Adolfo Dominguez and other Spanish and foreign designers.
Between Puerta del Sol and Callao squares you can find bigger shops and department stores like: El Corte Inglés, Fnac, H&M, etc.
For boutique shopping (pricey), Calle Serrano is the destination.

FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
- Having breakfast with oysters and cava wine at Mercado San Miguel
- Having a "quick snack" with a glass of Albariño and a delicious plate of pulpo a la gallega at Cervecería La Fábrica any time of the day.

Update: check out the folder "My Maps" to see a map of Madrid with all the spots in this post: http://www.tfoodie.com/p/my-maps.html