FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Madrid: Spotlight On Madrid

Nov 1, 2004
2004 / November 2004

The royal wedding of Prince Felipe to commoner Letizia Ortiz last May was cause for much celebration throughout Spain. The terrorist train bombings of March 11, in which 200 people lost their lives, were not far from the minds of Madrilenos. So, the nuptials – dubbed “the wedding of the century” by the Spanish media — were considered a much-needed happy occasion, an almost cathartic event in the wake of such tragedy.

Thousands turned up for a glimpse of the golden couple as they entered Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral to exchange vows witnessed by King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia, England’s Prince Charles, Jordan’s Queen Raina and Nelson Mandela. Security was airtight, and the scaled-down festivities went off without a hitch.

Along with the spirit of its citizens, tourism in the city is starting to pick up as well. Long overshadowed by sexier spots like Barcelona, Seville and, more recently, Bilbao with its gleaming Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, Madrid has reclaimed its place in the spotlight. Emerging neighborhoods like Chueca are attracting hip Madrilenos, minimalist restaurants with nouvelle cuisine are garnering international attention, and the city’s world-class museums such as the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are undergoing major expansions. Infrastructure throughout the city (Spain’s capital since 1561), including public transportation, parks and recreational facilities, is being upgraded as Madrid vies to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Madrid, a cosmopolitan city with a population of 3.2 million, is the headquarters for the government, the Spanish Parliament and the royal family. Madrid also plays a major role in both the banking and industrial sectors. Most industry is located on the southern fringe of the city where important textile, food and metalworking factories are clustered.

Politically, the country is now being led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who was voted into office just three days after the March train bombings (taking the place of José María Aznar, a staunch supporter of the Iraq War). Zapatero made good on his campaign promises of withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq and forging stronger relationships with other European countries, including France and Germany.

Culturally, Madrid is one of Spain’s most important cities. The museum scene continues to flourish, and traditional dances such as the sensual flamenco still enthrall locals and visitors alike. The hotel scene has not yet exploded with Schragercaliber boutiques. The choicest place in town is still the Hotel Ritz on Plaza de la Lealtad where the guest list includes Madonna, Antonio Banderas and David Beckham. This storied belle epoque gem dating from 1910 was recently acquired by the upscale Orient-Express hotel group, which has updated many of the rooms as well as the business facilities. Madrid also boasts a lively nightlife, so expect a few late nights — but don’t sleep in too often, there’s too much to do and see in this newly energized city.


LODGING

HOTEL RITZ

The city’s most famous hotel has 167 rooms with half-canopied beds, embroidered linen sheets and heated towel racks (ask to overlook the Museo del Prado). In warm weather, have a sherry and a plate of delicious manchego cheese and jamon serrano (Spanish ham) in the tranquil garden shaded by olive trees. The romantic Goya restaurant helmed by Chef Javier Aldea is known for its refined Spanish food, and the Velazquez Bar is an elegant spot for drinks. There is also a fully equipped business center with a multilingual staff.
HOTEL RITZ
Plaza de la Lealtad 5, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 701 6767, fax 34 91 701 6776
www.orient-express.com

AC SANTO MAURO

This posh hotel, housed in a century-old mansion in the Chamberi quarter, was the former residence of the Marquis of Santo Mauro. Its 51 rooms are decorated with art deco furnishings, Oriental rugs and
contemporary artwork (as well as high-speed Internet access). Dinner is served in the original library, which still has worn leather-bound books on display. The former dance halls are now meeting rooms. There’s also a small pool on the lower level.
AC SANTO MAURO
Zurbano 36, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 319 6900, fax 34 91 308 5477
www.ac-hotels.com

CASA DE MADRID

This charming seven-room inn is located in a landmark 18th century
building near the Royal Palace and the Plaza de Oriente — known for
outdoor cafes where you can enjoy plates of tapas. The spacious rooms
feature antiques and Persian rugs; some have kitchenettes. Endearing
touches, such as breakfast served in bed on a silver tray with a
starched napkin, come courtesy of owner Marta Medina, who treats
her guests as if they are staying in her own home.
CASA DE MADRID
Calle Arrieta 2, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 559 5791, fax 34 91 559 5791
www.casademadrid.com


DINING

Madrid offers visitors plenty of dining options: from classic grill houses like Casa Lucio, where King Juan Carlos has his own corner table, to minimalist restaurants serving nouveau Spanish cuisine, such as La Broche. And, since this is Spain, you are never too far from a tapas bar where you can enjoy a quick and inexpensive meal.

LA BROCHE

One of the city’s most revered restaurants is La Broche. Chef Sergi
Arola was a protégé of Michelin-starred Ferran Adria of El Bulli, the
famed restaurant near Barcelona. His tasting menu features such innovative combinations as cucumber foam with salmon eggs, chanterelle mushrooms with blue cheese, and lobster and fried oysters in a mango puree. Main courses run $25 to $45.
LA BROCHE
Calle Miguel Angel 29-31, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 399 3437
www.labroche.com

CASA LUCIO

For traditional Castillian fare, there’s 200-year-old Casa Lucio in
the Latina district (near the Royal Palace); members of the royal family are regulars. Order the grilled steak or garlicky shrimp and the house specialty, huevos estrellados (fried eggs mixed with french fries). Main courses run $15 to $28.
CASA LUCIO
Cava Baja 35, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 365 3252
www.casalucio.es

ZALACAIN

Madrid’s only three-star Michelin restaurant, the elegant Zalacain is a favorite of business men and women. A few of Chef Benjamin Urdiain’s standout dishes include lobster salad in a sherry vinaigrette and beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce — not to mention rich desserts like chocolate cake and crepes Zalacain. Main courses run $26 to $43.
ZALACAIN
Alvarez de Baena 4, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 561 4840

TEATRIZ

This former theater in the Salamanca district has been turned into a trendy and stylish Italian restaurant by designer Philippe Starcke. Some elements of the old theater remain, including the stage, which now houses the bar. Specialties include millefeuille with eggplant and goat cheese, caprese salad and meat-filled tortellini (and don’t miss the tiramisu for dessert). Main courses run $15 to $23.
TEATRIZ
Calle Hermosilla 15, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 577 5379


SIGHTSEEING

Madrid is known for its many world-class museums, including the Prado (Paseo del Prado, tel 34 91 330 2800, www.museoprado.es) with its outstanding collection of Goyas and Velazquezes; the artists’ most famous works, Third of May (1814) and Las Meninas (1656), respectively, are here. Another gem is the Thyssen-Bornemisza (Paseo del Prado 8, tel 34 91 369 0151, www.museothyssen.org), housed in the 18th century Villahermosa Palace and showcasing the priceless collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (Monet, Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Juan Miro, etc.). Picasso fans who’ve yearned to see Guernica in person can do so at Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Calle Santa Isabel 52, tel 34 91 467 5062).

WESTIN PALACE

Like the Ritz, the Palace (now managed by Westin) was constructed in the early 1900s at the behest of King Alfonso XIII to ensure that Madrid had hotels that would rival any in Europe. And grand it is,
starting with the marble lobby with its crystal chandeliers and the aweinspiring stained-glass rotunda, a popular spot for tea or cocktails. The hotel, with its state-of-the-art business center and numerous meeting rooms, is a top choice with business travelers. Plus, it’s in a prime location, across the street from the Ritz and the Prado.
WESTIN PALACE
Plaza de las Cortes 7, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 360 8000, fax 34 91 310 8100
www.palacemadrid.com

AC SANTO MAURO

This posh hotel, housed in a century-old mansion in the Chamberi quarter, was the former residence of the Marquis of Santo Mauro. Its 51 rooms are decorated with art deco furnishings, Oriental rugs and
contemporary artwork (as well as high-speed Internet access). Dinner is served in the original library, which still has worn leather-bound books on display. The former dance halls are now meeting rooms. There’s also a small pool on the lower level.
AC SANTO MAURO
Zurbano 36, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 319 6900, fax 34 91 308 5477
www.ac-hotels.com

CASA DE MADRID

This charming seven-room inn is located in a landmark 18th century building near the Royal Palace and the Plaza de Oriente — known for outdoor cafes where you can enjoy plates of tapas. The spacious rooms feature antiques and Persian rugs; some have kitchenettes. Endearing
touches, such as breakfast served in bed on a silver tray with a starched napkin, come courtesy of owner Marta Medina, who treats her guests as if they are staying in her own home.
CASA DE MADRID
Calle Arrieta 2, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 559 5791, fax 34 91 559 5791
www.casademadrid.com


DINING

Madrid offers visitors plenty of dining options: from classic grill houses like Casa Lucio, where King Juan Carlos has his own corner table, to minimalist restaurants serving nouveau Spanish cuisine, such as La Broche. And, since this is Spain, you are never too far from a tapas bar where you can enjoy a quick and inexpensive meal.

LA BROCHE

One of the city’s most revered restaurants is La Broche. Chef Sergi
Arola was a protégé of Michelin-starred Ferran Adria of El Bulli, the
famed restaurant near Barcelona. His tasting menu features such innovative combinations as cucumber foam with salmon eggs, chanterelle mushrooms with blue cheese, and lobster and fried oysters in a mango puree. Main courses run $25 to $45.
LA BROCHE
Calle Miguel Angel 29-31, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 399 3437
www.labroche.com

CASA LUCIO

For traditional Castillian fare, there’s 200-year-old Casa Lucio in
the Latina district (near the Royal Palace); members of the royal family are regulars. Order the grilled steak or garlicky shrimp and the house specialty, huevos estrellados (fried eggs mixed with french fries). Main courses run $15 to $28.
CASA LUCIO
Cava Baja 35, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 365 3252
www.casalucio.es

ZALACAIN

Madrid’s only three-star Michelin restaurant, the elegant Zalacain is a favorite of business men and women. A few of Chef Benjamin Urdiain’s standout dishes include lobster salad in a sherry vinaigrette and beef tenderloin in a red wine sauce — not to mention rich desserts like chocolate cake and crepes Zalacain. Main courses run $26 to $43.
ZALACAIN
Alvarez de Baena 4, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 561 4840

TEATRIZ
This former theater in the Salamanca district has been turned into a trendy and stylish Italian restaurant by designer Philippe Starcke. Some elements of the old theater remain, including the stage, which now houses the bar. Specialties include millefeuille with eggplant and goat cheese, caprese salad and meat-filled tortellini (and don’t miss the tiramisu for dessert). Main courses run $15 to $23.
TEATRIZ
Calle Hermosilla 15, Madrid, Spain
tel 34 91 577 5379


SIGHTSEEING

Madrid is known for its many world-class museums, including the Prado (Paseo del Prado, tel 34 91 330 2800, www.museoprado.es) with its outstanding collection of Goyas and Velazquezes; the artists’ most famous works, Third of May (1814) and Las Meninas (1656), respectively, are here. Another gem is the Thyssen-Bornemisza (Paseo del Prado 8, tel 34 91 369 0151, www.museothyssen.org), housed in the 18th century Villahermosa Palace and showcasing the priceless collection of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (Monet, Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Juan Miro, etc.). Picasso fans who’ve yearned to see Guernica in person can do so at Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Calle Santa Isabel 52, tel 34 91 467 5062).

 

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