With designer shops, super-spas and all-night partying, Madrid is surely Spain’s most glamorous destination
For a girlie weekend flashing the plastic, I headed off (with best friend in tow) to Spain’s style capital, where, just a short flight from the UK, you’ll discover intoxicating glamour, fascinating culture and a whole host of fabulously fashionable shops.
Where to stay
We checked into the Hesperia Madrid, located in Madrid's imposing Paseo de la Castellana - the city’s most important business and financial street. To appeal to high-maintenance women like ourselves, the hotel has created special ‘pink rooms', which claim to cater to a woman’s every whim. Forget the usual lone wire coat hanger and dodgy hairdryer; here there are woman-sized robes and slippers, a glossy mag, a ton of complimentary toiletries, a turbo hairdryer, and different hangers for skirts and tops – all at no extra charge. Girly extras aside, the hotel is predominantly corporate in feel but all those suits in the lobby made for entertaining people-watching while we sipped cocktails in the glass-covered atrium.
After developing the usual stiff necks on the flight from London, we felt the need for some pampering, so made our first stop the city’s premiere spa, Club Metropolitan (C/ José Abascal 46), which is conveniently located just around the corner. We’d heard that this is where the Real Madrid team come to relax so were fully hoping to sidle up to a hot footballer in the steamroom. Sadly there was no sign of a Beckham-alike, although the buff dudes hanging out in the expansive Jacuzzi seemed happy to pose in his place. After an hour of splashing around, it was time for more serious indulgence, so we each headed off for a firm massage, which was absolute bliss.
At night, Madrid really comes into its own, so floating back to the hotel for a quick change, we wasted no time getting out on the town to join the Madrileños in a spot of terrace-hopping. The beautiful people can be found sipping cocktails at the Hotel Urban (Carrera de San Jerónimo 34), where glass elevators slide up to an exclusive sixth-floor roof terrace and outdoor pool. Before heading up, we stopped off at the hotel’s sleek restaurant, Europa Decó, where they served up exquisite portions of the finest sushi I’ve ever tasted.
After re-energising with a few mojitos, we decided to keep the party going and headed for Pacha (Barceló 11), a converted 1930s Art Deco cinema with several dance floors, separate bars and wall-to-wall hotties! Stumbling out in the wee small hours, our tummies were rumbling so we stopped off at Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés 11) for some churros (Spanish doughnuts) to help keep the hangover at bay.
Shop till you drop
Forcing ourselves out of bed just a few hours later, it was time to hit the shops, so we headed to Chueca, a trendy, bohemian area just five minutes' walk from the centre of town. This is the place to go for amazing one-off finds in independent designer boutiques. Being a shoe gal myself, I was in seventh heaven, with towering stilettos calling at me from every shopfront. Sadly, the hefty price tags meant that was where they would remain! The indoor market on Fuencarral street offered items more easy on the purse strings, with boho-chic being the order of the day.
Next stop was Salamanca, also known as ‘the golden mile’. This glamorous area is where Madrid’s most high-end designer boutiques can be found and, as such, this section of the shopping tour was largely limited to drooling in shop windows. Calle Serrano was my particular favourite, offering the wonders that are Gucci, Prada, and Manolo Blahnik (gasp).
Deciding to get back to reality before we did any serious damage to our bank balances, we headed straight to the flagship Zara on Gran Via, where the same stylish finds can be found as in the UK, but at a fraction of the price.
Laden down with Zara bags, we drew a line under the shopping and headed to the Museum of Costume (Avenida de Juan de Herrera 2) for a different kind of fashion fix. True culture vultures should also try and fit in a visit to the Prado museum (Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23), which holds one of the world’s best collections of European art.
Our final evening was spent wandering around the old town soaking up the local atmosphere. We kept things low-key, finding a quaint little restaurant, ordering some paella and a cerveza, and grabbing a table outside for maximum people-watching potential. That’s one pastime in Madrid that won’t cost you a penny!