Places to go and what to do - advice from Juan José Arevalillo, President, Asociación Sectorial de Proveedores de Servicios de Traducción (ASPROSET), the host national association.
The real heart of Madrid is -fortunately for tourists- pretty much all in one place, centred around the glorious Puerta del Sol. This is literally the centre of Spain, being the spot from which all distances are measured from its kilometre 0.
From there, you are minutes from Madrid de los Austrias, or old Hapsburg Madrid, including the Plaza Mayor, a beautiful square full of shops, balconies, arcades and tapas bars (more on those later); the Parque del Retiro, a big French-style park great for strolling or rowing on the lake, and the site of many concerts and ferias (fairs); and the Palacio Real, or royal palace, Spain's answer to Versailles, with a whole day's worth of sights, including a vast armoury and one of the world's great libraries.
Also in this area are Madrid's three great art museums, all laid out in a row for your convenience. Although you can hit all three this way, you may lose track of time in the famous Prado (right by the Palace Hotel), one of the world's premier art museums, with hefty displays not only of great Spaniards such as Goya, El Greco and Velázquez, but also some foreigners of note, including Rubens, Raphael and the vast grotesques of Hieronymous Bosch. Some hints on paintings which are a must: Goya’s The Executions, Velázquez’ The Family of Philip IV (Las Meninas), El Greco’s The Crucifixion, Tiziano’s Portrait of Charles V or Dürer’s self-portrait.
In Prado Museum there is always permanent exhibitions. You can find any type of info on https://www.museodelprado.es/, where there is a version in English.
If your tastes are a little more modern, you may want to check out the Centro Reina Sofía (the Reina Sofía is Madrid's hot spot for modern art), with works by Dalí, Miró and Picasso, including Picasso's famous World War II painting, Guernica. Finally, there is the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a three-story smorgasbord of styles, with everything from Jan van Eyck and Raphael to René Magritte and Roy Liechtenstein.
Ah, my favourite part! Mealtimes in Spain are long and glorious, but you must be prepared to change your biological clock! Spanish schedules are built around late hours and afternoon siestas (mainly in summer time if you can…), so the meal program looks something like this:
Breakfast - 7:30 - 9:30 - is not a serious affair. Expect coffee and a roll, or -for the health nuts out there- deep-fried churros with dipping chocolate, but you can see other variants with Spanish olive oil, tomato, orange juice and the like. Well, at hotels it is different, you have it all… J
Lunch - 2:00 - 4:00 (or even later…) - is the main meal of the day. It will usually consist of three courses (including dessert).
Dinner - 10:00 - Midnight! - is another three courses, but yes, you do have to wait that long! You may be able to find dinner by 9:00, but no self-respecting restaurant will open up before that. In our case we will have dinner at 20:00 for your convenience… J So, we will have some time for some drinks after…
If you're thinking that there's no way you'll adjust, there is one source of salvation - the tapas bars. These establishments are open all day, and you can feast on a variety of foods (and wine) without paying too much. Some of the items you may find are: mushrooms, chorizo (spicy sausage), shrimp, squid rings, salads, cheese, jamón ibérico (cured ham), bocadillos (otherwise known as sandwiches), tortilla española (potato omelette), and well, you'll see... A great place to experience tapas is Cuchilleros, a winding lane of tapas bars off the Plaza Mayor. The idea there is to have a drink and a tapa in each one, and then move on. It's a good way to get a taste of everything - just be careful with those drinks!
Now there is a trend in Madrid consisting of converting old marketplaces to gourmet places in which you can have delicious tapas and other dishes in a very good atmosphere going from one place to the other in the same premises of the market. The best one is Mercado de San Miguel¸ located just next to the Plaza Mayor, so I suggest going there for Friday night to celebrate the success of the conference… J.
Power Lunches - For any serious lunch, you'll need to set aside two hours. A proper power lunch includes cocktails, appetizers, first entrée, main course, wine, dessert, coffee, liquor and cigars (Spain has the best variety of Cubans outside of Cuba, but now with anti-smoking policies it is not as usual…).
Music & entertainment
With dinner going so late, Madrid's night life is an even later-night affair. The clubs don't really get going until about 1:00 in the morning. I wouldn't recommend showing up earlier unless you've been hired to clean the place.
Madrid, like any major world city, has plenty of good places to go for jazz, blues, rock, etc. But you can get that anywhere. What you can't get elsewhere is authentic Spanish flamenco, one of the most soulful forms of artistic expression you will ever experience, and you can take it all in with a glass and a fork in your hand! If anybody is interested, I know very good places in which the show is for nationals and high quality, not the typical show for tourists…
There's plenty to do during the day, too, for instance shopping on the Gran Vía (right off the Puerta del Sol).
About shopping - Spain is a great place for high-quality items. Department stores El Corte Inglés carry quality merchandise, and you can do plenty of fashion shopping on the calle de Serrano, Goya and Velázquez, but you must be forewarned that Madrid is not a cheap town! Although the current exchange rates are to the tourist's advantage, expect quality, not bargains!
If you really are a compulsive bargain hunter, the Rastro is a good place for flea market shopping, but look out - you may lose your wallet to pickpockets in this area, and then you might as well have paid retail after all!
Also, in Madrid we have four football teams in La Liga (the Spanish First Division). Real Madrid plays away in this weekend, and Atlético de Madrid was supposed to play Betis in its new Metropolitano Stadium, but that match will be post-poned as this week end this stadium will hold the final match of the Spanish King’s Cup with Barcelona and Seville going for the title, so it can be a good chance to flavour top-class football.
Also you can have a tour of Bernabéu or Metropolitano stadiums
If you feel like leaving Madrid behind for a day, I would recommend visiting Toledo, a gorgeous little middle-aged town complete with a wonderful Gothic cathedral (which is also home to a great art collection). Here, you can also see the home of El Greco, and visit the Alcázar, which contains a museum of the 64 Days' War.
Or, you might want to make a short pilgrimage to El Escorial, a monastery palace and one of the symbols of the former Spanish Empire, where the Spanish kings are buried.
Finally, another possibility is Segovia, a medieval city named world heritage with an impressive Roman Aquaeduct, where eating is a religious experience.
Well, those were my recommendations. I hope everyone has a great experience in Madrid, and maybe you'll even find time to stop by EUATC Conference while you're there!
For a comprehensive list of where to go and what to see visit: https://www.esmadrid.com/en/discover-madrid