It’s midnight on the streets, and an elderly woman passes by with a stroller. Up ahead, laughing crowds slide into chic restaurants for dinner. And it’s a Tuesday. Strange? Not in Madrid — this charming city is up all night, every night. A perfect spot for the cosmopolitan couple, the Spanish capital blends big-city style and energy with laid-back Mediterranean attitude.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Entry requirements: Passport valid for three months post-departure
Flight time: 8 hours from New York City; 14.5 hours from LA; 8 hours from Chicago
Getting around: Subway, taxi and bus
When to Go: Madrid at its best
Best weather: September to November; March to May. Summers can reach highs of 104 degrees Fahrenheit and winters dip below freezing, so plan a trip in spring or fall for averages around 70.
Best prices: December to February
What to Do
Art and gardens: No Spanish vacation is complete without a stroll through the renowned Museo del Prado. Commissioned in 1785 by King Carlos III, it houses the works of the nation’s three great masters: Fransisco Goya, Diego Velazquez and El Greco — not to mention a couple of famous and frightening works by Hieronymous Bosch. Next door to the Prado is the Real Jardin Botanico, a beautiful garden in the center of the bustling city. Spend an afternoon in the shade of this centuries-old garden that holds plants, trees, flowers and cacti from around the world.
People watch: You can see plenty of sights while simply lounging in Madrid’s town squares, where Spaniards of all ages congregate for delicious coffee and churros (the Spanish version of a donut) in the morning, and sangria and tapas in the late afternoon. One of the most popular places to people watch is the Plaza Mayor, which has seen everything from bullfights to royal marriages and public executions in its centuries-long existence.
Tapas and copas: You certainly won’t go hungry (or thirsty!) on the streets of Madrid. The city is packed with bars, “cafeterias” (bars with meals), pubs, and terrazas (fancy outdoor cafés) — and the bartenders aren’t stingy. Be prepared for an array of tapas (Spanish snacks) and a hearty dash of liquor in your copa (a mixed drink in a tall glass). You’ll find bars and discotecas (dance clubs) open at all hours, so feel free to party ’til dawn.