When in Madrid...
Do as the madrileños do!!!
So you’ve got friends or family and you want to take them somewhere fun when you’re in Madrid? Of course, you can’t skip on the big museums (the Reina Sofía, the Prado and the Thyssen, to name a few), and you will inevitably end up in Puerta de Sol, la Plaza Mayor, and do some shopping on Calle Preciados, Gran Vía and Fuencarral. But don’t wander off too far. There are a few places you MUST go to before leaving the center of Madrid.
La Casa Labra
This little tavern has a great history. You can go for lunch, but it’s more fun to go for some of their famous tapas and stand at one of the high tables in the street to observe all of the people passing by. It was founded in 1860 on the Calle de Tetuán, just a few steps from the Puerta de Sol (Metro: Sol) heading up Calle Preciados (it’ll be the first little street on your left). Not only does the façade and the bar inside make for some good pictures, but the codfish croquettes are to dye for! And don’t think that you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to try one: A small beer (caña) and 2 codfish croquettes will cost you less than 4 euros. There are other options, too, such as empanadas, Manchego cheese, ham and sausage, mini sub sandwiches, and sherry wines. It’s a must see! (But make sure to get there early to get a table! It fills up very quickly!!!
If you like pastries, you can’t walk past this place and see their window displays without drooling. They’ve got pretty much every type of Spanish pastry, but their most famous is the “napolitana de chocolate” (or “de crema”). It’s similar to a croissant (though not in shape), but filled with either chocolate or a custard-cream. This place is always packed, but it’s definitely worth the five or 10 minute wait. They’re famous amongst tourists as well as the natives! Their price has gone up in recent years, but you can still get your hands on this tasty treat for just 1.20 euros. And if that weren't enough, if you have it to go, they wrap it up for you in pretty pink paper with a ribbon!
Where? La Mallorquina is also in Puerta del Sol (Metro: Sol), but right on the corner of Puerta del Sol and Calle Alcalá, headed toward the Plaza Mayor. One metro exit is directly outside of La Mallorquina and there will likely be someone selling lottery tickets outside!
El Mercado de San Miguel
Once you’ve taken your visitors to the Plaza Mayor, head out the west entrance in the back right (or just ask for the Mercado de San Miguel!) Once you are out of the Plaza Mayor, all you need to do is cross the street and look left to see this beautiful market. The big iron and glass building itself is worth taking a few photos of. (See the full history of the market here.) Once you enter, you can try a variety of typical Spanish tapas and wines, see the fruits, fish and meats of a typical market, or just walk around. It’s not the cheapest spot in Madrid, but a quick walk around is free and worth the visit.