Hidden gems in Madrid: readers’ travel tips

A market in a museum, an arthouse cinema, great eateries, rooftop bars, a hidden spa, and even a bilingual pub quiz. There’s lots of great ways to enjoy Madrid like a local

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WINNING TIP: Gaudeamus Café

You wouldn’t realise this restaurant, hidden in the Lavapiés neighbourhood, was here unless someone tipped you off. The Gaudeamus Café is on top of the Escuelas Pías, an old university. It’s beautiful and quirky and offers amazing views over the city. The restaurant is on the fourth floor, but don’t use the lift or you’ll miss the building – it’s full of history.
Calle Tribulete 14, Edificio Escuelas Pías, +34 915 282594, gaucafe.com Ana81


Las Descalzas Reales
The Convent of Las Descalzas Reales is a mere five-minute walk from the Puerta del Sol. The impressive Renaissance building used to be the residence of King Charles I of Spain and Isabel of Portugal, but now houses 19 nuns and an impressive museum, as well as the bones of Saint Sebastian, works by Brueghel the Elder and even a masterpiece by Titian.
Adult €5, child/senior €2.50. Plaza Descalzas Reales, patrimonionacional.es

Galería Javier López
Galería Javier López is a 20-minute bus ride from downtown Madrid in the elegant neighbourhood of La Florida. The modernist building houses an eclectic collection of contemporary artists, ranging from Alex Katz to Hiroshi Sugimoto. Despite the quality of art on display, the gallery is only really frequented by well-informed Madrileños and it offers a rare moment of quiet reflection away from the city’s busy centre.
Free, Guecho 12B, galeriajavierlopez.com

Cine Doré, Filmoteca Española
In this beautiful 1920s art deco cinema, the main screening room preserves all the atmosphere from the golden days of cinema. Check out the starry sky of tiny lights on a dark blue ceiling just after the lights go down. It’s less than £3 to get in and the programme changes every month, with great film seasons, world cinema and occasionally silent films accompanied by live piano music.
Calle de Santa Isabel 3, +34 913 691125, mcu.es/cine/MC/FE,
Cristina Pedreira Perez

Mercado de Motores, Museo del Ferrocarril
The Mercado de Motores is a food, clothing, jewellery and homewares market, held on the second weekend of every month in the Museo del Ferrocarril (railway museum) by Delicias metro stop. You can also look at the old trains with their wonderful interiors, or enjoy the sunshine in the large area at the back of the museum, where there is seating and refreshments, including a barbecue.
Paseo de las Delicias 61, museodelferrocarril.org. Next market 12-13 April

Círculo de Bellas Artes roof terrace
Enjoy panoramic views of the capital from the roof terrace of the Círculo de Bellas Artes cultural centre. You can see all the landmarks, with the snowy peaks of the Sierra de Guadarrama in the distance, and the roofs and terraces of the Barrio de las Letras below. There’s a bar and loungers for siesta seekers.
Calle de Alcalá 42, +34 913 605400, circulobellasartes.com


Hammam Al Ándalus baths
The beauty of this place is it’s still a bit of a secret. There’s a circuit of cold, warm and hot baths and a hammam, all decorated in Arabic style and complemented by aromatherapy scents, the playing of gentle Arabic music and the taking of herbal teas.
From €30pp. Calle de Atocha 14, madrid.hammamalandalus.com
Virginia Stuart-Taylor

Food and drink

Fatigas del Querer
We went here after a tip from a friend. Our waiter gave us lots of advice, told us when we were ordering too much (portions were huge), was patient and always wore a smile, even though the place was packed. The drinks flowed, service was impeccable, the food delicious and the bill very reasonable.
Calle de la Cruz 17, +34 915 232131
Deepali Patel

Beerlingual at La Morena Cantina
This bar is worth a visit at any time for its tapas and 40 tequilas but on Thursday evenings it hosts “Beerlingual”, a free bilingual pub quiz. The quizmasters compile teams from willing participants, so it’s a fun way to make friends, enjoy a drink and fail at general knowledge in two languages.
Calle del Humilladero 28, facebook.com/morenacantina
Ruth Kelly

Melo’s tapas bar
This is a family tapas bar with a buzzing atmosphere. The zapatillas (40cm-long sandwich of lacón con queso) are simply unbelievable. Wash it down with a cool bottle of Ribeiro wine. The waiters (all members of the same family) are legendary in Madrid for their ability to remember everything everybody wants.
Calle del Ave María 44
Alejandra Bize

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