By Brendan Harding – May 2019
It’s kind of fitting that Madrid, one of Europe’s most surprising and stunningly spectacular capital cities, will provide the backdrop for the finale of what has been described by some pundits as the greatest Champions League competition of all time.
North London’s Tottenham Hotspur and the mighty ‘Reds’ of Liverpool FC – who both overcame overwhelming odds against the first-leg lead taken by Ajax and Barcelona respectively – rightly deserve their places on this greatest of world footballing stages – the UEFA Champions League Final 2019.
Come 9 pm – local time – on June 1st, the streets of the Spanish capital will fall silent. Inside the dome of Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, the referee will blow his whistle and two giants of European football will commence battle.
The stadium will be full to capacity. The tiny back-street tapas bars which go so far to make up the character of the city will be full to capacity. The free fan zones – for those without tickets but who still felt the urge to experience this greatest of footballing moments, in this greatest of footballing cities – will be full to capacity (but note, fan zones for both sets of fans will close at 6 pm, before the game). And the hearts of both locals and visitors alike will also be full to capacity with anticipation.
The champions of art and architecture
But Madrid is no stranger to champions. Champions from all backgrounds. Not just on the playing fields.
Inside the walls of the city’s triumvirate of world-renowned artistic stadia – the Prado, Reina Sofia Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – the works of the greats; El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, Miro, Picasso, Dali, Juan Gris, Pablo Gargallo, and many others from the dream-team of artistic champions will take your breath away as surely as a Lionel Messi volley from thirty-five yards.
The city’s sights are also champions in their own right, worthy of a place on any world cup winning team of architecture, design, creativity, and the greatest urban public spaces.
National monuments like the vast Plaza Mayor, Puerto del Sol, the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral, the Egyptian Temple of Debod, the Basilica of San Francisco el Grande, the Palacio de Velazquez, and the Buen Retiro Gardens should not be missed, even on the shortest of visits to Madrid.
For lovers of the beautiful game, no visit to the capital is complete without a visit to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Real Madrid. The stadium’s trophy room exhibition has to be one of the most impressive in the entire world of football.
The champions of food and drink
When it comes to food and drink, Madrid is the champion of champions. The city is justifiably renowned for having some of the most authentic and unique places to eat, to drink, and once the sun goes down to dance the night away (don’t expect to get home before dawn).
For the ultimate taste experience, the Calle de Cava Baja, in La Latina district, can lift the cup for its collection of tiny eateries, bars, wine cellars, vermouth houses, and restaurants, all steeped in the rich tapestry of the city’s history.
Sample the simple delicacies on offer at Diaz y Larrouy, an easy to miss gem but frequented by locals who insist on only the best wines and foods.
Or Casa Lucas, a tiny but always bustling temple to the truly great tastes of Spain. The selection of both hot and cold tapas (and pinchos) ranges from baked red tuna to grilled tenderloin of pork on a bed of candied onion. This small but popular eatery is also well regarded for its compact, but impeccably selected Spanish wine list.
If wine is your particular passion, try a quick stop at Taberna Tempranillo. However, your stop is unlikely to be brief due to the sheer number of wine varieties on display behind the bar. And if possible, don’t miss out on the grilled duck thighs. You won’t want to leave.
While usually crowded with tourists, the Mercado de San Miquel is a must stop-off during any visit to Madrid. Even when thronged with visitors, the market offers a delicious tortilla-sized slice of the beating heart of the city.
The champions of new discoveries and experiences
According to Lonely Planet, Madrid is the number two worldwide city to visit in 2019. The travel guide declares the city is ‘springing back into step with renewed vigor and now boasts one of the continent’s coolest nighttime streets, Calle de Ponzano – a strip of standing-only spots and minimalist cocktail bars’.
Practically every doorway in the thriving heart of the city hides an experience never be forgotten. That’s the real living breathing beauty of Madrid, there really is something for everyone just around the next corner.
If you’re planning to stay a little longer, the city has plenty of adventurous activities right on its doorstep.
You can try mountain biking in the nearby urban paradise of Casa de Campo. Or, cycle through the beautiful surroundings of the national park at Sierra de Guadarrama. Why not try a relaxing kayak trip on the calm waters of Lake Pinilla – also in Sierra de Guadarrama? If bicycles or boats are not for you there’s always the possibility of an excursion by horseback through the nearby forests and countryside. Madrid may be the fourth largest capital city in Europe, but escape is always easy, and never far away.
If you don’t fancy leaving the city, an always fun experience and a great way to see the sights is with a Segway tour. At the beautiful El Retiro Park, you can take a 90-minute tour (approx 30 Euros) which allows you to cover a lot of ground and experience the city in a whole new fashion.
For those really stuck for time, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city will allow you to see all the most famous sights – at least from the outside – and still have some great stories to tell the folks back home.
The champions of warm welcomes
Madrid is a city of warm summer sunshine and even warmer local welcomes. For sure, you’re not going to see every amazing work of art, or every staggering creation of architecture, or taste every delicious wine and tapa, but it’s a start. You will remember the smiles on people’s faces and the warmth, and genuine passion with which they go about their daily business.
Whether your team will win or not on the night, your experience in Madrid is sure to make you want to return again. Whatever
the outcome, the city will leave a lasting impression for many years to come.
The champions of gifting experiences
When you’ve experienced what Madrid has to offer why not gift a loved one, a friend, or a colleague the chance to enjoy a similar once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tinggly gift experiences – an evolution in modern gift giving – lets you choose a gift box containing hundreds of worldwide experiences. Your recipient then has up to five years to choose the experience or adventure that suits them best, at a time that suits them best, in a location that suits them best.