How to spend a weekend in Picasso country: Things to do, see, and eat
This year, Madrid is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s passing and the 100th anniversary of Joaquin Sorolla with a series of showcases dedicated to both of these artists. The city’s esteemed “golden triangle of art” (consisting of the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums) makes it an impressive destination to explore, and cutting-edge cultural foundations such as Espacio Solo and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary also contribute to its rich arts scene.
Madrid will be holding a series of exhibitions dedicated to Pablo Picasso’s 50th and Joaquin Sorolla’s 100th anniversary this year. The plaza now has tree-shaded promenades and playgrounds that attract locals and visitors alike, and pedestrian paths link it to nearby landmarks like the Royal Palace, Parque del Oeste, and Madrid Rio, a vast park along the Manzanares River.
Visiting Madrid’s Royal Palace may be overlooked due to visitors feeling “museumed out”, however it is definitely worth a visit. This 18th-century palace was adorned with the work of some of the finest artists and craftsmen in Europe; featuring frescoes, silk damask and a generous sprinkling of gold leaf. Also within easy reach from the plaza is the Temple of Debod – gifted to Spain by Egypt in 1968 – as well as The Cerralbo Museum, an opulent 19th-century nobleman’s palace; and Sabatini Gardens, where majestic magnolia and cypress trees stand alongside sculptures of Spanish monarchs.
With floor-to-ceiling porcelain in one room, 120 guests can sit at a dining table in another. As well as the vast armory’s shimmering armor suits, the royal kitchens had holes near the bottom of the doors so the royal cats could keep mice at bay. One thing that hasn’t changed is the city’s welcoming attitude to people who want to join in. Because so few Madrilenos are actually from Madrid, everyone is welcome.
Walk the new agora: For decades, Plaza de Espana was hemmed in by four busy boulevards. A 70-million-euro (S$100 million) redesign completed in November 2021 has transformed the plaza by diverting traffic away or into underground tunnels. Almost no city has seen such a rush of hotel openings since the outbreak of the pandemic – the Edition, the Four Seasons, the Mandarin Oriental and the Hard Rock hotel.
This summer, the Royal Collections Gallery will open next to the palace and showcase 600 rarely seen masterpieces. Purchase tickets online to avoid lines (12 euros).
Madrid’s flamenco tablaos (traditional venues with smaller stages) sadly didn’t survive the COVID-19 era.
Corral de la Moreria, just south of the Royal Palace, is one that did. Diners enjoy nine courses in the Michelin-starred restaurant led by Basque chef David Garcia before enjoying VIP seats to the flamenco performance in the main room (135, dinner and show).
Two hours before showtime, the main room offers simpler fare (about 95 euros, dinner and show) if you can’t secure a restaurant reservation. There are often top dancers like Jesus Carmona performing in this intimate setting, who can fill an auditorium in New York or London in 70 minutes.
In the trendy Salesas neighbourhood, the canary-yellow-tiled Golda draws a crowd with its mostly healthy Middle Eastern breakfast dishes, including toast with hummus, roasted tomato, feta and sumac (6.50 euros) and a densely marbled chocolate-pistachio babka (6 euros).
One of Spain’s most cultivated queens, Barbara de Braganza, built the stunning grand Baroque church of Santa Barbara in the 1750s.
There’s nothing better than breakfast at Frida, a few blocks away, with outdoor seating overlooking a small playground and a menu that includes kiddie favourites like pancakes (9 euros). The north end of Chueca and Salesas have been the hub of Madrid’s most compelling contemporary art galleries for more than a decade.
Travesia Cuatro, Alzueta, and Albarran Bourdais galleries all feature invitingly quirky spaces that go beyond the white cube.
There are two standouts for apparel, including Oteyza for exquisitely tailored men’s and women’s clothing, including capes, with a distinctly Castilian accent (handmade sneakers, 385 euros; bespoke suits starting at 1,800 euros).