travel tips

The insider’s guide to a perfect day in Madrid

Two of the most celebrated culinary pros in town dish on their most beloved secret spots — from the best markets and bakeries to Madrid’s most underrated museum

“A great day in Madrid begins early, by which I mean 9 a.m. — with a hot chocolate and a side of churros at La Churrería Santa Ana in the Barrio de la Latina”

In a city that runs on tapas, it’s only logical to get recommendations from plugged-in members of the food and beverage scene. Here in Madrid, two such luminaries offer their best bites of local intel — intended as a chaser to our Two-Night Minimum city guide to the Spanish capital.

Raised in London and Madrid, Boris Olivas has spent the last five years working as the wine critic for the Peñín Guide to Spanish Wines; he also hosts private tastings at wine shops throughout the city, bookable via luxury tour operator Madrid & Beyond.

Diego Cabrera, on the other hand, moved to Spain from his native Argentina in 2001. By 2019 he took home a National Gastronomy Award from the Royal Spanish Academy of Gastronomy, which named him the best cocktail professional in the country.

The bar that propelled his reputation, Salmon Guru, remains one of our favourite places to drink almost anywhere in the world — not just for its stellar Asian tapas and unconventional mixed drinks, but for the fervour it stirs in Madrileños. (Don’t just take our word for it; the bar is No. 16 on this year’s World’s 50 Best bars list.)

Here, Olivas and Cabrera dish on the spots they’d prioritise on a perfect day in town. Among them: Madrid’s most underrated museum, the best place to try small-batch Spanish wines, and a visit to the city’s real-life Willy Wonka.

Morning markets, midnight dancing

Edited from an interview with Boris Olivas

“As the main cook in the house, my morning kicks off with a visit to the Mercado de Vallehermoso in Chamberí. Despite its distance from the sea, Madrid is — after Tokyo —the city that receives the most fresh fish each day.

At the mercado, I get my poultry from Pollería Hermanos Gómez Ortiz, my fruit and vegetables from Frutas Peña, plus any seafood from Pescadería Martín de los Ríos. (It’s well worth stopping by in the evenings as well, when the arcades turn into makeshift restaurants selling Spanish, South American and Asian tapas.)

Mercado de Vallehermoso in Chamberí

After the mercado, I cross the road for a fresh hogaza de campaña (“country loaf”) and maritozzo (cream-stuffed brioche bites) at Cientotreinta Grados; at Labirratorium around the corner, I stock up on Spanish beer.

A couple of blocks farther is Black Pepper & Co., a library of rare spices and fermented goods from all over the world — the vadouvan curry blend is my favourite — and 24 Onzas, an artisanal chocolate shop selling candies with inventive flavours like mole and corn. The owner is the Willy Wonka of Madrid; all of her creations are solid magic.

Cientotreinta Grados

If my wife and I manage to find a babysitter, we’ll take an evening stroll around the Templo de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple [gifted to Madrid from the Egyptian government]. It was moved piece by piece from Aswan and reassembled in the Parque de la Montaña.

Later, we’ll head to the Chueca neighborhood and grab a drink at Angelita, where David Villalón and his brother Mario offer an impressive assortment of wines by the glass and ingeniously designed cocktails.

Many of their Spanish pours are from small producers, which are not so easy to find. We like the Las Migas 2018 from Vicky Torres (a white wine from La Palma, one of the Canary Islands), 69 Arrobas from Xurxo Alba (a Galician Albariño aged in oak) and Lousas from Envinate (the best Galician red, in my opinion).


We love to dance, so we usually end up in Lavapiés, the least posh of Madrid’s central neighbourhoods, dancing the night away to funky music at El Juglar, a disco bar where you can find all different types of people. In summer, the crowds pour out onto the street.”

A next-level culture-and-style crawl

Edited from an interview with Diego Cabrera

“A great day in Madrid begins early, by which I mean 9 a.m. — with a hot chocolate and a side of churros at La Churrería Santa Ana in the Barrio de la Latina. Next, I love taking visiting friends to the Museo Cerralbo, easily the most underrated museum in the city.

Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, the namesake Marquis of Cerralbo, was an avid collector of antiques, sculptures, animals and anything else that caught his eye — the overly ornate property is still arranged as though the aristocrat lives there.

After, it’s off to the bohemian Barrio de las Letras, my favourite neighbourhood in Madrid. Stroll down Calle del León to check out some memorable shops, including Casa González, which has been selling exquisite cheeses and sausages for almost a hundred years, and La Compañía Polar, the self-dubbed “anti-gentleman” brand, which makes smart updates to classic menswear designs. (I also love the sustainable, mod outdoor apparel line Ecoalf, which has locations all over the city.)

A visit to Wilde is a must to check out the vintage-inspired eyewear. The owner, my friend Cao Wilde, creates most of the collection himself, including a variety of one-of-a-kind pieces.

The sustainable, mod outdoor apparel line Ecoalf has locations all over the city.

Even though flamenco is from southern Spain, it’s fun to witness the thrilling zapateao (shoe-tapping dance) and live singing at Cardamomo, also in Barrio de las Letras before checking in on Guru Lab across the street.

Marked only with “Sapiens” written into the mosaic tile flooring at the entrance, this speakeasy space is where my team and I do our research and development for future cocktail and culinary recipes—we invite guests in on the weekends to sit around our large communal table and sample our latest creations.

Lately in the lab, we’ve been working with unusual flavors: some veggies, fermented stuff, cocktails inspired by a dish. Of course it has to be something you like—if our experiment doesn’t work for you, we always let you change it for something else.”