Magic in Madrid – street art, squid sandwiches and a stay at the new Hard Rock Hotel

As I turn a corner, the towering Guernica appears, stretching from floor to ceiling and over most of the wall. Picasso’s cubist black-and-white masterpiece is almost as intimidating in size as it is in subject matter.

considered one of the most important pieces of 20th century art – and arguably the painter’s most famous work

As I turn a corner, the towering Guernica appears, stretching from floor to ceiling and over most of the wall. Picasso’s cubist black-and-white masterpiece is almost as intimidating in size as it is in subject matter.

Considered one of the most important works of art of the 20th century – and arguably the painter’s most famous work – anti-war painting expresses outrage at the Nazi bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica two years ago before the outbreak of World War II.

The painting hangs in Reina Sofia, one of the capital’s finest art galleries, and is undoubtedly the reason many visitors walk through its large hallways. Enter early enough and the experience is even more impactful without a crowd gathered in front.

close


Guernica by Picasso at the Reina Sofia Museum. Alamy / PA.

Guernica by Picasso at the Reina Sofia Museum. Alamy / PA.

Almost as well known, the Crying Woman by the Spanish painter hangs on the opposite wall and Salvador Dali’s Girl in the Window is on display around the corner. The museum is unique in its scope of work, says our guide Miriam. “It’s a window into the 20th century; we show the relationship between the artists and the context.

From November this year, all six floors of the Reina Sofia are open, allowing visitors to see the gallery’s works from the 20th century to the present day for the very first time as a permanent collection.

The museum is a point of Madrid’s “Golden Triangle” – or Paseo del Arte – a central area within walking distance of three of Spain’s most important art collections.

But not all Madrid art can be found in museums.

Nearby, in the lively Lavapiés district, a work of street art represents migrants crammed into a small dinghy arriving in a Spanish port. It’s one of many painted along a 300-meter wall outside an abandoned tobacco factory (the basement now houses artist studios) as part of the Muros Tabacalera project.

The play, by Yksuhc Juan, premiered last year. “The focus is on luck, it’s luck, who they are and where they come from, just humans trying to have a better future,” says our guide Gerardo Reyna from Cool Tour Spain (cooltourspain.com).

Although it will not enjoy the same longevity as Picasso’s Guernica – “Street performers know that the pieces are there until the moment they end. [when another artist paints on top]Says Gerardo – there is a poignant parallel to their subject. Some 80 years apart, the two show outrage at the innocent people affected by the conflict.

close

Lauren Taylor discovering street art in Lavapies, Madrid.  Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.


Lauren Taylor discovering street art in Lavapies, Madrid. Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.

Lauren Taylor discovering street art in Lavapies, Madrid. Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more concentrated selection of street art in Madrid than Lavapiés, although the Malasaña neighborhood (think trendy cafes, vintage stores, and hippie vibes) is also full of a few gems.

Some of the world’s most respected street artists have left their brushstrokes there. A huge pop art-inspired scene of a hugging couple by British artist D * Face spans the side of a residential building, and not far from there is a collaboration between famous Spanish painter Okuda and the Portuguese Bordalo II – on one side is a chimpanzee made from recycled materials, the other features a geometric and surreal rabbit.

“It’s the most instagrammed place in Madrid,” says Gerardo.

The new Hard Rock Hotel Madrid, where I am staying, is right across from the Reina Sofia and a 10 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Lavapies. Launched on the occasion of Hard Rock’s 50th anniversary, the Smart Four Star Offering is their 37th property. Budapest and New York are scheduled to open in early 2022, and a new Hard Rock hotel in Dublin opened in 2020.

The hotel celebrates the artistic talent of the city. Behind the bar is a striking mural specially commissioned by young local street artist Frank Gomez, inspired by the counter-cultural movement La Movida, which forged a turn towards democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Other decorations inside the property include David Bowie’s platform boots, a jacket worn by Rihanna, and a seven-story light installation of a giant guitar in the lobby.

When it comes to the hotel experience, highlights include a rooftop bar with day beds, live music, outdoor pool and garden, and exceptional cuisine.

It sounds like a grown-up take on the brand that many are familiar with. But as we sit down to a nine-course chef’s table test menu, it’s clear that there’s no classic Hard Rock burger with American cheese in sight.

close

The hotel lobby.  Hard Rock Hotel Madrid / Roberto Lara / PA.


The hotel lobby. Hard Rock Hotel Madrid / Roberto Lara / PA.

The hotel lobby. Hard Rock Hotel Madrid / Roberto Lara / PA.

Half Spanish, half Venezuelan, Chef Juan Perez’s menu (with no less than nine accompanying drinks) celebrates his journey from South America to Spain through food. There’s a savory corn crème brûlée inspired by Venezuelan arepas and rabbit ribs with a Canarian sauce. While his interpretation of patatas bravas – drawn up like a mille-feuille and fries – alone is worth the plane trip.

The hotel is just 10 minutes from the huge El Retiro Park – the city’s green lung – and five minutes beyond is another world-famous gallery, the Prado. First opened in 1819, it houses a collection of 8,600 paintings dating from the 12th century – impossible to browse unless you have all day, but the Spanish masters Velázquez and Goya and the Dutch artist Bosch were my points. strong.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza is an additional five minutes walk: another heavyweight of modern art. I catch the René Magritte exhibition – until the end of January 2022. The permanent collection presents the impressionists Monet and Renoir at the corner of Van Gogh, Degas and Kandinsky.

But the Spanish capital is not just an art paradise. Its distinct neighborhoods are a maze of pretty side streets and pastel-colored blocks with Juliet balconies, and it’s easy to waste hours weaving them together.

In the nearby bohemian town of Las Letras, poetry adorned with brass letters decorates some streets. Cafes sprawl out onto the sidewalks with locals drinking wine at lunchtime, classic Spanish ham hangs in store windows, and busy tapas restaurants are plentiful.

Towards the more touristic end of the city, the historic Plaza Mayor with its enormous esplanade dates back to 1620. Once the center of bullfights and public executions, no first trip to Madrid would be complete without at least setting foot there.

close

A squid sandwich in the Plaza Mayor.  Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.


A squid sandwich in the Plaza Mayor. Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.

A squid sandwich in the Plaza Mayor. Photo: Lauren Taylor / PA.

This is where you’ll find the best bocadillo de calamares, a squid sandwich fried in white bread, a Madrid staple. Locals are more likely to eat it at 2 a.m. on the way home from bars, but it’s just as delicious for lunch. There is one rule, however: don’t order one in a sit-down cafe; they are best appreciated from a take out window. I stand in line at La Campana and laugh at mine with the Casa de la Panadería and all its architectural splendor for all to see.

Travel notes

Rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel Madrid start from € 145. Visit hardrockhotels.com/madrid. The Green Room’s nine-course tasting menu is priced at € 150 per person, three cocktails and wine included.

You can find the latest Covid-related travel criteria for Spain (and your return to Ireland) on gov.ie, dfa.ie/voyage and reopen.europa.eu.

Visitors traveling by air must also complete an electronic health check-up form before arriving at spth.gob.es. You will receive a QR code which you must then present when boarding and arriving in Spain.


Source link

Back To Top