Hotel Ritz (Closed)
Plaza de la Lealtad, 5, Retiro
Occupying a massive Belle Epoch palace mere steps from the Prado that speaks to Madrid's illustrious history, the Ritz actually belongs to the Mandarin Oriental family of hotels, despite its name. The grand lobby, champagne bar, English-style tea room, and excellent Basque restaurant are all decked out with the grand flourishes of the early 20th century. The rooms are equally opulent, with rich tapestries, ornate rugs, and period furniture that oozes old-world charm.
Calle Ibiza, 38, Retiro
Eating at Taberna Pedraza is a little bit like going over to a good friend's house for dinner (albeit a friend that's a ridiculously good chef). The colorful, mismatched tiled floors create a casual vibe that's furthered by an eclectic bunch of disparate chairs, flower arrangements, and the friendly nature of the service. What's more, the small kitchen is open and visible from behind the bar, so you can see Chef Santiago Pedraza working his magic in real time. The straightforward menu here offers up simple tapas: Go for the classics, like croquettes, tortilla, or the steak, and definitely don't skip dessert.
Museo del Prado
Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, 23, Retiro
Nearly 200 years old, this is one of the best museums in Spain—if not the world—reflecting the tastes (and astonishing wealth) of the Spanish court through the centuries. The collection dates back to the 16th century and Spain's world dominance at the time shows with the sheer value of many of its holdings, including major pieces by Titian, Fra Angelico, Velázquez, and El Greco. The museum is enormous and can be somewhat intimidating so their approachable guide materials—some of them contextualized with music and geared toward a variety of interests, including a few for kids—make the visit all the more manageable.
Buen Retiro Park
Plaza de la Independencia, 7, Retiro
A royal retreat until the 19th-century, the city's main park is dotted with evidence of its princely origins, whether it's the Paseo de la Argentina with its flank of royal statues, the Palacio de Cristal, a former greenhouse for rare species from the Philippines (now an art space curated by the Reina Sofía), or the 18th-century Neoclassical observatory. Today it's simply where locals gravitate for a dose of the outdoors. The park bustles with visitors year-round and offers numerous activities, thanks to outdoor Flamenco concerts, new exhibits, boat rides on the man-made Estanque lake, and the rose garden. Photo: Håkan Svensson
Calle Dr. Castelo, 30, Retiro
Taberna Laredo is our pick for authentic Spanish food that's modern and up-to-date without being overly fussy. In typical Spanish style, the upstairs space offers a full meal (and impressive wine list), while the downstairs is a tapas-only bar. Madrid is a city of night owls, so it doesn't really start to heat up downstairs until around 11pm, when locals belly up to the bar for well-executed cocktails and small dishes.