With a bit of exercise and healthier food to accompany your merry-making in Madrid, you should finish the weekend feeling none too worse for wear!
In a city known for its nightlife—it’s not uncommon for a Saturday night to finish at 7:00 on Sunday morning, it seems like a foregone conclusion that your weekend holiday in Madrid might just leave you feeling dead-tired, hungover and bloated as you return to work on Monday. But, with ever increasing opportunities to eat clean, nutritious foods (byeeeeee, fried tapas, we won’t miss you!) and break a sweat, Madrid might just be leaving its hard-partying image behind and entering a new era as one of the leaders of healthier living.
If you’re planning on traveling to the majestic Spanish capital soon and would like to leave great memories instead of a raging hangover, check out my sample weekend itinerary designed to help you experience all the vibrant energy of Madrid while preserving your most important travel vessel (your body) for future fun.
Get thee to the center, and, more specifically, to Malasaña. The thriving hipster neighborhood, which is home to a whole bunch of young Madrileños, students, expats and artists is popping with energy on a Friday afternoon. Spend some time exploring the shops along Calle Fuencarral and the surrounding area, and, if the weather’s nice, try to score a table at one of the bars in Plaza Dos de Mayo, Plaza de San Ildefonso or Plaza del Rastrillo, and enjoy a pre-dinner drink or cocktail. (But be warned, you will likely have to wait for a table to open up unless you arrive early, which, in Spanish time, is before 8:00 PM.) If you have time before dinner, take a wander along any of the streets near Plaza Dos de Mayo and enjoy spotting some of the street art that this area is known for.
For dinner, it’s hard to go wrong with the Mercado de San Ildefonso, which has lots of seating (some outdoors in a lovely sheltered, interior terrace), food to please all palates and several bars to wet your whistle. If you’re looking to keep things light and healthy, I’d recommend the ceviche stand, though there’s also a great stand that does grilled kabobs of all sorts, and the vegetable and fish skewers are something to write home about. The bonus of a market is that you can sample a bit of everything, though the convenience factor means that prices are not the cheapest you’ll find.
After a delicious smorgasbord of tasty noms, head back to your lodging and tuck yourself in for an active weekend!
Saturday is a great day to explore Retiro Park and taking advantage of some of the many opportunities for exercise al aire libre. But, first, you’ll need some fuel, and, luckily, there are some great healthier offerings near the park that will have you in tip-top shape for all your activities. My favorites are Magasand (instagram.com/magasand), a small local chain known mostly for its gourmet (and extremely fresh!) sandwiches, salads and ‘impossible magazines’, though they do also offer solid breakfast options with lots of fresh juices and smoothies, and Bumpgreen (instagram.com/bumpgreen), a slightly ritzier option with a mouth-watering breakfast menu that looks like it was imported from Los Angeles. Think acaí bowls, quinoa porridge, chia pudding, lots of dairy-free, processed sugar-free hot beverages, ethically-sourced eggs and sustainably-sourced produce.
Either one of these will put a little extra spring in your step, which you’re going to need for your morning in Retiro. My absolute favorite activity in Retiro is renting a rowboat and paddling around the ‘lake’ in the center of the park. It’s surprisingly cheap (8€ for an hour on weekends, 6€ on weekdays), plenty entertaining and not a bad arm workout. Alternatively, if boats are not your cup of tea, you can rent a surrey at Diverbikes and put your pedal to the metal. For me, this is actually the best way to see the most of Retiro. Don’t miss the rose garden, Palacio de Cristal or the free-roaming peacocks!
If that wasn’t enough of a workout for you, there are a number of fitness classes that you can partake in on a Saturday in Retiro, including what I think is the best one (though I might be biased): Fresh to Death Fitness’s Core Power Pilates class (more information at facebook.com/f2dfitnessmadrid).
Once you’ve worked up an appetite again, head west (by foot or metro), and check out one of my favorite lunch spots. Mercado de la Cebada in the La Latina neighborhood offers a weekly fish lunch on Saturday afternoons that is incredibly fresh and cheap. The market’s fish vendors cook up their wares and serves them alongside buckets of cold beers and white wine—trust me, what it lacks in presentation, it more than makes up for in flavor. And, since most of the seafood is grilled, you don’t have to worry about feeling gross and heavy all afternoon.
If you’re not a fan of seafood (WHAT), nearby you’ll find Arbonaida, an Andalucian-style bar with a great menu, offering plenty of healthier, vegetarian options. Plus, they will actually accommodate special orders (dairy-free, meat-free, etc.), which is almost unheard of in Spain.
Another great option south of Puerta del Sol is La Inquilina in Barrio Lavapiés, which has a surprising number of tasty vegan options, including vegan empanadas!
There are tons of hip places for drinking and dancing, and you shouldn’t miss out on that experience in Madrid. Unfortunately, I usually partake in day-drinking and then go to bed pretty early on Saturdays because I work on the weekend, so I can’t comment on the club scene. But I’ve heard good things about Independance, BarCo, Joy Eslava and Fortuny. So, if you’re energetic and daring, give one of those a whirl!
As for laying a nice base for a night of drinking, you can start with another market—Mercado de San Antón in Barrio Chueca is a great choice! Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated. (Pro tip: coconut water, when consumed in between alcoholic drinks, is healthier and can actually prevent a hangover.)
The absolute best way to kickstart a day if you’re feeling a bit delicate (or even if you’re not!) is with an acaí bowl, and Frutas Prohibidas in Chueca (instagram.com/frutasprohibidasbar) makes my favorite one in Madrid. They also have the best selection of juices, smoothies and protein shakes, so you really can’t go wrong. And they deliver! You might want to grab a couple of their sandwiches and juices, as they make for a quick, healthier, fortifying lunch while exploring.
Sunday is my rest day, so one of my favorite ways to stay active (but not too active) is by going for a long walk. One of the best things about Madrid is how walkable it is. I like to choose a direction and just go, which always leads to lots of great discoveries. Paseo de la Castellana is a good place to start—head south from Plaza de Colón toward the Atocha train station, and you’ll pass plenty of gems, including the Palacio de Cibéles, Prado museum and Reina Sofía museum.
I also love to wander near the river, and, on a nice day, the Madrid Río park is a delight. I’d recommend starting at the Matadero, a former slaughterhouse turned arts centre, and heading west. If you’re feeling really ambitious, follow the river all the way to Parque del Oeste. I like to shoot for about 20,000 steps on a Sunday, so this would be a perfect walk.
If you prefer a little more guidance, there are free walking tours of the city center departing from Callao at several times daily.
With a bit of exercise and healthier food to accompany your merry-making in Madrid, you should finish the weekend feeling none too worse for wear! And, in a city this active, it makes no sense to stay still—save the relaxation for one of Spain’s breathtaking beaches. When in Madrid, ¡vamos y anímanos!
Tell me what you get up to while in Madrid!