Captivating, beautiful and bursting with energy, Madrid is a vibrant metropolis that welcomes LGBT travellers with open arms, discovers Luke Till.
The Royal Palace, or Palacio Real, is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Unless you book in advance, you’re likely to queue for at least half an hour on any given day, but the € 11 admission fee is well worth it – King Charles III’s Apartments are particularly exquisite.
Parque del Oeste, nearby, offers fantastic views of the palace and is home to the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple rebuilt in Madrid in the early 1970s.
The Museo del Prado is Spain’s main national art museum and houses one of the world’s finest collections of European art. Contemporary art gallery the Reina Sofía is dedicated to 20th century art and features excellent collections of two great Spanish masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. It is also the place to see what is perhaps one of the most important and powerful works of contemporary art, Picasso’s mural-sized oil painting Guernica, created in 1937 to bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.
The neighbourhood of Chueca in the heart of Madrid is where you’ll find most of the city’s gay bars, clubs, restaurants and shops.
Bars tend to start getting busy from 11pm but often encourage guys to head out earlier with 2-for-€ 5 beers – bottles of Mahou are the popular choice (its brewery was founded in Madrid in 1890).
LaKama is the Ku Bar of Madrid, complete with shirtless bar studs and strong, spirit-based drinks.
Bulldog is a small but friendly venue that plays pop music videos and, as the name suggests, attracts a more mature crowd. HOT also pulls in mature bears and was packed when we dropped by on a Sunday evening.
Drag queens hit the stage most nights at LL Bar and has a fantastic atmosphere – even if you can’t understand what’s going on.
And Boyberry is a busy, sexy cruise bar and basement maze packed with cabins and dark corners.
Where to eat
Mercado San Miguel is an old market hall with loads of food options including a superb mozzarella bar and churros con chocolate – fried doughnut sticks served with a hot chocolate drink or sauce.
Similarly, Mercado San Anton in Chueca is fun; there’s a huge range of tapas and an inexpensive rooftop bar with late opening times.
Platea on Plaza de Colon is a converted cinema/theatre where there are lots of options for tapas and bars. More of a day place, it’s a nice place to sit and people watch, and there is often a DJ playing great music.
Buzzing locales Plaza de Puerta de Moros and Calle Cava Baja are filled with loads of tapas bars where you can go from restaurant to restaurant and have tapas and beer in each.
And the uber stylish Only YOU Boutique Hotel Madrid, also in Chueca, offers a sophisticated brunch buffet every Sunday from midday until 4pm, with fantastic breads, salads, meats and fruit juices just some of your options (onlyyouhotels.com).
Where to stay
Room Mate Oscar offers 74 rooms from which you can enjoy spectacular views of downtown Madrid. Its crowning glory, however, is the peaceful rooftop terrace bar, which offers bespoke cocktails (we had The Passport – gin, passion fruit, strawberry and Campari) and stunning views of the Telefónica, a 1920s Manhattan-inspired skyscraper (room-matehotels.com/en/oscar).
And building on its success in Barcelona and Berlin, Axel Hotels is set to open a new 87-room venue in Madrid on Atocha Street later this year (axelhotels.com/en/axel-hotel-madrid/hotel.html).
Why book now?
WorldPride Madrid 2017 runs from Friday 23 June until Sunday 2 July. The Parade will take place on Saturday 1 July and starts at Atocha train station at 6pm before making its way along Paseo del Prado and ending in Plaza de Colón at midnight. Visit worldpridemadrid2017.com and gomadridpride.com for more details.