MADRID, SPAIN. Last Friday, my classmates and I went on a two-hour tour of the city of Madrid. However, this experience was very different from numerous others I’ve had as a tourist, some when I was younger and with my parents, because this tour consisted of visiting only the traditional stores of Madrid. From the outside, these stores look very ordinary, but the stories they carry within their walls, ceilings and windows dated from many centuries before. From this tour, I believe I learned a more thorough and interesting history of Madrid than any of the other typical tours of Madrid I have taken before. Below is a list of places that you should definitely check out in order to get the best experience of Madrid!
This restaurant is situated on Calle Cuchilleros, 17, very close to la Plaza Mayor. In addition to the fact that this restaurant is considered the oldest restaurant in the world (according to the Guinness Book of Records), the food offered is also world famous for its finesse. In fact, all the dishes in its menu are typically Spanish, ranging from traditional cochinillo asado (roast pig) to solomillo botín (steak flank) to merluza al horno (baked hake). Rumor has it that the oven in the restaurant hasn’t been turned off since 1725, including throughout the Spanish Civil War!
This bakery is famous for being the very first bakery in Madrid. In fact, the baker of the Royal Spanish family opened it in 1855 because he wanted to share his ability with other Spaniards. Although his clientele was composed mainly, if not only of the Spanish elite, this famous baker is given the credit for showing the common Spanish people the existence of gourmet baked goods. Also, he is famous for being the first person to start the custom of having tea and cake together as a merienda (afternoon snack) in the afternoon. So, if you ever feel like having tea and/or coffee with your cake one cold afternoon, don’t hesitate to try this place out! The address is Calle Mayor, 10.
The restaurant, Lhardy, is situated on Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8 and was probably my favorite place of the whole tour. Everything about this place grabbed my attention and held me captive. From the outside looking in, you can see that the décor of the place is very simple, yet elegant: a couple of tall tables and seats are set in the middle of the room and on both sides, you can find delicious pastries sitting on the bars, waiting to be picked up. Beautiful and classic chandeliers decorate the ceiling, while the walls are left completely white and bare. The golden tint of the mirror-frames and the chairs blend in harmoniously and together give a classy ambiance to the place. Much to my surprise, the manager of the restaurant offered to give us a tour of the second floor. I hadn’t even realized that there was a second floor. We went up, and it felt as if I was travelling back in time. The lights went dimmer and dimmer as we climbed up the squeaking stairs and when we entered the first dining room—also the biggest—we saw numerous round tables in a cozy-looking space. All the cutleries were made out of silver, the plates were engraved with the name Lhardy, and the serviette had the same initials. Everything about this place gives off a feeling of elegance and class, and therefore, Lhardy boasts the fact that it is the first restaurant to bring gourmet food to Madrid and to teach the Spanish a luxurious way of eating. There are two other areas on the second floor of Lhardy reserved for guests who request private dining-areas. These two private dining rooms (one for six people and the other one for twelve) are offered to guests without any extra fees. Guests who choose to dine there should ask the waiters about the stories related to Queen Isabel II of Spain. I hope you will be as entertained as I was!