“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces,” Plato tells in The Symposium. “Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” This beautiful sentiment was my introduction to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain, an encyclopedic museum of art spanning from 13th century to late 20th century works.
My visit to the Thyssen museum right before the start of 2018 Pride had a rather endearing and welcoming effect. As in many museums, you might not be quick to notice the queer stories hiding behind the paintings here. But like the city of Madrid itself, there’s so much just waiting to be discovered.
During my recent tour of the city for Pride, I got a peek at what makes Madrid so special. Madrid celebrated 40 years of Pride this year! With around 1 million people attending the city’s LGBT Pride Parade in the city every year (3 million for World Pride last year), it takes the crown for largest Pride celebration in Europe. Same-sex marriage has been legal here since 2005, a testament to Madrid’s reputation for being such a queer-friendly destination. Ames a quien ames, Madrid te quiere!
During Pride in Madrid, the temperature is hot and the men (and women) are even hotter. Spend Pride nights rocking out to artists, DJs and performers that take over Plaza del Sol and Plaza del Rey — or make plans to dance the night away in one of the city’s many bars or clubs in Chueca, Madrid’s historic gayborhood. If it’s drag you want, check out LL. Stop in Lakama Bar or Zarpa for a drink. And if it’s a sweaty night of grinding you want, there’s a list of extensive options: Bearbie, a popular club for the furrier among us, or Baila Cariño and Marta Cariño. Wherever you decide to go, be sure to make a stop at Chocolateria San Ginés for churros dipped in piping hot melted chocolate before you stumble to bed in the early dawn hours.
If you don’t mind the afternoon heat, visit my personal favorite spot in the city, the zen Parque del Retiro. Much like NYC’s Central Park, you’ll find visitors, locals and wildlife alike. Rent a rowboat to cross the azure lake or gawk at the shimmering Palacio del Cristal and elaborately detailed statues and fountains on the park’s grounds.
For a grand view of the city, stop for a sunset cocktail at Gymage or make a lunch date for pinchos and dessert at El Corté Ingles, a European brand department store shrouding a panoramic rooftop view of the city.
Delicious food is not in short supply in Madrid. Wander Mercado de San Miguel, an open-air market overflowing with food stalls of fresh seafood, fruits, cheeses and Spanish cuisine. Stop into La Bodega de Ardosa for an afternoon cocktail and bite to eat. The often-recommended Bazaar Restaurant is a lovely fine-dining spot to enjoy Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. To top off your trip, don’t forget the paella—a Spanish dish of fresh seafood on a bed of rice, cooked up to share family-style. For this, Restaurante La Barraca has the best in the city, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a table. It’s entirely worth it.
Located close to Chueca, Malasaña and the main Gran Vía lined with shops and restaurants, 7 Islas Hotel is a lovely boutique hotel. From here, it’s simple to access all the best the city has to offer: eat at the best restaurants, hit the bars or visit the art museums. Recently renovated by designer Kikekeller, the hotel’s modern, clean and simple decor adds a bright airiness to the city’s already stylish vibe. The contemporary rooms feature a bath tub with glass shower, city views, and deliciously scented toiletries by Malin+Goetz. Enjoy a continental breakfast and a late-night cocktail at 7 Craft Bar while admiring the lobby art gallery or making plans to lose yourself in the city.
Whether you go for the drinks, the food or the sights, you’ll quickly understand why so many LGBT people from around the globe find themselves coming back time and time again to experience Madrid’s warm welcome for themselves.
For more info, visit esmadrid.com and spain.info/en.