Each month our resident business travel expert Mark Frary writes the Heathrow Express travel guide to a major city. This month: Madrid
Business travel buzz
Madrid is about more than football, although the Champions League final between its top teams – Real and Atlético – certainly showed the Spanish capital's dominance of the beautiful game. The Spanish capital remains a thriving world city, despite Spain’s continuing economic woes. Services make up the largest sector of the city’s economy and it is the country's financial capital, with its centre in the AZCA district.
Image: Madrid AZCA Business District, © Turismo Madrid
A new financial district – the Four Towers Business Area (or CTBA) – opened in 2007 and gets its name from its four soaring skyscrapers, including the Torre Bankia, home to the Caja Madrid bank. Santander and BBVA banks also have their headquarters in the city, as do oil giant Repsol and telecom giant Telefónica. Madrid's aerospace industry employs more than 20,000 people at companies such as Airbus and EADS Casa. And university students make up almost a tenth of city's population.
Image: Four Towers Finance, Madrid CTBA © Turismo Madrid
British Airways and its sister airline Iberia, link Heathrow and Madrid's Barajas airport 13 times a day.
Barajas airport is 9km from the AZCA financial district and 23km from the Puerta del Sol, the city's historic centre. It’s just 15 minutes on the metro from any airport terminal to the central Nuevos Ministerios station. Take line 8. You can also breeze into the centre from Terminal 4 in 11 minutes by train. An official white and red taxi from the airport to the centre costs a flat €30.
Image: Madrid Barajas Airport Terminal © Turismo Madrid
Madrid's art museums are legendary – and well placed if you have a spare hour or two between meetings. The Prado on Paseo del Prado has one of the best collections of European art in the world, including stunning works by Goya and Velázquez. Meanwhile, enjoy the eclectic collection ranging from Old Masters to the post-Impressionists at the nearby Thyssen-Bornemisza. And if you can fit in some football on a business trip, the Santiago Bernabéu is well worth a visit, if only to gawp at the Real Madrid trophy collection. A tour costs €19. You can buy tickets for games at www.realmadrid.com/en/tickets, costing from around €30 for a standard ticket and from €225 with hospitality.
Image: Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid ©Turismo Madrid
The black book
Business hotel rates in Madrid are low by the standards of major European cities. Rates fell by more than 7% in 2013 over the previous year and now average €136.32.
The Silken Puerta América Madrid is a real treat for the senses. World-leading architects including Zaha Hadid and Sir Norman Foster have created distinct room designs – some straight out of sci-fi – on each floor. There’s also a popular rooftop bar with amazing views of the city.
Image: Silken Puerta America Hotel, Madrid © Turismo Madrid
The beautiful Retiro park is one of Madrid's main attractions and the Hotel AC Palacio Del Retiro is housed in a National Heritage status palace overlooking it. Its interior design is absolutely à la mode, but also beautifully captures the essence of the past – and The Prado is just next door. Rooms start at €170.
Budget a little more limited? The RoomMate group of Spanish hotels is good value. The RoomMate Alicia on Calle Prado is well designed, colourful and comfortable and a bargain, from around €70 a night. Just make sure you book in advance.
You'll want to eat great tapas when in Madrid. Traditionalists will love the intimate tiled interior of La Casa del Abuelo at Calle Goya 57. Just don't go for a meeting after snacking on a ración of garlic prawns. A more recent opening and a lot less traditional is TriCiclo at Calle Santa Maria 28 in the literary quarter. Oxtail ravioli and rendang taco are examples of internationally inspired, lip-smacking snacks.
Image: La Casa del Abuelo, Madrid © Turismo Madrid
Taberna Antonio Sanchez at Mesón de Paredes, 13 has been around forever; a wonderful old bar packed with bullfighting memorabilia. Fabrica Maravillas could not be more different, serving up its own craft beer in an industrial-chic setting at Calle Valverde, 29.
For coffee, art and the chance to pick up a present or two, head for design cafe, gallery and shop La Fabrica at Calle Alameda 9.
Want to get a quick insight on Madrid? Follow these influencers:
- Alex Barrera, @abarrera, co-founder of Madrid-based press42.com and the non-for-profit pre-accelerator Tetuan Valley
- A certain Welsh footballer who plays for Real Madrid, @GarethBale11
- New Zealand-born food and travel writer and tour guide James Blick's blog Madrid Chow
- All the top stories from Spain's biggest newspaper translated by native English-speaking journalists, @elpaisinenglish
- Juan Pascal, who runs @igersmadridand posts his own hypersaturated shots of architecture and life around the city
Image: Aerial view of Madrid ©Turismo Madrid
Read more #SMART stuff
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#Smart interview with Hilary Devey one of the UK’s most successful businesswomen
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