01 Jul Madrid By Barrios: Ópera
Madrid By Barrios: Ópera
Contributed By: Bridget Bailey
Royal palaces, beautiful gardens, quaint cafes lining the square, regal theatre, quirky bookstores, and amazing food are not just in fairy tales. Just a few steps away from Puerta del Sol is the romantic barrio of Ópera. If regality and sophistication are what you seek in Madrid, do not let this neighborhood go undiscovered.
I have seen many palaces and castles during my travels. They are one of the things I like best about Europe. I've even been nose-to-gate with Buckingham Palace but nothing compares to the Royal Palace in Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid). The palace was built between the years of 1730 and 1755 by order of King Phillip V after the medieval Alcázar castle was burned to the ground. The palace spans 1,450,000 square feet making it the largest in Europe. Along with this, its grandeur is inspired from the Palace of Versailles. If you are coming from Isabel II Square (also known as Plaza de Ópera), you will walk past the royal theatre and from the horizon, you will see the Palace standing tall against the horizon. The palace overlooks much of Madrid. You can enjoy the gardens, place directly in front, and the views for free. However, if you would like to enter into the palace there is a small fee of 10 euros for each adult. Their opening hours are as followed: October to March the hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from April to September are 10 a.m. To 8 p.m. The nearest metro stop is Ópera on line two of the metro (red line).
While you are in the Plaza de Ópera, it is worthwhile to check out the coolest bookstore in Madrid, Desperate Literature. I made this little discovery about a month ago and I am glad that I stumbled upon it. Since then, it has become one of my favorite places to visit. I love books and am often 'desperate' for something new and exciting to read (see what I did there?) in Madrid. As I have said before, finding worthwhile and low cost books in English can seem like an impossible feat. Yet, Desperate Literature not only offers good reads in English, it also has titles in French and Spanish. Upon walking in, you are greeted warmly by staff and depending what time (or kind of) day it is, are offered a beverage. When I first walked in, I was offered red wine. Obviously, they know the way to a girl's heart--books and wine. You can sit and play chess, talk amongst customers and owners, peruse an enormous selection of reasonably priced books and play with the local mascot, a black kitten named Wednesday. I was enchanted by the quaint but quirky ambiance, the genuinely nice staff, the wonderful selection of books and the wine always helps. Not only this, but they often host different activities such as book readings, sing-along nights, and in the near future, more academically minded (but fun) talks. If you want a recommendation, just ask as the staff themselves are book lovers. If you are too shy to ask, look at the hand written descriptions across different books for further guidance, often with a recommendation of an boozy beverage. Each book purchase comes with the option of their own stamp, which really adds a personal touch. All in all, Desperate Literature is a hidden gem right in the heart of Madrid and one of my all time favorite discoveries. Do yourself a favor and check them out. Located on Calle Campomanes, 13 or find them on Facebook: facebook.com/desperateliteraturemadrid
If romance is what you are looking for, look no further than La Café de la Ópera. This restaurant boasts great, authentic Spanish cuisine with a romantic ambiance. Perfect for staring deeply into your Spanish lover's eyes. Enjoy a great selection of Iberian ham, gazpacho (cold but delicious soup), cocido mardrileño (a type of stew famous in Madrid), and various red and white wines. You can even be serenaded during your dinner, if you want. The restaurant has an intimate and romantic feel about it from the instant you walk in the door. Each table is set in white linen with a candle in the middle. Though it is not the most budget friendly restaurant, they do offer different ofertas (deals) depending on the day. At the moment there is an Othello themed, serenaded dinner for 45 euros which includes wine, aperitifs, entree and dessert for two. It would be my recommendation to eat at this café at night and then take a walk by the beautifully lit palace for a perfectly cita romántica (romantic date).
All in all, Ópera feels like a come-to-life fairytale setting right in the center of Madrid. It offers a bit of everything from the quaint and cosy to the regal and romantic. Just try and remember this when you go, yes this is real life and yes, you can be a princess for a day if you like.