Barrio de Salamanca is quite peculiar, both for its layout and for the neighbours whose homes used to sit in this most desirable area of Madrid.
The neighbourhood was developed in the second half of the nineteenth century as an expansion planned under Queen Isabella II’s rule. The designer was Málaga-born José de Salamanca y Mayol, Marquis of Salamanca. He wanted to have an area for the exclusive residence of Madrid’s aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Barrio de Salamanca follows a regular grid pattern with parallel and perpendicular crossing streets. The carefully designed buildings here feature beautiful frontages that’ll catch your eye.
Historically, Salamanca has been a residential area inhabited mainly by Spain’s financial and political elite. In the past fifty years, it has attracted diplomats, businesspersons and, together with them, sophisticated fashion stores.
The most valuable cultural gem of Barrio de Salamanca reopened in 2014 after rehabilitation work that lasted years. The exhibition rooms host objects from Ancient Egypt, Greek pottery and Roman statues, plus an interesting collection of sculptures from the Iberians. A splendid example of Iberian figurative art, La dama de Elche (The Lady of Elche), is one of the highlights.
It keeps the collection that art critic José Lázaro Galdiano donated to the State. Among its treasures are Hieronymus Bosch’s St. Jerome,Goya’s Aquelarre(Witches’ Sabbath), and a jar from the ancient city of Tartessos.
Established in 1594 as a home for pilgrims hailing all the way from the Netherlands, the historical building is today the home of a foundation that aims at bringing the culture from this country in Northwest Europe closer to Madrid. A true gem is kept inside: The Martyrdom of St. Andrew, by Rubens.
This multi-sports hall holds not only the ACB League and the Euroleague Basketball matches of Real Madrid and Estudiantes, but world-class concerts as well. In September this year, the Sports Palace will be one of the venues of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
This high-end shopping district showcases the best of Madrid – elegance and style. Renowneddesigners and national and international brands have their boutiques in Salamanca. Haute couture, shoes with a name and surname, accessories, jewellery and watches will captivate your attention from the glitzy shop windows.
Calle Ortega y Gasset is the main shopping attraction in Salamanca, so much so that it’s known as Madrid’s Golden Mile of fashion. The world’s best-known couturiers offer their latest creations here. Calle Serrano, packed with men’s top clothing brand boutiques, Calle Claudio Coello and Callejón de Jorge Juan, which has become a favourite with luxury shoppers lately, are all delightful shopping streets.
If you’re looking for original artworks from talented artists, Calle Villanueva and adjacent streets, with their amazing art galleries and auction houses, is your destination.
Barrio de Salamanca has three restaurants that have been awarded with what so many restaurateurs want to be blessed with: Michelin stars. Established more than 40 years ago, Zalacaín is the oldest of the three. Chef Juan Antonio Medina (heir to Benjamín Urdiaín) is a traditional cuisine specialist. Housed in the Único hotel, Ramon Freixa Madrid earned its first star in 2009 and the second one, a year later. Finally, Kabuki Wellington, run by sushiman Ricardo Sanz, serves traditional Japanese delicacies and native ingredients in original preparations.
Less starry but equally stunning and innovative are other restaurants, whose chefs prepare Peruvian or Asian dishes, and specialties from every Spanish region.
Finally, in this district there are several delis that sell a range of mouth-watering products, from artisan bread and pastries to designation of origin wines to cold meats and cheese.
As it accommodates a great many headquarters of big companies, this neighbourhood has lots of bars for after work drinks. Beer, wine and snacks are perfect for business executives to relax and enjoy their time after a long day at the office.
Later at night, pints and glasses of wine give way to more elaborate drinks like gin tonic, which is the refreshing blend everybody seems to be drinking these days. There are even cocktail lounges specialising in this mix consisting of gin, tonic water and aromatic leaves. The top barmen of Madrid can be seen in Salamanca, stirring and shaking the ingredients of that perfect cocktail you’ll be sipping, wrapped in the glamorous atmosphere of this exclusive neighbourhood.
When the evening pulls the sun down, Salamanca keeps going, since some of the city’s most elegant nightclubs can be found here.