Our destination series continues this week with Senior Project Executive, Hollie Foster, giving us an insight into leading European destination, Madrid. Thanks to Mónica Sánchez Núñez from Spanish Tourism and Rosario Santos Torrico from the Madrid Convention Bureau for hosting.
I set off bright and early on Friday morning to meet with the group and our host Mónica from the Spanish Tourist Board at Heathrow airport. After a short flight, we landed in Madrid to glorious sunshine! We took a transfer to the Novotel Madrid Centre Hotel to check-in and on route our tour guide pointed out key sights, shared interesting anecdotes and clued us up on the city’s history - a perfect introduction to Madrid, a place which I’d not had the opportunity to explore before.
Once we’d dropped our bags at the hotel, we headed over to A Punto Cookery School for a networking activity and lunch. Upon arrival to the Cookery School, located underneath a small quaint bookshop in Calle de Hortaleza - a real hidden gem, we were greeted with warm Spanish welcomes from local DMCs and suppliers and the most incredible tapas was awaiting us at the table – not forgetting the Sangria too of course!
After introductions, we took our stations in the kitchen and were briefed on our surprise activity. We were asked to use our creativity and imagination to produce artwork out of food. We all had a sheet of paper in front of us and worked together to create some masterpieces, using chopped up vegetables, toppings and sauces! After the activity, we chatted further over lunch which was prepared by the head chef at the school. We were treated to a tasting menu of traditional Spanish dishes, which was incredible – my personal favourite was the dessert - gin and tonic jelly with lemon sorbet.
After freshening up at the hotel and with not too much time to work up an appetite, we headed over to our dinner venue, Plateau - a converted cinema boasting 6,000 square metres over two floors, three galleries and a patisserie area. I personally loved the atmosphere within the venue and looking down on the stage while dining – where a live 1920s cover band was performing, in addition to the bustling bars and restaurants around us, really enhanced the experience. We were showed around the full space and with the capacity to fit up to 1,000 pax, I was definitely sold and will be keeping the venue in mind for future events in Madrid.
The next morning, we headed straight to the first site inspection of the day to the new Atlético de Madrid Stadium Wanda Metropolitano. Taking three years to build and just opening its doors in September this year, the brand-new modern stadium is ideal for hosting groups in the hospitality suites on match days. The second site inspection took place at the Barceló Torre de Madrid, a quirky art deco 5* hotel, which would be ideal for a VIP corporate group or incentive – a boutique luxurious venue which boasts style and character. The next venue we visited, the NH Collection Madrid Suecia, also a 5* hotel located in the city centre (built around the concept of Swedish home living) had both a rooftop cocktail bar and a hidden underground bar which you can only access through the toilets – but shh no one knows about it!
Our last site inspection, followed by lunch, was at the Florida Retiro in the centre of Buen Retiro Park - the largest park in Madrid. Florida Retiro consists of an a-la-carte restaurant, tapas bar, food market, spectacular terrace and mythical events room – open 1AM to 6AM for all the party goers! As a bit of extracurricular, a few of us strolled around the park after lunch to see the Palacio de Cristal and visit the lake where everyone was out in force on the rowing boats enjoying the sunshine.
After freshening up at the hotel, we headed out for the evening activity – a tapas tour around the Huertas area. We visited several local tapas restaurants and had the opportunity to try the most popular and well-known tapas dishes, such as; Tortilla Española, Gambas al Ajillo, Peppers Padrón and of course, plenty of olives, ham and breads. I really enjoyed the evening and think a tapas tour for an evening activity would be perfect for those clients who wish to give a more personal touch to their networking event. The night concluded with an incredible flamenco show at Casa Patas, it was an amazing performance and a chance to really experience Spanish culture to the fullest!
The next morning, we were up and out early to begin our walking sightseeing tour organised by Corazon Travel through the centre of Madrid. We visited famous cafes, shops and restaurants, to include the oldest restaurant in the world ‘Restaurante Botín’, and tried all kinds of traditional Spanish delicacies – my personal favourite being the Dry-cured Jamón serrano. We visited popular sightseeing spots and monuments but the most impressive in my opinion were the Almudena Cathedral and Royal Palace.
For lunch, we dined at the Arzábal Reina Sofía; a modern yet traditional restaurant, the food was incredible and the service impeccable – I will definitely be recommending to anyone visiting the city, the croquettes are a must-try!
We concluded the trip late afternoon over a coffee in the Spanish sun in the terrace restaurant at the newly opened Only You Atocha Hotel before heading back to the airport for our flights home.
It was a truly amazing trip, well hosted, with the opportunity to see a wide array of meeting and event venues, as well as network with local DMCs and suppliers. I found it a very beneficial experience and in addition, I had tonnes of fun which is always a bonus!