october is a perfect time to visit cities like madrid or seville – its far too hot in the summer months to enjoy walking around. madrid is a big sprawling city, so you really need to pace yourself. a definite must is the museo de prado with its wonderful Goya collection and also thyssen bornmisza gallery– it has one of the most incredible collections of 20th century art – there is probably not one artist that you can name who is not featured in there. start with the rooms with the early 14C works and marvel at the painting. there is a lovely cafe on a terrace at the front of the gallery to take tea too. from there you can walk to the beautiful botanical gardens, stop off for lunch at el botanico, a traditional spanish restaurant with tables overlooking the park or take a walk through the retiro park – cities are not just shops and big avenues.
the lovely local area of chueca is perfect for exploring – lots of independent shops, lovely cafes – it feels much more local and takes you away from the big chain stores. like barcelona, madrid is now very design conscious and there seems to be lots of upmarket sandwich shops and chocolate shops. mercado san anton is a recently revamped market shopping centre, with butchers, fish, fruit and delis on the ground floor, all very beautifully presented and then eating places on the top 2 floors. you can easily get a great snack of tapas and even sushi, or freshly pressed juice or sit in the rooftop restaurant and eat well and not too expensively. just outside of the market there is still one of the lovely old fashioned traditional cafes, simply named tienda de comida y vinos.
if you are up for seeing more exhibitions, then go to the ivory press gallery and bookshop- owned by the spanish wife of the architect norman foster, it has a beautiful collection of limited edition art and photography books and a changing exhbition, focusing on architecture, design and photography. at the moment there is an interesting exhibition of the works of Jean Prouve – the french industrialist architect who liked to design easy kit housing that you slot together for quick housing.