¡Hola amigos gay! Out Adventures is off to Spain for an unlikely pride march: a pilgrimage along the final hundred kilometres of the Camino de Santiago. All you have to do is walk twenty kilometres a day for five days, looking at your life choices and wearing down your ego. It’s a meditative journey that will connect you to your own higher power. Before we hit the road we’ll spend two days in Madrid, the gay capital of Europe. Whether you’re joining us on our trip, or planning to visit on your own, read on for inspiration to make your time sizzle like a tasty platter of tapas.
A grand dame of hospitality near the Puerta del Sol, Hotel Regina Madrid was built in 1918 and drips with elegance. We love it so much we booked it to kick off our Gay Madrid and the Camino de Santiago tour.
If you want to splurge on fancy flawlessness while you channel your inner Catholic nun at a former convent, Madrid’s five-star Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques is the place for you. Slumber under giant reproductions of Diego Velázquez paintings. And gaze at the mountains from the rooftop pool while sipping sangria.
Hip but affordable, Hotel Abalu awaits in the bohemian Malasaña district west of Chueca (Madrid’s gaybourhood). The rooms are individually designed and, given the small scale and attentive staff, it almost feels like a bed and breakfast.
Finally, if you like to cavort with fellow homosexuals when considering your hospitality, Madrid does boast its own ‘hetero-friendly’ Axel Hotel.
You won’t long for decent food in Madrid. Nor will you long for exquisite, pretentious, upscale cuisine. One thing to remember is Spaniards like to eat *really* late. Seriously. 10PM is a ‘sensible’ time to be seated for dinner.
For a quintessential taste of Madrid check out the menu at old-school Sylkar. Best known for Spanish omelettes (tortilla de patatas), you should also look forward to their winning wine list. If you’re a culinary adventurer, their tripe is worth a try.
Want to step things up several notches? There are so many Michelin-starred restaurants in Madrid (22) they deserve their own reality show. Sitting atop this celestial pile is DiverXO, the only restaurant with three stars to its name. It’s described as, “a journey through the hedonistic, greedy and creative world of Dabiz Muñoz,” the chef behind the vision. Other Michelin-rated marvels include Ramón Freixa Madrid, Coque, and Kabuki – which marries Japanese and Mediterranean flavours.
If you love mushrooms without the magic, check out El Cisne Azul. Conveniently located in the gaybourhood, it’s unassuming but offers an array of fungi to tantalize your taste buds.
You’d be remiss to visit Spain without stuffing your face with tapas, and Madrid has your back. Bodega de la Ardosa has been serving up their fare for over a century and oozes cozy charm. Across from The Prado, Estado Puro is a modern hotel bar that feels like a nightclub. Their modern updates on classic Spanish food include a 21st-century tortilla. If you’re a beer fan, La Tape is your best bet for a brew with your small bites. The food markets around town are also great for tasty morsels. More on that later.
To wrap things up on a sweet note, you must try churros and hot chocolate. Churros are donut sticks dusted with cinnamon sugar, and Spanish hot chocolate is…absolutamente delicioso. The place that tourists and locals alike line up for is Chocolateria San Ginés.
Madrid is famous for its gay nightlife. You could find many places to go just by wandering through Chueca and following the party posters on the street.
Craving the company of cuddly bears, wolves and/or otters? Grab your dental floss (for all the fur) and start your night at Enfrente (and by ‘start’ we mean midnight). Then cross the street to Hot. Both properties are run by the same owner and capture the ursine spirit of Madrid.
While the hairy theme continues at at Barbanarama (‘barba’ translates to beard), you needn’t be furry to have fun here. Open on weekends the venue offers campy theme nights and good times for all.
Craving a drag show? LL Showbar has you covered. You’ll be entertained, you’ll be mocked from the stage, and you’ll be primed to keep the night going.
When you’re ready to shake your moneymaker in your designer jeans (no sooner than 2AM of course), Delirio is a small but sure bet throughout the week. If you’re holding out for the weekend so you can go full-tilt, Mala Mala is the megaclub that mesmerizes.
Also, while we’re not a sex tour operator, we will note Madrid is *very* sex positive. Have an itch to scratch? There are many places to scratch it. Wherever you find yourself, use common sense for safety, keep your valuables securely tucked from pickpockets, and be wary of meeting exceedingly friendly younger fellows. They may expect to be paid for their no-pants merengue.
An essential part of any visit to Madrid is The Royal Palace. With 3400 rooms spanning nearly 1.5 million square feet, it is the largest functioning royal palace in Europe. Of course, like any monarchy worth noting, the Spanish royal family has been stunned with salty scandal.
Local markets are a sublime way to dive into the sights, sounds and flavours of a city. Madrid’s quintessential mercado is Antón Martín. From sausages to street art and tapas to Taiwanese food, there are many ways to tickle your senses here (you can even check out cooking demos). Being Spain, the vendors sling their fare well into the night. Other markets worth noting include San Miguel in the tourist district, and San Antón near the Chueca gaybourhood.
If you’re a culture buff, Madrid is home to the world-famous Prado Musuem. With 5000 paintings, it rivals the collection at the Louvre, so focus on a few specific exhibits if you visit. For a more intimate experience, the Sorolla Museum was once home to Impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla.
While many associate flamenco music with South America, this bombastic flurry of castanets and guitars was born in Spain. The oldest flamenco hall in Madrid is Corral de la Morreria. Enjoy dinner in the Corral’s restaurant and make a night of it. If you’re on a budget, Villa Rosa offers an affordable Sunday lunch show.
If you’d like to try something completely different, Zarzuela is a distinctly Spanish style of musical theatre. For an unexpected but authentic taste of the Spanish capital, consider a live performance at Teatro de la Zarzuela.
Ready to spoil yourself with Spanish charm (then atone for your decadence with a hundred kilometre sojourn)? Join us on our Gay Madrid and the Camino de Santiago tour.
Header photo of San Miguel Market. Photo by Andrés Alagón.
We at Out Adventures are ecstatic to host our first gay Camino de Santiago hike. To help potential guests such as yourself feel prepared for the journey, we’ve compiled everything you need to know before booking this unforgettable pilgrimage.Read More
For the first time ever, Out Adventures touches down in Madrid, then Spain’s northern province of Galicia for an active gay adventure along the Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James. Today this landmark Catholic pilgrimage is just as popular with secular wayfarers including LGBT trekkers, and Spain is already one of the most gay-welcoming […]Read More