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Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour (Self Guided), Madrid

There have been many writers who've expressed a love for Madrid, but one who did so quite famously was Ernest Hemingway – a frequent visitor of the city, in which he found his muse, popular success, and critical acclaim. Don Ernesto, as he was called in Spain, was a welcomed and frequent visitor to a few places in Madrid that have since become tourist attractions. Follow this self-guided walking tour to revisit Hemingway's old stomping grounds.
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Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Hemingway's Madrid Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Madrid (See other walking tours in Madrid)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)
  • Bar Museo Chicote
  • Circulo de Bellas Artes
  • Westin Palace Hotel
  • La Venencia
  • Cerveceria Alemana
  • Restaurante Sobrino de Botin
Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)

1) Edificio Telefonica (Telefonica Building)

Designed by Spanish architect Ignacio de Cárdenas, who based his plans on those of American architect Lewis Weeks, this 90-meter high, 14-story American-style skyscraper has nevertheless a Spanish Baroque facade of elaborately sculptured ornaments. Europe's tallest structure at the time of its inauguration in 1929, it has been a symbol of Madrid and its clock a famous landmark of what has become colloquially termed as the "Madrilenian Broadway".

An interesting aspect of the building's history is that it housed the offices of the foreign press during the Civil War. Ernest Hemingway was one of the foreign journalists at the time (late 1930s) and got the inspiration of his famous book "For Whom the Bell Tolls" here, while watching the Nationalists fight the Republicans. As it happens, the building's height made it an ideal target for bombing raids by Franco's troops, but this, fortunately, turned out to be an unfounded fear.

Today the Telefónica plays a more peaceful role in Spanish life. The 1st floor has a quiet little café and a shop where you can buy any and every kind of communication equipment. Other floors house the Museum of Telecommunication, the Technology Museum, as well as wonderful (temporary) art exhibitions, so there is always something interesting to see!

Opening Hours:
[Museum] Tue-Sun: 10am–8pm; free admission
Bar Museo Chicote

2) Bar Museo Chicote

When looking at your list of places to visit in Madrid, don't be misled by Museo Chicote on Gran Vía – it's not a museum, but rather Madrid's classic cocktail bar. During the Spanish Civil War, Chicote was a favorite meeting place for the foreign press, with Hemingway as one of its most regular patrons. The bar has kept its authentic 1930s style but has added modern lighting, modern acoustics, a dance floor, and some of the top Spanish DJs to entertain you into the small hours.

The walls are festooned with the great and famous who have (perhaps) sipped refreshing cocktails in the heat of the Spanish summer nights. Here you can see – apart from the famous Ernest – photos of Dalí, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, and Orson Welles, among others. If Ava Gardener ever frequented the place, you would have a hard time proving she didn't – a well-positioned photo suggests that she did; but in these days of airbrushing software, who really knows?

There's no doubt the bar is aimed at tourists, but even so, it's a civilized and calm place to stop in for a preprandial cocktail. You won't find a lot of hipster-inspired drinks, but you also won't find any artificial juices, mixers, extracts, or additives. Each classic cocktail is crafted by hand with extreme, almost obsessive care, and served just at the right temperature.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 1pm–3am; Sun: 1pm–1am; Kitchen: 1–4pm / 8–11pm
Circulo de Bellas Artes

3) Circulo de Bellas Artes

Not far from the Plaza de las Cibeles you will find the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a private institution that first opened its doors in 1881, was declared a Center for the Protection of Fine Arts in 1921, and was listed as a National Historic Building in 1981.

The institution offers one of the most active cultural programmes in Madrid and is certainly worth an afternoon's visit. There is something for everyone's taste in the arts; in the exhibition rooms, you can enjoy rotating themed exhibits (check online to see what's on display); for film lovers, there is a cinema, or if you'd prefer to see a play, you will also find a good theater. There are concert and lecture halls and during the Madrid Carnival, the famous Masked Ball is held here. There's also a bookstire/souvenir-shop and a café/restaurant to enjoy a good meal or some tapas.

Don't miss a visit to the roof terrace with a statue of Minerva and a wonderful panorama of Madrid. A great place to go for a drink at sunset, but very busy, so either booking or coming about an hour earlier is essential. €5 fee to get the lift up.

Hemingway was a frequent guest at the Hotel Suecia, which was just around the corner, and often visited the Circulo de Bellas Artes. Several famous artists passed through the doors of this educational center that is a must see for any arts lover.

Opening Hours:
[Exhibition Halls] Tue-Sun: 11am–2pm / 5–9pm
[Cafeteria "La Pecera"] Mon-Thu: 8am–1am; Fri-Sun: 8am–3am
[Rooftop] Daily: 9am–midnight; Sat, Sun, Holidays: cafeteria service from 11am
[Cinema and Shows] Wed-Sun: 4–10pm
[CBA Store] Mon-Sat: 6–9pm
Westin Palace Hotel

4) Westin Palace Hotel

An old Madrid classic, this former palace of the Duque de Lerma - the King's 'valido' or favorite - opened as a hotel in 1911 and was Spain's second luxury hotel. Ever since, it has looked out across Plaza de Neptuno at its rival, the Ritz, like a lover unjustly scorned. It may not have the world-famous cachet of the Ritz, but it's not called the Palace for nothing.

After the snooty Ritz banned actors and other public performers in the early 20th century, the Palace became the hotel of choice for celebrities. Mata Hari, the exotic princess from the East, lived here during WWI and her ghost reportedly occupies the corridors, while Hemingway, Dalí and Lorca were all regulars in the wonderful cocktail bar – still a great (though rather costly) place to sit on the comfortable couches and sip wine, Mai Tai, or whatever your desired drink.

For lunch or dinner, visit the first-floor restaurant with excellent service and delicious food. Check out the art on the ceiling of the rotunda; in particular, the imagery of a gondola that conjures the feeling of dreaming in the sky.

Buy tickets for the Prado at the concierge desk to avoid the museum's long lines.
La Venencia

5) La Venencia

Clad in vintage posters with the interior yellowed in cigarette stains, La Venencia sherry bar in central Madrid gained fame in the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, as a popular hangout of Republican soldiers and their supporters, among whom was Ernest Hemingway, a war correspondent, who frequented the place seeking news from the front.

Nowadays, the sherry & tapas joint has retained much of its character; smoking has been banned, as in many public places, but the old wooden barrels and sawdust floor, still in place, remember Hemingway pitching up for a glass of sherry, much as the top-shelf bottles, none of which seems to have been dusted since. All of this adds a great deal to the place's appeal.

Regularly crowded by locals, the bar still carries a sign from the Civil War era, saying "Don't spit on the floor". Moreover, in keeping with its republican tradition, La Venencia still observes the strict rule, as was in Hemingway's time – no photographs, as a safety measure against possible Fascist spies, as well as no tipping. The latter may seem odd, but these were socialists and workers, after all...

If you make the effort to fit in, you'll be fine. Don't expect advice on sherry choice, service is efficient but not effusive. They don't do flights or tastings, but a glass is so cheap (and good) that it doesn't matter. Treat the staff with respect, be friendly and you'll get a nod as you leave indicating you were welcome.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 12:30–3:30pm / 7pm–1am; Fri, Sat: 12:30–4pm / 7pm–1:30am; Sun: 12:30–4pm / 7pm–1am
Cerveceria Alemana

6) Cerveceria Alemana

Sitting on the southern edge of Plaza de Santa Ana, Cervecería Alemana ("German Beerhouse") was once the favorite taproom of Ernest Hemingway and many other celebrities of the day including Ava Gardner, each of whom either lived in or visited Madrid quite often throughout the 20th century.

Established in 1904 by a group of German manufacturers, hence the name, this brewery is still "a good place to drink beer and coffee," – as Hemingway once put it in his article in Life magazine – to be shared, if lucky, with "the most beautiful woman in the world". His regular table here still stands in the near right-hand corner and it feels every bit as though the man himself might walk through the door at any moment. This classic Spanish beer hall prefers buckets of olives to preening pretentions of city life, with wooden beams, hat racks and black and white photos from old bullfights.

The food fills, the beer range (German, Belgian and Spanish) is broad, and the service is efficient.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11am–12:30am; Fri, Sat: 11am–2am
Restaurante Sobrino de Botin

7) Restaurante Sobrino de Botin (must see)

Madrid's most famous eatery, the Botin restaurant is reportedly the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world, having been founded by Frenchman Jean Botin and his spouse in 1725 as Casa Botin. The restaurant was eventually inherited by their nephew, which explains the change of name to Sobrino de Botin ("Botin's Nephew") it is now known by.

The famous painter Francisco Goya is said to have worked here in his younger years as a dishwasher, and the place was also a firm favorite of Ernest Hemingway. The restaurant grew particularly popular after Hemingway's regular visits here, where, they say, he even set the last scene of his novel "The Sun Also Rises". Other than these historical associations, Botin is known primarily for its ambience, comfort, photo ops, and main specialty – the 'cochinillo' (roast suckling pig).

You can optionally book the 'Botin Experience' which includes a tour of the restaurant prior to sitting down for your meal.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 1pm-4pm (lunch) / 8pm-12am (dinner)

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