We stayed for a few delightful days at the Ayre Gran Hotel Colon, Calle Pez Volador in Madrid which we thoroughly recommend. We got a good deal on it at booking.com. My review for it is on TripAdvisor (I’m ‘fly-me-to-the-spoon’) and includes the following notes about gluten free restaurants / vegetarian restaurants in Madrid plus some advice about what to do and getting around if you also stay at this hotel:
“Snacks and breakfast options:
There are two buildings and the second is further round to the back of the first and on the way you’ll find a hole in the wall tiny grocery shop where we bought two big bottles of water and a couple of bananas for just over a couple of Euros. Across the street are two cafes and one behind which are an alternative to your 16 euro hotel breakfast with a pincho de tortilla (Spanish omelette with potato) for 2, cafe con leche for 2 and freshly squeezed orange ‘zumo de naranja fresca’ 3.75. To the right of these is a block signed ‘estrella’ or star which houses a great local market selling foods. Keep on to the main street and across it you find a supermarket.”
“Dinner near the hotel: To eat out I recommend going up the hill and turning left into Calle Ibiza. Lots of choice and after the Argentinian place turn right to explore Calle Menorca too where we ate in Barandales at no 33. Go at 9pm and you should not need to book as that’s the earliest the Madrilenos eat. A lovely meal but the potato skins are more what we would call potato peelings! It is typically Spanish so don’t expect carbs and veg with your main dish, therefore order a salad. They didn’t have a menu in English but will help you. A posh nosh place which we researched before as they are good with special diets – husband is celiac vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish and can’t eat any wheat etc. They even gave him gluten free freshly baked bread to start!
Also on the Madrid celiac list was Arroz y Arroz the rice emporium at Ibiza 25 but come Sunday night both were closed so we went round the corner left into Narvaez and across the road to find a wee Turkish place which was cheap at 8.50 for the house plate with a bit of everything which was the tastiest of my meals in Madrid. Turning right instead across the Narvaez road you see an ice cream shop.”
Madrid feels safe but do keep a firm hand on your valuables at all times – if you have a backpack twist and not the toggles so you can’t just unzip it. When I lived here every friend’s visit involved time in the Policia reporting a bag snatch or distraction robbery. On my first ever visit crossing the road in a crowd with my then boyfriend in busy Sol, someone unzipped the bag on my arm and got to my purse which I could never locate in there myself.
We really liked that we didn’t see any chavs, any hoodies (hot weather helps) and unlike London did not come across those with mental health issues … well until walking along Ibiza and there was a nutter singing abuse to the street but you will be pleased to know it was at the window behind the bars of a psychiatric clinic! This is testament to Spain’s excellent health system in my mind. In London they let them out to cause havoc in the community.
Eating in central Madrid: If anyone else is celiac or vegetarian or just enjoys nice food there are two great places to eat in town we recommend. Pizza Sana at Calle del Clavel 7 near Gran Via metro is open 1 to 11 pm and does a gluten free pizza option. English menu available. Go on a work day as the menu del dia makes it better value.
A fab veggie buffet with seats outside priced by weight (seaweed paella adds lots of weight be warned) is Viva la Vida at Calle de las Huertas 57 which is nearly opposite the Prado near metro Anton Martin. The girl there has excellent English.
If you walk up Huertas and follow that direction you will come across some squares like Plaza Santa Ana with cafes and more restaurants. When I lived in Madrid over two decades ago this was where I spent many evening hours. My favourite cafe for a gossip or to read/write was Cafe Central in little Plaza del Angel and is still there. Another cool place in the evenings after 10pm is the bars that tunnel under the Plaza Mayor on the West outside side of it and during the day also there is a wonderful food market with food bars that is just a foodie heaven.