Gluten free restaurants in Madrid with vegetarian options plus tourist hints

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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.”

Andrew enjoying his gluten free vegetarian meal at Barandales restaurant, Madrid

Andrew enjoying his gluten free vegetarian meal at Barandales restaurant, Madrid

“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.

Vegetarian buffet feast in central Madrid with good gluten free knowledge/options

Vegetarian buffet feast in central Madrid with good gluten free knowledge/options

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.

Mercado del san Miguel

Mercado de san Miguel – a food market with bars and cafes as well as scrumptiousness galore

Mercado del san Miguel eating in

“Hotel Ayre Gran Colon in Madrid: We loved staying here. Quiet residential area with wide choice of local eateries in Calles Ibiza and Menorca, but easy for metro to centre or walk through amazing park. Fantastic modern room/bathroom. Great bed. Who needs an English TV channel when you have kisstv music channel? Only complaints are expensive breakfast and only one hour free all stay on basic wifi which does not allow you to download email. Signal was weak on 7th floor room so we used it in reception one afternoon siesta time. Note we were here 9-12 Sept and it was too hot to be out after 2pm some days and at 10pm it was 27 degrees C still so great for wearing summer clothes day and night, especially if like us you hail from the UK and the temperature hitting even 23 was a rarity this year.”

“Getting around:
Come out of Sainz Baranda metro (half an hour from the airport on the speedy metro trains but allow that much to walk to the metro stop too from your terminal – we bought ten tickets for two people at the machine in the airport metro as instructed by the girl in information. Machine didn’t like our credit cards so had to pay about 12 euros cash, note that includes a supplement for being at the airport which is far out) at the Calle Doctor Esquerdo entrance and the hotel is on the left five minutes walk down hill”

“Sight seeing on your doorstep:
For the Retiro you can walk up hill to turn left into Calle Ibiza and walk to the end to come in on a path that will take you alongside the boating lake. There’s great corners and gardens to explore all over but make sure you also see the Palacio Crystal behind the lakeside colonnade. We usually walked downhill and took a right into Nazaret to come in at the bottom and walk to the bottom of the Paseo de Prado. From here definitely go into Atocha train station as a tropical jungle complete with turtles is waiting to entertain you as well as those waiting for their train in this paradise. Reina Sofia Art Museum is near here too. The path that runs from the Retiro to the Atocha roundabout is lined with book sellers. There is the Prado museum too whose permanent collection of monumental sized old masterpieces is free Sundays from 5 to 8pm.”

Madrid shimmers beautifully at night – walk from Cibeles fountain (Metro Banco de Espana) up Alcala to Sol and into Plaza Major. We also enjoyed the area by the Palacio Real/royal palace (Metro Opera) and hoped to visit inside the castle but could not be bothered to queue. Hope you love Madrid too – pack you comfortable walking shoes!

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