Beyond Spain‘s famous tourist attractions that the crowds simply flock to, there are also plenty of hidden gems that lay waiting to be discovered. I was lucky enough to be privy to some of the country’s more unique offerings during my visit and came back with a whole new appreciation for Spain.
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At popular destinations such as Madrid and Ibiza, I tagged along with the locals to learn more about their favourite places to hang out and even got to meet masters of their craft, which was an eye-opening experience. Of course, I also indulged in some food and fun! Come along and see Spain through my eyes.
The famous Mercado San Miguel is a central market that has been gentrified, fitting for the growing young population here. I couldn’t wait to head in and begin an evening of feasting!
Walking in the aisles of the market is the perfect way to take in the vibrant atmosphere of people interacting with food. There are so many appetising options to choose from and of course, while you’re in Spain, you absolutely can’t avoid a Jamon or ham stall; these hanging Bellotas particularly whetted my appetite.
Madrid is filled with many different neighbourhoods that are ever-growing and ever-changing. I had the privilege to see the streets from a local perspective when an insider well-versed in fashion, gourmet and art took us around. Finding out about these independent boutique shops that play a role in the guide’s life was refreshing and made me feel like I was truly walking in the footsteps of a Madrid resident.
Wine is literally cheaper than water here so it comes as little surprise that Spaniards love their alcohol. I managed to get up close and personal with the bartenders of the famous Dry Martini Bar within the Gran Melia Fenix hotel at a masterclass session. It was amazing watching these bartenders make drinks as the multitude of steps involved in making each cocktail is mind-boggling. The process itself is almost like a dance!
The best part of this masterclass is the exchange of experience, passion and creativity — plus, I love the freedom you have to make any drink you like. The good food, good cocktails, good music and the bar’s energetic vibe came together to create one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had.
While in Madrid, I got to meet some of the unsung artisans at the heart of Spanish heritage. Their homes are a legacy to the craft their families have pursued over the years and we got an insight into how they’ve honed their skills and passed on their passions through the generations. Pictured here is the workroom of a guitar shop that counts famous musicians such as Lenny Kravitz and Bob Dylan amongst their customers!
This Leading Hotels of the World property in Madrid is simply my personal favourite of the trip. Gorgeously decorated and rich in history, grandeur and glamour, this hotel is really just like a living museum. The building used to be a palace and has a wonderful view of the city from the rooftop, which creates a picture-perfect moment for guest during sunset.
About an hour from Madrid is the youthful and lively island of Ibiza. We hopped on a jeep around the island, which was definitely an exciting way to explore the destination. Beyond the twists and turns and ups and downs of the rugged terrain, we were welcomed by beautiful blue waters, sandy beaches and magnificent bays.
Taking a walk around the old walled city was also fun yet relaxing with its quaint cobbled alleys and the cool breeze from the Mediterranean sea. Ibiza is definitely more than just a party destination; it’s full of culture, history, art, gastronomy and architecture.
Having lunch in Spain can be a late affair but that doesn’t mean it has to be fast and boring! This gastrobar in Ibiza serves fusion food in an extremely memorable manner. Don’t you love their quirky presentation style?
What better way is there to spend the night in Ibiza than to do what it’s best known for? Party the night away! It was an epic night at one of the hottest clubs on the island with Fat Boy Slim playing at the closing party of the summer season. As the saying goes, eat, sleep, rave, repeat.
Just a short 30-minute ferry ride away from Ibiza is Formentera, which is perfect for a day trip. A beautiful place with pristine beaches that are reputed to be some of the best in the world, affordable handicrafts and charming hotels, the small island felt like a home away from home. I really wish I spent more time here and can’t wait to visit again.