Madrid is Spain’s largest market and serves as the gateway to many South American, North African and European markets, giving the city great international business appeal. The last decade has seen rapid growth here—notably in the services sector—to the point of making the cosmopolitan Spanish capital Europe’s third-richest city, with a rapidly rising cost of living the only apparent downside.
Barajas is Europe’s fourth-busiest airport. The new, Richard Rogers–designed Terminal 4 is the jewel in the crown—an architecturally stunning space worth visiting for its undulating ceiling alone. The Metro (take the shuttle bus from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1, 2 or 3 to catch it) is the fastest way into town.
Stunningly refurbished, Hotel AC Santo Mauro (C/Zurbano 36, +34 91 319 69 00) is a 19th-century mansion with a contemporary twist, located in the stately Chamberi district minutes away from the city’s financial center, Plaza de Castilla.
The chic and deservedly famous Café de Oriente (opens at 8:30 a.m., Plaza de Oriente 2, +34 91 541 39 74) has an expansive terrace—where you should try to get a seat—with the best view in the city, overlooking the Plaza de Oriente, the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) and the Teatro Real.
Jockey (Amador de los Ríos 6, +34 91 319 24 35) has a wood-paneled interior with a clubby, conservative charm that’s typical of Madrid. A city institution, the restaurant may not have an experimental menu, but the food is always excellent. It’s just as good for a business lunch as it is for dinner.
Visit Madrid’s astonishingly lovely 350-acre park, Parque del Buen Retiro, is located on the edge of the city center. Retiro is the place for jogging or soaking up the sun on an outdoor terraza.
Be on time yourself—but do not be surprised or frustrated if Madrileños themselves do not follow suit. As a rule of thumb, things generally run 30 minutes behind schedule. And pace yourself—the Spanish dine late (often 10 p.m. or later) and stay up until the early hours.
• Soccer: It’s worth doing some research on La Liga, the country’s top professional league.
• Family is always a popular subject, especially the children of your hosts.
• Spanish culture, such as wine and flamenco (but not bullfighting, unless you’re a fan).