Stylist and well-travelled founder of The Frugality blog, Alex Stedman, will be heading to Madrid for a little winter sun. We asked her to share the secrets to travelling in style and where's hot right now in the Spanish capital.
What do you love about Madrid at this time of year?
A little bit of sunshine! It might not be bikini weather but it does wonders for my skin and energy.
Do you have a favourite hotel?
Being frugal, I go for convenience over luxury – the RoomMate Hotels are really good value with friendly service. The Mario hotel is within walking distance of most sights and right by the Opera metro. The staff are keen to give recommendations – and all were spot on.
What’s in your carry-on?
My laptop, I always have to do (a bit) of work whilst away – online never sleeps! Clothes-wise, I always take a good pair of Frame boyfriend jeans, Tabitha Simmons plimsoles, a fun clutch for evening and plenty of pouches to ensure I can find everything quickly and tortoiseshell sunnies (I love Le Specs or Illesteva). Oh, and my new Urbanears headphones.
Image: Caroline Leeming. Stylist: Claire Brayford. Canvas pumps, £250, Tabitha Simmons; sunglasses, £50, Le Specs; cashmere shawl, £250, Cocowai; headphones, £50, Urbanears; Ginsberg sweater, £275, Bella Freud; ‘Camera’ clutch, £570, Yazbukey; satin lipstick, £19.50, Nars; Breton knit, £199, MiH; pouch £16 (sale £12), Lolo; boyfriend jeans, £235, Frame; tinted moisturiser, £48, Eve Lom; fragrance, £74, Serge Lutens (All available at Fenwick Bond Street). Suitcase from a selection, Reiss x SteamLine (reiss.com).
Any tips for getting through passport control swiftly and in style?
A great easy-to-wheel suitcase - I love Reiss' new collaboration with Steamline - my personalised Smythson passport holder and a cashmere hoodie or a chic knit from Bella Freud manage to make me feel a bit 'pulled together'. And I always like to queue behind solo travellers – as we all tend to get through quicker!
What is your favourite view?
Lying down on the grass by the Glass Palace in Retiro Park, usually with an ice cream in my hand.
Where do you love to drink and dine?
La Latina area is the best for off-the-beaten-track, traditional restaurants on various little side streets. All of these restaurants have a real buzz. I love real Spanish-y places where you stand at the bar and throw wrappers on the floor! Bar Santurce is great for this. Bar-wise, Spanish beer is amongst the best – and you can't really go wrong with most drinking spots. I also love Churros – there are tons of great sources sprinkled around the city – the perfect post-shopping treat.
Do you have a favourite holiday read?
I love to take a big book away to really switch off. Last time it was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Any beauty essentials?
Eve Lom's tinted moisturiser with built-in SPF is perfect for mini-breaks and I always carry Lucas Paw Paw ointment in my bag – I am addicted to lip balm. For evenings, I use a coral lipcolour (Nars' satin lipstick is a favourite).
Or must-visits while there?
Museo Nacional del Prado - put aside some time though, as it's enormous. I'm a big fan of Goya's work, and the collection of Velasquez is incomparable.
And finally, what is your favourite Madrid memory?
As soon as we landed, we went straight to the San Miguel indoor markets. It was such a feast for the senses – oysters, paella, sardines, mussels – you can get anything on-the-go. It's so bustling and you feel like a local within minutes.