For me, the places that most reflect Madrid’s historical and cultural mix are the flea markets, especially El Rastro, which is very unspoilt compared with most European markets, which have been commercialised – here you can still make amazing finds, much like at Portobello 20 years ago.
My life is run by books – I could spend all day, every day leafing through them, especially photography and art books. I regularly visit Ivorypress, a wonderful art and design bookshop owned by Norman Foster’s Spanish wife Elena. It has a great gallery space and its own publishing house too. There is also a brilliant book fair in Madrid every other autumn, and I’ve found all sorts of books, from an early Miró catalogue to an antique book of photos of bullfighters. They make me feel connected to the city.
I find Tiempos Modernos inspiring for its choice of mid-20th-century furniture, especially its 1930s pieces. I also love Matarranz, a very idiosyncratic place selling bed linen made by the old ladies who run it. You can have sheets made to order, and there are cashmere and lambswool blankets as well.
For a complete change of atmosphere, I like to walk in the city’s surprisingly spacious parks, especially in the heat of summer. El Retiro has amazing buildings and monuments added by assorted monarchs from the 16th century onwards, and it’s the hub of Madrileño outdoor life. The pavilions often house art exhibitions, but it’s the annual spring book fair there that I like best. Browsing vintage books in that beautiful environment is my idea of heaven.
I also recommend a walk down Calle de Serrano, a beautiful 19th-century street that has been recently restored, with avenues of trees and wide pavements. It is becoming home to the big luxury brands, but in between you’ll get a feel for the character of Spanish retail, from thriving, well-priced fashion chains you’ve never heard of to beautiful old-fashioned artisan chocolatiers.