10 Things Not to Miss in Madrid

When I was in high school, my Spanish class was scheduled to travel to Spain and Italy. I worked extra hours, saved up and planned to go, but then the trip was cancelled. I was heartbroken, and yearned to still visit Spain. Finally, ten years later, I got the chance. My sister and I made plans to travel to Madrid, Granada, Cadiz, and Seville in summer. All I can say is that the wait was worth it.

Including everything we managed to squeeze into our ten-day trip in one blog post seems an impossible task, so I’ve divided our itinerary up by city. To, start, off we go with Madrid!

My sister and I arrived to Spain on a Saturday morning in June. She had already been in Europe exploring Porto, Portugal, so she only had a few hours to fly. We met at the arrivals section of the Madrid airport, and took the Madrid metro to our hotel, the Hotel Indigo Gran ViaOur room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived so we ate breakfast at the hotel’s café, then headed up to the terrace on the hotel’s 12th floor, which included a bar and infinity pool that overlooked the city of Madrid. We caught some sun while lounging on the deck and admiring the incredible view. 

The streets of Madrid

After a quick shower, we headed out to explore Madrid. We walked to the (1) Palacio Real, passing the Teatro Real. All the streets and buildings were intricately designed and beautiful, as was the palace, surrounded by immaculately-kept gardens and centuries-old statues. Next we visited the (2) Templo de Debod and the (3) Plaza de España. We loved the park that surrounded the Templo de Debod, which offered some shade and refuge in the middle of the 100-degree day. We even waded into its fountain and took photos.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Next we walked to the (4) Plaza Mayor, which was gorgeous and surrounded by red-orange buildings from hundreds of years prior. Centuries ago, the square served as the venue for public executions, but when we were there it featured a recycling-focused art exhibition surrounding the bronze statue of King Philip III in its center.  Afterward, we ducked into the Chocolatería San Ginés where we ate porras with hot chocolate, a Madrid specialty.

We then headed back to the Hotel Indigo to change for dinner, then walked the mile to the (5) La Latina neighborhood of Madrid, where we had dinner at La Musa Latina. After about five plates of mouth-watering tapas, we finished the meal off with a huge slice of chocolate cake, which we devoured. After dinner we strolled back toward our hotel, passing the (6) Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena – a breathtaking sight, particularly in the golden light of the late-night sunset.

La Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena

The next day, we slept late to recover from the previous night, and woke only at 10:30 am. Realizing how late it was, we dressed quickly and headed out. We ate at the indie-chic Hanso Café, and shared banana bread, yogurt, and oatmeal with a fried egg, while snapping photos of the cafe decor we planned to replicate.

Next we headed toward El Rastro, one of the most famous flea markets in Europe. On the way we happened upon the (7) San Miguel Market, an indoor food market with aisles and aisles of the most incredible food – pastries, yogurts, paella, croquetas, jamón, seafood, champagne, and more. I sampled a small croqueta de bacalao (cod fritter) – and did my best not to order eight more.

Gourmet food at El Mercado de San Miguel

Then we kept on to reach the (8) El Rastro flea market. Made up of venders in white tents selling clothing, leather goods, home decor, jewelry, and trinkets, the market stretched for acres. I bought a compass from the 1880s, a small coin purse with a map on it and a beautiful flowered button-up shirt.

After finishing up shopping, we walked to the (9) Museo del Prado. It was a quick visit, but we were able to see works by Francisco de Goya, El Greco and Diego Velasquez – most notably Las Meninas by Velazquez. Afterward we grabbed fruit smoothie bowls at a beautiful, white-washed café near the El Retiro Park called Harina (flour).

Afterward, rejuvenated, we ventured into (10) Buen Retiro Park to explore. We saw the Palacio de Cristal, Monumento Alfonso XII (under construction then), Fuente de la Alacachofa, La Rosaleda (rose garden), and Estatua del Angel Caído. The park was full of Madrileños relaxing and socializing on their Sunday off, and we even laid down to rest a while. Even though it was still 100 degrees at six in the evening while we were there, we were perfectly comfortable in the shade of the park’s massive trees.

Palacio de Cristal, Buen Retiro Park

After a quick change at the hotel, we returned to the La Latina quarter for a late dinner. We ate patatas bravas, tostada with goat cheese and carmelized onions, and croquetas with goat cheese and pine nuts at the Posada del León de Oro – all delicious. Tired from walking 12 miles (!) that day we headed back to the hotel to see the sunset before collapsing for the evening.

The next morning we headed to the train station, and departed for Granada. Fortunately, on the way back we had the chance to swing through Madrid again. Once we arrived, in the early evening, we took a taxi to our next hotel, the One Shot Prado 23, modern and chic, just a few blocks from Buen Retiro Park and the Museo del Prado.

After dropping off our luggage and a quick shower, we headed to Estado Puro for dinner, right in front of the Fuente de Neptune. We ate outside on a shaded patio, enjoying weather cooler than we had had so far on the trip. We ate jamón on toasted bread and a dish of marinated tuna steaks, red pepper and onion – both delicious. I topped off dinner with a glass of garnacha– the cherry on top of an excellent meal.

Estado Puro, Madrid

After dinner, and picking up a few groceries, we headed out on a mission to have churros con chocolate one more time before we had to leave Madrid. It took us two tries, but we found luck at the Churreria Farola, and devoured a plate of churros and hot chocolate. It was our last night in Madrid, and we hated even the idea of leaving, but resigned ourselves to return to the hotel for our flights out in the morning. 

. . . . .

I fell in love with Madrid my first trip there, but I know there are others out there that have spent more time in this magnificent city. If I’ve missed any great attractions (and I know I have) please leave your suggestions in the comments.

And as I wrote above, stay tuned for itineraries for Granada, Cadiz, and Seville.

¡Hasta luego!

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