Madrid is a wonderful city and don’t let the Barcelona hoplites tell you any different. It’s a bit ‘dirtier’, more industrial and land locked, but it is packed with charm. It’s also the home of my soulmate, another human being just as juvenile and messed up as I am. My love for her aside, the food, wine, architecture, language, culture, landscape and people, make this an incredible city break spot.
I’ve visited the city twice and recently booked my third trip for November 2016. So, if you’re toying with the idea of visiting the city, then let me help you make the most of your time there. In April 2016, I spent five days there, a lot of which was a solitary experience as my friend had to work. This was daunting at first but by the end of my time there, I felt like I really knew and understood the city and its people. Here are some tips on what to do while you’re in Madrid and how to get around with ease.
Madrid has an extremely efficient Metro service. The system is clear and easy to use as long as you know where you want to go. A lot of the key sites are near a Metro stop, but if they’re not, do your research prior to visiting the city and know the stop and line that corresponds with your chosen venue. It also gets ridiculously hot, another reason to plan your time there as much as possible. In the height of summer it can exceed 40 degrees Celsius. The fact that I’m alive and typing this post is evidence I haven’t experienced that heat.
My advice, buy a Combinado ticket, which gives you 10 journeys throughout the entire Metro network. One journey includes as many trains as you want or need to use, without leaving the station. As long as you stay in the network, one journey could last all day (if you have some sort of Metro fetish). In five days I used two of these tickets.
Combinado Ticket – €18.30
SEE / EXPLORE
Temple of Debod
This temple dates back to the 2nd Century BC and was actually dismantled and transported to Madrid in a bid to rescue the site from the Aswan High Dam’s reservoir, in Egypt. It’s spectacular when the air is still and the light is right, turning the shallow waters to glass. You can find the temple near the Royal Palace in Parque del Oeste.
A stunning building around since the 1700s and a must see if you’re touring Madrid. The grounds are amazing and you can pay for a tour of theseand some of the interior for around £40.00. I didn’t go in but I was in awe of the structure’s grandeur and architectural intricacies.
This is a gorgeous public park that once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy. It covers 350 acres of land and you could spend an entire afternoon exploring like I did. Take your book, grab an ice cream and find your way to the immense Monument to Alfonso XII and soak up the sun and tranquility. I went here twice on my last visit to Madrid because I couldn’t cover the whole park in one go. You can even hire a rowing boat and row in Retiro Pond. If you exit the park onto Calle de Alfonso XII where it meets Calle Claudio Moyano, there’s a cute (but extensive) book fare running down the hill.
This is for the cat lovers. A cute little independent book shop in Malasaña run my one man and his “soul mate”, an adorable black cat. I can’t recall the cat’s name, but he loves hanging out on the desk next to his best friend, or sometimes he’ll greet you on the pavement outside. The souvenirs aren’t cheap but for their cat lover sentimental value, they’re priceless.
Mercado San Miguel
This is one of my favourite stops in Madrid. I went twice in five days because there’s so much to take in that you can’t possibly do it in one go. Everyone is bundled together, enjoying cheap but high quality Spanish wines, Sangria, cake, pizza, pastries and even caviar! It can be intense, a lot of people crammed into an indoor market space, but if you bump someone they don’t care. So heave your way through the crowd and sample as much as you can! I got a large glass of white wine for €2!
Eco Centro (VG)
I’m not a vegan but I am open minded, so I was eager to try out this eatery. You have the option of eating in the cafeteria style entrance or, in the evening, you can waltz downstairs into the basement which is a cosy restaurant with delicious, home cooked, vegan treats. Even the wine is vegan.
In Sol, this cake and coffee store is incredible. So many cakes to choose from, cheap delicious coffee and you do it all standing at the bar. Essentially a cake and coffee pit stop with 100 people in a tiny space. Amazing.
El Corte Ingles
The rooftop of this department store is a gorgeous luxury foods store and restaurant. On a sunny day you can sit outside, look out at the city below you and tuck into an incredibly intricate sorbet rose!
A few other places to try are Café Avalanche (the best red velvet cake I’ve ever eaten, for real) and one of my favourites, Café Vacaciones in Malasaña.
You’ll love Madrid if you’re into eating great food, drinking great wine and aspire to the Spanish lifestyle. It has all of the things you associate with Spanish life and more. A warning, the most beautiful of the beautiful people (there are a lot of them) are so beautiful it can be quite an overwhelming sight to behold and at times you’ll never feel uglier in your life.