Madrid me gusta mucho! I love Madrid!
I just returned from a nice holiday in Spain, visiting a bit of Madrid, Seville and Toledo, so the information I will provide in this post will be completely fresh! So much to say, photos can not depict the real beauty but I will do my best. I had such a great time there, that I will for sure go back there again one day and so want to show you and incite you to visit these places soon!
Spain has a fantastic climate, and going there now at the end of October, I couldn’t expect nicer weather than I had. Lovely, sunny weather in Madrid and in Seville even around 27 degrees. Though in Madrid every day I took a coat with me, as in the mornings and late evenings it gets cooler or if you are in the shade during the day… But most of the time I was without the coat and enjoying the sun shinning down on me :-).
People were so nice and friendly, smiley…and to my surprise there were not so many tourists like I had experienced before in Barcelona. They do not really speak good English there, so it is really advisable to learn some basic phrases or words if you need to find your way around. Also, there was supposed to be like a siesta time in the midday but honestly, in the center, I didn’t feel it – all the shops were open most of the time, even during the pubic holiday (November 1st) or on Sunday – so it was pretty great.
I also enjoyed tasty food anywhere I ate, with so many delicacies which are not common to eat often in my country. Not to forget that I enjoyed drinking delicious Spanish red wines, Sangria and beer with lemon whenever I could, but I will write more in the next post.
Drawbacks in Madrid: Free WIFI was absolute challenge to find in Spain. They tell you in cafes that they have it, but it does not work. Inside the flats we had it, which was great, but around the city do not expect much, And another thing was that early in the morning, the city was still dirty from the buzzing nights, so the street cleaners were cleaning it probably much later. In general, I saw a lot of trash on the streets, but believe me you neglect with all the positive and great things this city has to offer.
WHAT TO SEE, DO, WHERE TO GO FIRST…
Now will explain you what are the main things to see while in Madrid for few days, and what I liked and maybe disliked, so stay tuned.
I hope you already had opportunity to read my blog about which web sites I use for booking my individual trips (if not please CLICK HERE), so firstly I would like to mention how I did it for this trip. I found a very good deal to fly there and back by Lufthansa/Swiss airline after checking Momondo website for the best connection times and prices.
TIPP: Make sure if luggage was already included in the final price, and check as well the connection times.
For accommodations I used AIRBNB, as I needed to book a flat for Madrid , then Seville and then again for Madrid, so it was a lot of work for me. But all in all I was satisfied as all three flats were in central city locations with good hosts. There were some missing points like for example for one, photos were depicting the flat in a much better condition. Or for another, there was lack of info that there is no elevator till 3rd floor etc.
TIPP: Make sure you look carefully at the photos, read all the info and ask the host anything you are not sure about before you even book the flats.
As I mentioned I was located in central locations in Madrid and those are around Gran Via and Sol metro stations. You can not miss these two points for sure if you ever come to Madrid. Many shops, cafes, taps bars are there. Also these spots are where the metros and trains have main junctions.
These areas are vivid and live, and the whole Madrid is like that. Alive 24/7 ! Everybody is out, smiling, streets are crowded, bars, restaurants as well, music all around… Even in the early hours I could see people on the streets after the night out (when I was leaving to catch an early train or flight).
From here you can do all the sightseeing on foot if you like to walk, so no need to use metro or those hop-off hop-on buses (unless you want to go further from center). If you want to buy metro ticket, good deal is the one for 10 rides (two people can use it also) and it costs around 18 euros with no short time limit.
For better understanding of the following, click here to see the map of Madrid with the metro stations metioned, as those will be the guided spots to orient.
Around Gran Via, you have several shopping streets: Calle Fuencarral, calle Hortaleza, calle Montera, or a bit down calle Preciados, but also streets around these ones. You can choose directions toward Tribunal and Bilbao metro stations and along the way check out variety of tapas bars, coffee shops, wine bars as well as different shops (including famous Zara, Mango, Bershka and some Spanish brands).
Nevertheless, one of the most famous department stores in Spain in general is El Corte Ingles, and definitely worth visiting if you have time. It is huge, has everything from expensive to ok-priced goods, clothes….anything you need.
On the other hand, there is area called Salamanca (metro stations are Colon and Serrano) where you can see top designer shops, top restaurants and bars, maybe even some famous people or sportsmen passing by. This area was not so crowded with people so it was enjoyable just to walk around it. In my next post I will mention few interesting places in this area for an evening out.
Day 1 itinerary:
If you start at the Gran Via toward Callao metro station, you will walk along a big boulevard, full of grandiose shops. I went into PRIMARK for example and felt like being in a club. Music was loud, it was on three floors, crowded…so time flies quickly if you go browsing things and trying them out. If you pass by Callao metro station and find your way toward Madrid Opera you can check out streets in this area as they are very nice and cute. I loved mostly the street calle Arenal, which takes you directly to Sol.
If you like churros with hot chocolate you will find nice places to sit and enjoy it here. Or if you are fan of ham – delicious Iberico Jamon, or chorizo… then you will see quite interesting places that sell all sorts of kinds of hams. Plus you can have few bites there for just few euros . These places are always full, though you would be standing most probably (sitting area is limited or none) but you will not make mistake if you try these out. Museum of Jamon is one of them, but there are so many on the way.
Then you come to Puerta de Sol square which I already mentioned above, and it can be very busy area so never arrange to meet someone there :-). Interesting statue of the Bear and the Strawberry tree is nice to see as it represents symbol of Madrid. It seems that there used to be many bears in the fields around Madrid so could be that is why it became what it is.
Day 2 itinerary:
Definitely go to Plaza España and take photos with Cervantes statue overlooking the statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Then you continue walking toward the Palacio Real (Royal Palace) which is gorgeous as well as the gardens around it. You can have a tour of it, for a fee depending what tour you pick, but it does not go over 15 euros. There is also Plaza de Oriente where you take a small break if needed.
If you walk along the street calle Mayor you will reach Plaza de San Ildefonso where you can enjoy nice cup of coffee or beer (in Spanish Cerveza), and good spot is just in front of the Mercado de Sen Miguel which I will write in my next post about. It is an awesome place to have some gourmet bites and some good wines or sangria. Then continuing from there you reach very shorty the Plaza Mayor, grande square full of restaurants and cafes. I found this area too touristic somehow so didn’t spend too much time though I passed it several times. It looks nice, I just didn’t decide to sit or eat there.
I got recommendation to check out Plaza de Angel and Plaza de Santa Anna for some cool restaurants, but I had a bad experience in one of them, food not being that great. But I think I just chose the wrong one, out of so many there. There was always some entertainer around the places so you can always catch some music wherever you are.
From this area if you walk along calle Prado or along the nearby street all the way till Retiro park, you will be amazed how nice and relaxing it is. A real oasis in the town. Nice lakes in a beautiful setting, great for families and people to enjoy music, rowing the boats, sun-bathing, riding bicycles.. I loved this park, and came twice in three days to walk in it. Surprisingly, I could find free WIFI in one cafe within the park, and one near the lake, so if you need to use internet this is a good spot. I mentioned above that finding free WIFI was a challenge in this town.
I was reading that Museum of Prado and Museum of Reina Sofia (which I saw only from outside) offer free entrances in the hours before closing, for example Prado from 18-20h during the weekends. I thought of trying it out but the queue was so long that I decided those 15 euros for entrance are not much at all to skip the line. Plus for 4 euros extra inside you get the audio guide with you. Since Museum of Prado is really big and it can take several hours to visit it carefully, you can to see just the Highlights as I did. Given the guide and the map you can follow rooms and see the best works of Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Raphael, Titian etc.
If you go around Retiro park or through the park you will reach to Atocha train station, which is huge and you can get connections from there, by fast or normal trains, to anywhere around Spain and further (check RENFE website for booking) . It is magnificent because it has a nice botanical garden inside the station, which I have never seen before at any other train station. It looks lovely that you an relax in this oasis while waiting for a train. This is how it looks:
One morning I went to Toledo for few hours to see once royal capital of Spain.I took a train from Atocha for 20 euros return, just half an hour ride till there. Honestly, I expected more of, but there are small narrow street, going up and down, and since everywhere was shade, I was freeazing… and could not catch any sun. Cathedral is nice and some cute shops, cafes…but I think 3-4 hours there is just enough, unless you will enter each museum (like of El Greco) or Cathedral itself.
Now… this would all for now, but I am preparing already a new post on gastronomical experience in Madrid and Seville! I had so much info from this trip, but I tried to gather as much as possible for you to read. If any questions feel free to contact me please. Definitely put Madrid in your bucket list if not already.
Bye, Classy Explorer