Although 2016 marks my 10th anniversary of living in Britain, I haven’t given up to the stereotype of a Spanish holiday once, until this year. There was no specific reason I haven’t visited in the past, other than my interests gravitating more towards city breaks and a cultural variety of things to do versus the sun, sand and sea situation in which resting is the number one priority. I prefer walking tours, man made attractions and architecture. This year I had an opportunity to experience both of the destination types of Spain, the coast of Costa Blanca and the city of Madrid.
In this post I will focus on my visits to the city of Madrid. To be completely honest I was never attracted to Spain or in this instance Madrid, as it has never been prominent to me online or from word-of-mouth recommendations, nor has it been greatly promoted through media e.g. movies and shows I have watched. I got a chance to visit it as someone very close to me has taken the best opportunity in their life and decided to spend a year in the city, allowing me to catch a glimpse of sun every now and then when I’m tired of the Irish weather-mood-swings!
As I didn’t have much knowledge about Madrid, other than the popularity of football clubs like Real Madrid and the unfortunate tradition of bullfighting, this time around I haven’t set my expectations high. Okay, apart from the expectation of crazy hot temperatures (of course)!
On my first visit I got to experience yet another free walking tour. Shoutout to New Europe Tours for delivering in so many cities! If you’ve read a few of my travel posts before, you may know how much I love the fact you pay in proportion to the value you feel you’ve received. The walking tour has shown me the parts of the city e.g. The Royal Palace, the Madrid Cathedral, and provided me with stories and history which originated in the city. I can’t express how much fun I always have, the tour guides are always so enthusiastic!
The second thing I would recommend to do is research restaurants and places to eat prior to visiting. I haven’t done so and ended up in a buffet which looked fine at first glace, while after getting the food, came to a realization it was mostly cold and has been lying for at least a few hours. The restaurant chain is called ‘All U Can Eat’, please give it a pass to avoid disappointment! I would however recommend checking out this entertaining show of rolled ice-cream pictured below.
Speaking of food, I have only been to one tapas place so far, called El Tigre. It hasn’t been the cleanest place, actually, it was pretty ROUGH but somehow I enjoyed every minute spent in there. The ATMOSPHERE. The beer was there, the feel was there and the food was there. If you regard to yourself as a stickler for cleanliness, this isn’t a place for you.
Another thing I would recommend while in Madrid is to look UP while passing through the streets. Take in the beautiful architecture (you are also able to learn more about types of it on the free tour). It is such a bright city with a lot of white and green! One of my favourite things about Madrid are countless parks and the visual appeal for photography and unwinding in nature.
Take a few hours of your day and visit the Buen Retiro Park (a.k.a. ‘Park of the Pleasant Retreat’). Probably the most beautiful park I have ever visited. Combine the beauty of nature with a man-made pond where you’re able to hire a cheeky paddle boat, and you’ve got a perfect date spot ready (with a little arm workout too!). It’s also very budget-friendly, so make sure you don’t miss out!
I was never really for using public transport, as I thought the best way to take everything in was simply by walking. This time, I have used the metro throughout my stay and haven’t regretted it one bit. In my opinion the city is not compact enough to walk from one attraction to another. Get a 10 journey ticket and hop on the metro; it’s clean, (seems) very safe and most importantly, gets you to your desired destination in minutes. The pass costs about 15 Euros, but if you’re in a rush to see as much as possible don’t hesitate on buying it.
And obviously, don’t forget to take a trip to Sephora and stock up on all your favourites you can’t get in the UK. Fun (not so fun, actually) fact: Kat Von D has visited this particular Sephora seven days before my arrival. It is safe to say I cried of disappointment as I’m a huge fan and my FOMO level was real.
After shopping at places such as the Gran Via (check out that ‘fancy’ Primark though!) you will sure enjoy a ride at the Teleférico de Madrid. Take a cable car journey and enjoy the panoramas while listening to cheesy music 40m above the ground. It’s breath-taking, but not great for someone who is even slightly afraid of heights as the cable cars don’t feel the most secure (or maybe it was just me).
Choose between a single or return journey departing from the Paseo del Pintor Rosales street or Casa de Campo and don’t forget to buy your photographs at the finish line! The tickets cost around 10 Euros return for a couple, what’s not to love? Yep, you guessed it: the hour long queue…
My tips for visiting Madrid:
♥ Drink a lot of water it’s really warm and humid, meaning headache guaranteed if you won’t keep hydrated! Did you know you’re more likely to be grumpy when you’re dehydrated?
♥ Stop and enjoy the street performers
♥ Get the Google Translate working! There are times when you’ll assume everyone ‘should’ speak English when in many cases, especially locally owned restaurants this is not the case.
♥ Be prepared to come back home at 6am after a night out, the clubs are open all night, and your last metro leaves around 1am, meaning there is no point in coming home so early. You can do it!
♥ Download the ‘Madrid’ app to help you figure out the metro system, this one really works!
♥ Take an obligatory photo with the Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree, if you’re a typical tourist, this is non-questionable.
♥ Enjoy a cocktail at the rooftop bar at Puerta del Sol or many others scattered throughout the city.