A guide to the Spanish capital of Madrid

15 June 2018

In my 22 years of life, I feel like I’ve been to Spain A LOT. From countless family holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands, several rainy trips to mainland Spain (I will never forget Malaga 2005 when it rained every day apart from our departing day) to my most recent trip to Barcelona.

I've been everywhere apart from the capital city. And having heard great things about Madrid i.e. it’s cheap, nice sights to see and good wine (which after visiting is a fact I can 100% confirm) -  we booked a long weekend break through British Airways.

For less that £150 per person we got return flights with British Airways (leaving at 7am *sigh*) and 2 nights at the IL union Atrium hotel, which was situated in the business district (around a 30-minute bus ride into the city centre). The only little nag I have about this 4* hotel is the location – it was slightly far out but if you want to experience what the life of the locals is like then there is no better place to be than out of the city Centre and in the residential areas. The hotel was super chic, had an outdoor pool, great bar/room service choices as well as a good gym on the 6th floor overlooking the city AND they let us check-in early so we could drop our bags off with no delay to exploring the city (bonus points for Ilunion Atrium)

Day 1 

As we got a 7am flight out of Heathrow (why do we do this to ourselves?!?!), we landed into Madrid airport at around 10am local time. Seeing as our bus arrived in the Puerta de Sol area, this was our base. Puerta del Sol is a public square where you will find all your favourite shops (Including Sephora) in an arm’s reach.

I’m the most indecisive person ever, so choosing a place to eat when you’re already hungry is just going to result in drama. We stopped off in Plaza Mayor, the main city square in Madrid. This place is full of restaurants and bars, and provided the perfect place where we able to soak up the sun and eat a slightly overpriced ‘traditional Spanish dish’ of Spaghetti Carbonara(?)

One of the main places I wanted to visit was the Palacio de Real Madrid aka the Royal Palace of Madrid. This is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. It really wasn’t difficult to believe it contained 3,418 rooms - the largest royal palace in Europe by floor area.

After leaving the palace we walked around the city some more, taking in all the sights and surroundings and of course making an obligatory stop at Chocolatería San Ginés - a café at Pasadizo de San Ginés, which I was told has served the best chocolate con churros in Spain since 1894. 100% recommend.


Day 2

Madrid is known for its city parks and the most famous one of all is the Buen Retiro Park, formerly owned by the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park. This park is home to the Fountain of The Fallen Angel and Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful glass and metal structure – which unfortunately was closed for restoration of the day we visited (typical!). I’m told it is prettier outside than inside anyway.

We strolled around the park for an hour before taking a quick coffee break (probably the third of the day) and then being the ultimate tourist and hopping on a tour bus of the city. Even though I’m not a massive football fan, I couldn’t go all the way to Madrid and not see the Santiago Bernabéu stadium. For 12 EUR, the tour bus is great if you want to see the best of the city and only have a short space of time. The bus takes 1hr 45 mins to do a full loop and allows you to see all the sights including the Prado Museum, the financial district, Triángulo del Arte, Palacio Real, Plaza de Cibeles and Puerta de Toledo.

As we were on Mediterranean time, we didn’t eat until around 9:30pm. Our choice of restaurant was a tiny little place just off Puerta de Sol. We had a few drinks and of course, tapas to celebrate my birthday eve (yes, just like Christmas eve, a birthday eve is a real thing).

Day 3 

Our last day (and also my birthday) was spent in the local area where our hotel was located. We had a cute Spanish breakfast in a nearby café, which was amazing. As we had limited time due to our flight being at 5pm, we hopped on a local bus and then went to the La Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas del Espíritu Santo – Madrid’s main bullfighting ring. We always drove past it when we were going to and from the hotel, so I was intrigued and wanted to visit. The architecture of the building itself is stunning and if you want to see the bulls in action, showtime is 7pm on selected days and tickets can be bought from the ticket office outside the venue – be careful to avoid the numerous ticket touts.

Madrid has a host of good bars and restaurants, but for me there is nothing that separates it from every other city in Europe. I'm going to be that typical tourist but I prefer Barcelona. Barcelona is more touristy, there is much more to see and do, it has a beach and a vastly different vibe.

I’m ready to book my next trip – suggestions please?


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