It’s that time of year when the weekends are quiet and we’re tucked up indoors dreaming of the warmer seasons, planning our next sunny break. So I thought I’d escape winter for a while and take you back to the first stop of our trip to Spain last year – Madrid.
Spain has always had a soft spot in my heart as the perfect destination for a week by the sea and I’ve been to a few spots on the south coast over the years. It’s only more recently that I’ve become aware of its vibrant cities. As we were planning our summer holiday last year, a mini Spanish road trip reached the top of my list, offering the perfect combination of two beautiful cities and a stunning coast.
We started in the Spanish capital, where we were staying with friends and to whom all of the credit for this part of our trip should go to. I did very limited research and relied on their daily itineraries, which was AMAZING!
Our flight landed late afternoon so we hopped on the underground, dropped off our bags and collected a list of evening activities. It was early September and that ideal balmy afternoon temperature we can only dream of right now. The perfect conditions for a walk around El Retiro Park.
Similar to the Royal Parks it has an abundance of beautiful water features and plenty of places to get lost in.
But the must-sees are the Rose Garden – La Rosaleda.
I almost squealed with delight when I saw it. Still beautiful after the full bloom of the summer.
And the ideal place to relax in the sunshine.
It’s a serious rival to the place held in my heart for the beloved Queen Mary’s Garden in Regent’s Park. If I lived in Madrid, I would return every summer.
And then there’s Palacio de Cristal, a photographer’s dream.
I could have taken a million photos and spent the whole day in there as the light changed.
But eventually forced myself out, knowing that there was plenty more to discover in just a couple of days.
After leaving the park, we stumbled across Cuesta de Moyano Book Market.
As it was nearing sunset there wasn’t much open, which might be a good thing as I suspect I could have been there for a while too.
We were on our way to a Madrid must-do – sunset drinks on a rooftop bar. This was the one thing that I’d been told to do whenever spoke to people about our trip. We’d been recommended Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes and its safe to say that the views were amazing.
Particularly out towards the centre of the city.
You have to buy a ticket to go up, which costs about 4 euros, but the cost of drinks up there seemed quite reasonable compared to what you’d be charged in London (especially beer and wine). We visited just before sunset and found it quite busy but not jam-packed.
It was the best start to our first night and was followed by more wine and tapas with friends. I don’t have pictures but I’ll pop some links to the restaurants we went to at the end.
As most things don’t open until about 10am, the next day was a relatively leisurely start. The first stop of the day was the Royal Palace and we arrived just after it had opened.
The Palace is unreal. There’s just so much to see and history to digest, it’s another place we could have spent a whole day in but given the beautiful weather we opted for an express version.
It’s such a stunning building on the outside.
And the inside.
I couldn’t get over all of the opulent details. One of those places it would be amazing to travel back in time and experience as it was back then.
Already hungry from the miles we must have walked around the palace, we hot-footed it over to Mercardo de San Miguel.
Over 100 years old, it was originally a wholesale foods market, but is now home to a tasty selection of stalls with all of the Spanish food a visitor could dream of.
It definitely requires a couple of laps before choosing what you’re going to sample.
It was a tough choice for someone as indecisive as me. But it was a good start to what happened the rest of the day, which was essentially grazing our way through lots of little tasty dishes.
Aside from having a few things to visit, giving a bit of direction to your day, Madrid isn’t as overwhelming as London. It’s the kind of size where you can wander around, enjoying the sights and sounds of the city without feeling in a hurry to do and see it all.
I could show you so many more photos, but will leave you with one more to cement the city on your list.
Atocha, Madrid’s largest train station. It’s amazing and quickly went on to my list of favourite train stations, alongside King’s Cross (London) and Sao Bento (Porto). If you’re travelling from Madrid to Seville like we did, it’s totally worth getting to the station early (if in part to also figure out where the right platform is!).
In case you need a little more inspiration, here’s a few more places to add to your Madrid list.
Where to eat – Bodega De La Rosa (tapas), Casa Macareno (tapas), Chocolatería San Ginés (churros)
Places for evening drinks – Plaza Del Dos de Mayo, Areia Chillout, Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes
Good coffee – Toma Cafe, Mision Cafe, Zero Point Coffee.
As we were only there for a short period, there’s got to be lots of places we missed. Have you been to Madrid? Do you have any more recommendations to add?