Once my best friend from home asked me if I wanted to join her on a little Spanish getaway, the only logical response was, “Yes, of course!”. After doing a cultural crash course, researching the ins and outs of this elegant expansive city, and calling on the help of a few local Spanish friends, we ended up having the time of our lives! From Madrid to Valencia and ultimately Ibiza we embarked on a journey through Spain filled with planes, trains, boats, and automobiles! If you’re looking to explore this beautiful country yourself here are 10 Things to add to your Madrid travel list!
There are a million and one hotels in Madrid, and I haven’t even begun to research them all, but after staying at the ONLY YOU during our 2 night trip to Madrid, I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. Off the bat, the decor is on point. The rooms are comfortable, the bathrooms quite large and for all you ladies out there, there’s ample mirror space! The comfortable beds earned major brownie points and if great location, affordable rates, and incredible staff aren’t incentive enough, I think you’ll be sold once you see the rooftop deck. Guests can enjoy an all you can eat breakfast here for a surprisingly low rate of 10 euros per person, or come back during sunset to enjoy dinner or a drink with sweeping rooftop views of the city.
2. WANDER THROUGH THE PARKS— Both El RETIRO & CASA DE CAMPO
I’ve yet to meet a park I haven’t loved and the Parque El Retiro is no exception. I wandered through the beautiful trails, both the night of my arrival and the next morning after meeting up with my friends. It’s one of those places you can spend as little or as much time as you want, but definitely make your way to the PALACIO DE CRISTAL, a stunning glass exhibit located right in the center of the park, MONUMENTO ALFONSO XII, a grand monument located next to El Retiro’s boating pond, and take a stroll through beautiful gardens down PASEO PARAGUAY towards PLAZA PARTERRE.
Opposite of El Retiro Park lies Casa de Campo Park, a stunning 1,750-hectare area with greenery for days. If parks are your thing and you have ample time in Madrid, I’d also add a stroll and a row boat ride through this massive park to your list!
I’m all for traveling to a new city and trying to experience it as locally as possible, but sometimes you have to whip out the camera and 3D map and embrace being a complete tourist. Some of my favorite stops on our list included: MUSEO NATIONAL DEL PRADO, PALACE DE CIBELES CENTROCENTRO, PUERTA DE ALCALA, PALACE STA. CRUZ and PLAZA MAYOR. I recommend starting in the park, hitting the Museo Nacional Prado and adjacent buildings, then working your way west. If you have more than one day, I’d break up the East and West regions and explore them at a more leisurely pace.
4. GET A DRINK AT CÍCULO DE BELLAS ARTES ROOFTOP
One of my absolute favorite memories from Madrid was spending the afternoon sipping sangria atop Círculo De Bellas Artes. Entry is 3 euro per person + the price of drinks once you get there, but the views of the city are quite beautiful, and the shaded daybeds are a nice place to listen to music and take a mini afternoon siesta. There’s also a nice restaurant at the top as well is you’re looking for a place with views to eat.
5. ADMIRE THE GRANDNESS of PALACIO REAL
If there’s one sight you should see the entire time you’re in Madrid, make sure it’s the Palacio Real. A walk around the exterior of this grand palace, which houses the official state ceremonies will suffice, but if you have ample time and are interested in Spain’s royal history, consider adding a tour of the interior, royal armory and gardens to your travel list.
6. TAKE A TRIP INSIDE CATEDRAL DE LA ALMUDENA
I’ve heard people say, “Once you’ve seen one church in Europe you’ve kind of seen them all” but that’s certainly not the case with Cathedral De La Almudena. I wandered here while my friends took a siesta, and was awe inspired by the grandness of the entire building. For just 1 euro donation, be sure to walk inside and explore all the vivid details. The stained glass and Virgin of Almudena statue were absolutely stunning, but my all-time favorite part was the elaborately detailed prayer room. Photos weren’t allowed in this room, so you will have to take a trip to experience it yourself!
Quite hungry from ourdays’s activities we ubered (yes that’s a thing here, hallelujah!) to Raro Rare. Of course, I was obsessed with the eclectic decor, but the food here was even better than the aesthetic. It’s certainly off the beaten path, another reason I appreciated it so much, and definitely worth a visit. My friends and I always ordered family style, the ideal way to taste a lot of different cuisine with some of our favorites including Rosé, Hummus, Gyoza, Tuna Tartar, Chicken Curry, and grilled eggplant. (All selections I 100% recommend!)
8. ENJOY A LITTLE RETAIL THERAPY ALONG GRAND VIA
It doesn’t seem that revolutionary to travel across the globe and B line to ZARA, but for all of you fashion appreciators, Zara originated in Spain so the boutiques here have quite the selection. Even if you don’t have enough room in your suitcase to bring a ton of purchases home, a stroll along this popular road is worth adding to your list. Although a bit touristy, there are some beautiful views of buildings and shops, however be sure to eat elsewhere to experience more authenticity.
If high end shops are more up your alley, be sure to check out Barrio de Salamanca. Here you will find Chanel, Hermes and the usual luxury boutiques of the world, with a few local boutiques thrown into the mix!
9. INDULGE IN CHURROS AT CHOCOLATERIA DE SAN GINES
Once you’re ready for a sweet spanish treat, be sure to head to Chocolatería San Gines. It’s a great pit stop after you’ve explored PLAZA MAYOR, plus you can’t go to Spain without enjoying at least one churro!
10. VIST EL RASTRO MARKET ON SUNDAY
Markets can often times be hit or miss, and most times over populated and overwhelming, but I was quite happy with our experience at Madrid’s El Rastro Market. Open Sundays from 9am-3pm, local vendors line the streets in this Latin quarter with knick knacks, clothing, and the occasional hidden gem. Once you make your way past some quite random finds, you might come across a one of a kind souvenir that you love. For my friend, it was an adorable beach coverup and for me, it was a beautiful handmade purse. Be sure to bring cash or visit an ATM beforehand. There are some in the area, but can be a little tricky to find.
***BONUS : TAKE A PROPER SIESTA & FIESTA
If you can hang better than we could, prepare yourself with a sufficient siesta and plan to be up until the wee hours of the morning. At the advice of a few local friends, I’d look into adding Opium, Teatro Barceló or Gabana to your nightlife list. Be sure to get on the list and show up well after 2am. (Yes, you read that right! #I’llBeInMyREMCycle)
If you still want to experience Madrid at night, but want to rest up for a full day ahead, I advise grabbing a yummy dinner sometime after 9 o’clock. If we learned one thing this trip it’s that you absolutely 100% need to make reservations in advance, especially if you’re visiting over the weekend, and want to go somewhere good! Madrid is filled with delicious restaurants and the hotel can call ahead for reservations. If you’re looking for somewhere to grab drinks, Calle Pez is filled with lots of bars or try 1862 Drybar, Platea or Azotea Del Círculo.
For just 2 days in Madrid we were perfectly content! Depending on your style of travel, you can always add more or less, but these 10 things will have you covered for 48 hours! If you’re following suit and looking into Valencia next, be sure to book a ticket departing from the Madrid Atocha Railway Station and check back for my Valencia travel recs next!