Madrid was the first big city experience where neither me nor Andy had been there before. And we had the good fortune of going twice in a month – once when we flew in, and again to fly out to Iceland. Both times we stayed in the highly convenient Antón Martin area, which was rich in life – cafes, tapas bars, Mercado Antón Martin and a metro station a mere stones throw away.
We were advised to avoid Spain in July, but throwing caution to the wind (we hoped for wind) we went anyway. As a city, Madrid is highly walkable, so we were fortunate that on the days we were there it wasn’t too hot for us to venture outside. Below are a few of my must dos when in Madrid:
Piazza Mayor: the coolest square in all of Madrid. The whole square is decorated by one continuous building with archways to enter and leave the square by. There are constant performers and heaps of cafes and restaurants – just a great vibe generally.
Puerta del Sol: a lively square that had been taken over by a stage when we were there. Make sure to spot the bear with the strawberry tree statue: an icon of the city.
The Royal Palace: it’s not hard to believe that it’s the biggest palace in Europe. It is magnificent. If you want to go in, buy tickets to skip the line on the internet, because that line can be pretty time consuming! Right next door is a cathedral which you can climb for panoramic views of the city.
Gram Via: a lengthy boulevard packed with shops, high rise buildings and tourists. It’s a really fun place to be; a bit of a diluted Times Square, stretching on and on with lights, shops and people.
Park Retiro: a good place to escape the heat under one of the many trees on the grassy areas. In addition to lazing there are also a number of cool sights, including the Crystal Palace and the lake with the monument (if you’re feeling energised you can even hire a row boat).
Museum Reina Sofia: modern art museum, we went at 7pm when entrance is free. The place is huge: walking fast, we didn’t even cover the four floors before it closed at 9pm. We did get to see a number of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso’s works though, including the Guernica (of which I had no idea of its size!). The other main museum is the Prado: specialising in classical art. It’s free to visit between 6 and 8pm, which was just enough for a fleeting visit. The museum map highlights all the masterpieces and where to find them, so we made sure we visited everything we wanted to see!
Debod temple: an Egyptian temple in a park near the Royal Palace. It’s free to enter and unique in its own right. The park is also a great spot to watch the sunset, as well as obtaining expansive views of wider, greener Madrid.
Madrid is a fantastic city: leafy and green, artsy with murals and graffiti and a pleasantness that is spread throughout the city. My favourite area to explore (and eat) was the Malasana area. Lots of street art and yummy cafes around every corner. Madrid is definitely somewhere I’d have no hesitation returning to.