I had a wonderful time in Madrid, and it exceeded my expectations in just about every way. As I wandered through the beautiful parks and streets, I was amazed by the city’s energy, vivid colors and lively nightlife. This city loves the arts and the night. I stumbled upon a free Chagall exhibit and ate to my heart’s content. Rumored to have 1 bar for every 6 inhabitants, there is no shortage of things to do or try in Madrid. Each barrio has a unique flavor, and most bars serve as a home base for people living nearby. I stayed in the lively neighborhood of La Latina. The side streets are full of tiny restaurants and bars, and it is home to the famous El Rastro market every Sunday: the ‘largest flea market in the world’
Before I get into the specifics, I will provide an overview of my time in Madrid. Perhaps it can serve as a 4 day itinerary for those planning a trip of their own.
Day 1: Exploring the City
My favorite day of travelling. I devoted my entire day to wandering the streets, sampling every type of food and getting to know the city.
Plaza Mayor- A lively square full of street performers and cafes.
Mercado de San Miguel-A beautifully restored food market offering the best of Spanish wines, seafood and tapas. This is a foodies heaven and a perfect place for lunch.
Plaza de Oriente, the Opera House and Jardines de Sabattin- The royal palace is surrounded by beautiful squares, gardens, street performers and cafes. If you get lucky, you may even catch the ‘Changing of the Guard’.
Musseo Thyssen Bornemisza- The home of the fabulous Chagall exhibit I stumbled upon
Chocolate con leche and Churros-While it is not a location, it is an experience certainly worthy of its own line! Thick, melted milk chocolate and a fresh churro seem too indulgent to be true. Perfect for my little holiday!
Parque del Buen Retiro- The most amazing place on earth! Beautiful rolling hills, green grass, tall trees draping over the walkway, Roman ruins, beautiful statues, hedge gardens and a lovely pond full of row boats! I spent 2 hours exploring this amazing park and would go back in a heartbeat simply to return to this small piece of urban paradise.
An evening trying the various bars and restaurants located in the back streets of Plaza Anton Martin.
Day 2: A day of Art and Music
A coffee in Plaza Mayor
Lunch at La Soberbia (near Sol)- we ordered amazing wine, paella, and a tomato salad. superb!
La Reina Sofia- An amazing modern art collection including the works Dali, Picasso and Miro. The museum is home to Picasso’s iconic Guernica. It’s size and scope cannot be captured in photographs. I spent 25 minutes sitting and staring at the painting. It was glorious!
A stroll through Parque del Buen Retiro- I could not stay away!
Mueseo del Prado- Housed in an 18th century neoclassical palace, this museum is home to more than 7000 paintings. The works of Goya and Valazquez lie at the very heart of this collection. The best part? The gallery is free from 6-8 PM…and there are lines around the museum of people waiting to enter!
Populart- One of the city’s most iconic Jazz bars, this place does not disappoint. We listened to fabulous jazz, sipped mojitos and befriended 4 old Spanish guys who shared their crazy stories with us.
Day 3: Palaces and Flowers
Placio Real- The 10 euro entry price initially kept me away, but my curiosity grew after admiring the royal portraits and learning about the talented artists commissioned to paint the murals of the palace. The ‘Spanish Versailles’ consists of 2800 r00ms, and astounded me by its sheer size and ornate details. The walls are covered in rich silks, the floors are composed of beautiful marble, covered in elaborate carpets and the murals are masterpieces in and of themselves. Do not miss it!
The Botanical Garden- My visit marked the first real week of Spring weather, and the entire city was in bloom. I had to see the beautiful tulip beds that tempted me from the street. There are numerous fountains and inviting benches. It was the perfect setting to finish my book.
A night out in Chueca! We feasted, we drank, we danced. It was the perfect Friday night.
Day 4: A day-trip to Toledo
A 40-minute train ride away from Madrid, Toledo was a wonderful town to explore. Situated on a hill, this medieval city is surrounded by old city walls. Hundreds of steep stairs lead you to the city center, where you will find numerous churches, monasteries and a beautiful old cathedral. Additionally, there is an old Sephardic temple, that now serves as the Sephardic Museum. We had a long leisurely lunch, wandered through the cobblestone streets, in and out of the churches, and ended our day crashing the end of a wedding to escape a hail storm! It was very exciting!
We ended our day with a sampling of bars along Calle de la Cava Baja in La Latina. At our final bar, we befriended 7 Spanish guys out under the title of a ‘Bachelor Party’, but too in love with the women in their lives to do anything too crazy. We spent two hours talking to them about our travels, global politics and the Spanish economy as we sampled different tapas and indulged in wonderful Spanish wine.