From the very start we knew we want to visit Madrid on our Spain trip and that was an excellent decision, because Madrid is a great city to explore. Capital of Spain feels a bit like a melting pot of everything Spain has to offer: great food, friendly people, beautiful architecture, art, and of course the most amazing parks and gardens.
Do you know what is the symbol of Madrid? No? Read until the end to find out.
HOW TO GET THERE?
We arrived to Madrid with AVE high-speed train from Valencia. We booked train tickets in advance through Renfe website for 67,30 EUR for both and after 1 hour and 40 minutes we arrived at Madrid Atocha Train Station, where you will have your first sight to see: a little tropical oasis in the middle of a train station.
Another option is to fly to Madrid Barajas Airport, where you have few options on how to reach the city center: taxi, bus, train, metro and private shuttles. You will find all the information on the airport website.
HOW TO GET AROUND?
Madrid is very walkable city, because most sights are condensed in two parts of the city (one part near Retiro Park and the other around Royal Palace of Madrid), so if you are staying somewhere in between you can easily spend one day exploring one part of the city and the next day the other one.
If you do decide to also use public transport, you will be able to use bus and metro. We only used metro to get to the Chamartin train station and had to buy the Multi Card for 2,5 EUR and two single tickets that can cost between 1,5 and 2 EUR depending on how many stations you. You can buy these cards and tickets at machines in metro stations. It is also possible to buy 10 journey tickets which can also be used on the buses. If you only need a single ticket for the bus ride, you can buy it on bus.
WHAT TO DO?
Madrid has lots to offer, from chilling at the beautiful parks and gardens (read more about that here: 6 parks and gardens you must visit in Madrid) to seeing some magnificent art in Prado Museum or Reina Sofia Museum or just enjoying the local vibes in many bars around the city.
We found some really amazing street art in Madrid just by walking around and keeping our eyes wide open.
My favourite was definitely this one called Mixed Chimp and it is actually work of two different street artists Okuda and Bordalo II.
As soon as we arrived and were just looking for our Airbnb we stumbled upon these lovely ladies on the walls of La Libre café. Aren’t they just the cutest? As I searched later I found that this café changes their art quite often so you might see something else when you are go there.
You will also find some really cool street art around Anton Martin market.
HISTORY, ART AND CULTURE
If you are into castles and palaces then Royal Palace of Madrid is definitely on your list because it is the largest functioning palace in Europe with 3148 rooms. You can also visit Royal Kitchens. And did you know that this palace is home to the world’s only complete string quartet made by famous Italian instrument maker Antonio Stradivarius? The entrance fee to the palace alone is 12 EUR, and if you wish to visit Royal Kitchens as well it will be 16 EUR. If you are not that into exploring the insides of the Royal Palace you can enjoy a lovely walk through the Sabatini Gardens and just admire the palace from there and for free. Opposite the Royal Palace of Madrid is beautiful blue Almudena Cathedral.
Close to Royal Palace of Madrid you will find Templo de Debod, Egyptian temple that was donated to Spain and its not located in Cuartel de la Montaña Park. The entrance to the Templo de Debod site is free, but you will probably have to wait a while, because it is limited how many people can visit at the same time.
If you are an art enthusiast then these 3 places, in the so called Golden Triangle of Art, are just perfect for you: Museo Del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum.
El Prado is one of the largest and richest museums in Spain and Europe in terms of works by the great European masters, especially from the period between the 16th and 19th centuries. You can easily spend a whole day in this museum so definitely plan your visit well. Entrance fee is 15 EUR, if you are student between 18 and 25 it is free, and it is also free between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Check more about the tickets here.
What makes most people want to visit Reina Sofia Museum is their amazing collection of 20th century and contemporary art, including the world-famous Guernica painted by one of the most popular Spanish artists Pablo Picasso. The entrance fee is 8 EUR, but during
Origins of the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum come from private collection by Swiss family Thyssen-Bornemisza. One of the members of the family married a Spanish woman and that was probably the reason why they agreed to hand over their art collection to Spanish government. The collection complement the collections of the other two museum, because it features artists and artistic currents that the other two don’t.
It is also possible to buy combo ticket for all three museums for 30,4 EUR here.
Just a little tip: If you want to visit these museums during their free entrance times, be there early. We were a bit late to visit Reina Sofia Museum and the line was almost endless.
Beside all the wonderful touristy things you can see in Madrid, you should also visit some of the not so popular ones, that are mostly visited and used by locals, which will mean fewer crowds and more local experience.
We always love to visit cultural centers and in Madrid we stopped by CaixaForum Madrid, which is also an amazing piece of architecture (just look at those stairs below!), where you can visit different exhibitions. Close by you will also find another cultural center, Medialab-Prado, that serves as a place for community to produce different projects, research and have a place to expand their horizons.
Another beautiful piece of architecture is also the Glass Gallery located in Cibeles Palace, which is home to Madrid City Hall. There was almost no one there when we visited and even though there wasn’t anything else to see than lovely glass roof that makes this space special, you might be luckier and stumble upon some exhibition or event happening there. If not, it is a nice place to take some photos.
If you want to escape the crowds to some place with more nature Madrid Rio Park is perfect for this, as it is a bit out of the city center. We visited this place because of the Arganzuela footbridge that looks really amazing, but you will also find lots of greenery, flowers, recreational spaces and some amazing street art on the houses on the other side of Manzanares river.
My favourite market in whole Spain is Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, it is also one of the most expensive ones we found but the food looks so delicious and very high cuisine like.
Another market you might want to visit is Mercado de Anton Martin, where you will be able to buy lots of produce as well or Mercado de San Anton, Mercado de San Fernand, Madrid will certainly not let you down.
WHERE TO EAT?
Unlike in Barcelona we found so many amazing places with delicious food for reasonable prices in Madrid and it turned out to be our favourite city for food during our whole trip in Spain. Here is our list of places you should try, because they are just the best.
Just across the delicious looking, but expensive San Miguel Market you will find this little family owned tapas bar that serves such a yummy and creamy spanish tortilla you will want to order the whole thing, not just pincho de tortilla. Spanish tortilla is a very simple dish, it is only made of eggs, potatoes and onions (some make it without it), but you need to make it just right. Eggs shouldn’t be too cooked, they need to be a bit runny so you can brush your plate clean after with some bread. It goes great with copa de vino blanco but if you are more into beer, it would probably go really well too.
Location: Bar Cerveriz, Plaza de San Miguel, 2, Madrid
At Casa Julio you will be able to try another Spanish dish, croquettes. Fried balls of potato mixture with different flavour in a charming old tapas bar will be a lovely afternoon snack over some beer, wine or vermut, which we tried for the first time and didn’t like very much. You can try 7 different and very interesting flavours of croquettes here, together with some other Spanish tapas. You can get 6 croquettes for 7 EUR or 12 for 12 EUR. You need another reason to visit this place? U2 visited this place and had a whole photo session in there.
Location: Casa Julio, Calle de la Madera, 37, Madrid
TINTO Y TAPAS
Don’t you just love when you stumble upon a cute restaurant and it turns out to have great food and reasonable prices? This was Tinto y Tapas for us in Madrid. We ordered some empanadas and salmon quiche, some wine and enjoyed our last night in Madrid.
Location: Tinto y Tapas, Calle de Almadén, 14, Madrid
CHOCOLATERÍA SAN GINÉS
Churros with hot chocolate is something you will want to try while in Madrid or anywhere else in Spain. The best place to have them in the capital is Chocolatería San Ginés, which is the oldest in the city, opened in 1894. They are open all day every day and because this place is very popular there will be lines. Luckily they also have a take-away close by so you can just grab your portion and take it somewhere else to enjoy.
Location: Chocolatería San Ginés, San Ginés passage 5, Madrid
If you would like to do an amazing food tour without walking too much I suggest you go to Calle de la Cava Baja and just go from one place to another having few tapas here and there. Next time I am in Madrid I will certainly do that. This street is just packed with bars and tavern-like restaurants that have been there since what seems like forever and are locals favourite.
So what is the symbol of Madrid? It is called El Oso y el Madroño or the Bear and the Strawberry Tree. You will find the statue on Puerta del Sol, huge square that is a great meeting point and shopping area.
I wish I had at least one day more in Madrid because there are quite a few things I would still love to see and do, but there is always another time and Spain is always worth another visit.
Have you been to Madrid? What was your favourite thing there? Would you go back to explore more?
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