After Amsterdam, Sevilla, and Córdoba, the next stop on our great Spanish adventure was Madrid! While I know many people who have studied abroad or worked here and have great things to say about the city, I didn’t know much of what to expect for my own visit. Thankfully, we had tons of recommendations that seemed to never let us down, and we even had friends to meet up with while exploring the city!
Tuesday night, we took the train from Sevilla to Madrid and arrived around midnight. I was proud by how easily I navigated the metro, then Riana and I quickly made our way to check out the Airbnb in the La Latina area. We finally met Kristin, chatted for a while and did some planning for the visit, and then enjoyed a great night of sleep in our tiny studio.
It’s a good thing we were able to get some sleep, because we sure did need it come Wednesday. Our plan was to find breakfast, see some plazas, and go to the park. Easy, right? Thankfully, I’m a type-A planner who can find plenty more activities and attractions for us to squeeze in!
We did begin with a walk toward Plaza del Sol and stopped for some croissants and coffee along the way. We took pics with the bear statue (still not sure what the deal is with this) and then continued toward Plaza de Cibeles. Eventually, we made it to the Parque del Retiro, which is home to the Puerto de Alcalá, Palacio de Cristal, Palacio de Velázquez (currently hosting a free art exhibit), and the Estanque Grande del Retiro. Riana, Kristin, and I explored all of these places and more, entered what we could, and then decided to find some lunch.
I was able to quickly pull up our Googledoc and find a recommended lunch spot just a short walk away. We went to El Perro y la Galleta, a super cute restaurant themed around dogs and cookies (and what’s better than that!). Kristin and I both got burgers, while Riana opted for the tacos, though the best part just might have been the steaming fresh-baked bread with homemade spreads.
While eating lunch, I took it upon myself to book us all tickets for two different Madrid art museums during their daily free entry hours (6 – 8 PM), and I also made dinner reservations at a different restaurant that had been recommended to us. My friends said this is why they keep me around on trips like this.
We headed back into the park after lunch to rent a boat at the pond. For just six euros, this was a super fun activity to mix things up a bit. I will say that I not only took some fantastic pics of my friends, but I was also a great rower (thanks Orange Theory Fitness!).
After a lot of rowing and a bit of relaxing in the sunshine, we returned the boat and met up with a Tulane friend who is teaching English in Madrid. We wandered around the park, found ice cream, and then decided it was time to check out our first art museum of the evening.
The Museo Reina Sofia is full of works by Picasso, Dalí, and Miró, and with less than an hour to see everything I could, I wasn’t sure how to approach it. I found a post about the 8 unmissable artworks at the Reina Sofia museum and used this as my guide through the building. I’m not usually so impressed by this type of art, but I found the pieces to be super intriguing and have some interesting stories behind them.
Next up was a quick transition over to the Museo del Prado. Everything about this museum, including the size, style, and type of artworks, reminded me of the Louvre, and I quickly got lost here (as I do in the Louvre every time). Once again, I looked up a guide to the Prado museum, and though I definitely couldn’t find everything, some of them stuck out to me (Las Meninas and The Three Graces for sure).
My friends and I were, without a doubt, exhausted by this point, but we made it to our chosen spot for dinner, La Casa del Abuelo. Definitely don’t miss out on the incredible garlic shrimp here, and if you’re like us, then you’ll also choose to try some Spanish tortilla and tinto de verano.
Many alarms went off and were snoozed on Thursday morning. We had more on our Madrid itinerary, however, so we eventually made it out, grabbed some coffee, and took the metro to the Royal Palace. The motto for the day was officially “less walking and more good food” after each taking over 25k steps each the day before. We couldn’t go inside the palace because we didn’t plan ahead to get tickets (oops), so definitely do this at least a couple of days in advance if you’re interested in visiting.
After checking out the palace and the neighboring Catedral de la Almudena, It was time for some food. We decided to go the Mercado de San Miguel and it absolutely did not disappoint! We ran around trying empanadas, croquettes, sandwiches, and other delicious goodies from different stands. It was definitely a highlight of the trip! We then stopped by the Plaza Mayor for some people watching.
Then, it was time for two very Madrid activities – going shopping and eating churros! We chose to stop at the famous Chocolatería San Ginés for churros, which gave us vibes very similar to our beloved Café du Monde in New Orleans. Then, we shopped around stores in the area, though realistically we had absolutely no room for more clothes in our tiny carry-ons and personal items.
Just a couple of additional stops were left on our bucket list! We went to yet another plaza, the Plaza de España, and then we checked out the Temple of Debod. After some time here and looking at the view of the city from Parque de la Montaña, my friends wanted to stay and wait for sunset, but I decided it would be best for me to split off on my own. I was exhausted from battling a seemingly never-ending cold and needed to find a way to better manage my blisters, so I stopped by a Carrefour for some food and headed back to our studio. Immediately upon arriving, I fell asleep for a few hours, only to wake up to a text that the others had enjoyed a great sunset and dinner out. Things worked out great for everyone all around!
When Friday came along, Kristin packed up and left, while Riana and I slept in as long as possible and checked out of the Airbnb. We were pretty burnt out from the previous two days, and we had packed all of our can’t-miss spots into the first two days so that Kristin would get to experience them, so there wasn’t too much that we were focused on doing on this day.
We started with a noon breakfast at a coffee/gelato spot in the neighborhood (obviously, I chose gelato for breakfast) and then headed over to a restaurant Riana’s parents recommended to us.
Turns out, the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botín, just happens to be in Madrid. Riana’s parents were very set on us going there, and so were we once we heard the words “our treat.” We didn’t have a reservation, but thankfully, when they opened at 1 PM there were plenty of spots. The restaurant staff whisked away our luggage and showed us into the cave-like basement, where we enjoyed gazpacho, bread, red wine, a roasted pork and potatoes main dish, and some ice cream for dessert. Though it’s difficult to rank this meal in my top restaurant experiences, it’s definitely among them somewhere.
After lunch, Riana and I headed to a nearby Starbucks for some coffee and chill time. We even met up with another girl we knew from Tulane who was teaching English in Madrid (love these connections!). Late in the evening, we grabbed a quick dinner and took the metro to our next adventure…
The best part of Friday? Undoubtedly the eight hour overnight bus! Not only did we accidentally choose to sit on the top level directly above the bus driver (super strange), but the stops were only announced in very fast Spanish. We were relieved when we finally made it off the bus in Barcelona for the final leg of the trip. Viva España!
Our visit to Madrid was busy and jam-packed, just like the city itself. Overall, I enjoyed what I saw, but I also think that this is a better city to live in than to just visit for three days. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to not only see the sights, but also take in the city around you and get a real feel for the people and culture!
Next up: Barcelona for Halloween weekend!
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