Europe, Spain

Momentarily, Madrid: My First Impressions of the City – Gallop Around The Globe

February 15, 2016

Madrid had been on my travel radar for quite some time, but for one reason or another I’d never quite made it to Spain’s capital city.  However, when we were planning a trip to visit friends in Cádiz last month, Madrid was one of the airports we had the option of flying into.

Jerez and Seville were the closest airports to Cádiz but flights were either ridiculously expensive or departed in the ridiculously early hours of the morning solely from London (I live 160 miles or a 2.5-3hr train journey from central London), so our options were narrowed down to Malaga or Madrid.  Whilst Malaga appears closer on the map, there wasn’t much to choose between the durations of both train journeys.

We’d already been to Malaga many times (primarily in order to connect with Granada), so the decision was made to fly into Madrid.  And to allow for flight/rail delays, we factored in an overnight stay in Madrid at either side of our weekend in Cádiz.

We had less than half a day in the city when we initially arrived (our flight landed at 3:30pm), and another half a day when we returned from Cádiz, so it wasn’t even enough time to take a walking tour or visit a museum.  Therefore it’s impossible to list my highlights when I have been unable to experience a significant enough chunk of what the city has to offer.

But what I will do is treat you to a few photos and offer you my initial impressions of this sprawling Spanish metropolis.

The Metro

Madrid’s metro system is efficient, fast, and easy to navigate.  I never had to wait more than two minutes for a ride and most of the time I was even able to get a seat!  There’s also some great pieces of artwork on display at many of the stations, so keep your eyes peeled.


The Architecture

Everywhere you look in this city there are incredible examples of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Romanesque, and even Ancient Egyptian (check out the Temple of Debod near to Plaza de España) architecture.  I absolutely adored simply wandering around the city’s streets and gazing up at the grand and colourful buildings all around me.

MadridMadrid architectureMadrid

The Plazas

Madrid is awash with beautiful, spacious, often leafy plazas.  Whilst you’ll more than likely pay a slightly higher price for a coffee at a cafe with a plaza-facing location, this is often where you’ll find music and entertainment, and I love watching the lives of the city-dwellers play out in front of me.



When looking for somewhere to stay in the city, I was really surprised by the amount of central, budget accommodation available.  We stayed at two different hostels in the Huertas neighbourhood (a short walk from the Plaza Mayor), and each one cost us under £30 per night for a private room – one included a complimentary breakfast and one included our own bathroom.  That’s less than £15 per person per night for a private room in a hostel in Spain’s capital city!

We initially stayed at Hostal Far Home Plaza Mayor, which was just off Plaza Tirso de Molina, and when we returned from Cádiz we stayed at Hostal Madrid Sol, which was located on Calle Principe, just seconds from Plaza de Santa Ana.  For what we paid, I really couldn’t fault either of them.

Hostal Far Home Plaza Mayor, MadridHostal Madrid Sol

The Food

Ah, the food!  One of the major reasons you’ll end up wanting to spend longer in Madrid is to give you more mealtimes with which to sample the vast array of quality culinary options available.

On our first evening in the city we discovered the Mercado de San Miguel, reportedly one of Madrid’s oldest and most beautiful markets.  It’s definitely an attractive structure, both inside and out, and the food all looks so tempting.  We sampled a selection of olives, cheese, and fish on a skewer (tapas prices start from as little as €1), but you can eat like a king here if you so choose, and there are plenty of wines and craft ales available to wash it all down with.

MadridMercado de San MiguelMadrid

One of the best areas of the city to head for tapas is the La Latina district.   It’s here that you’ll find the famous Calle Cava Baja – an entire street dedicated to tapas bars.  Our plan was to sample some tapas in a few of them but we loved La Concha (number 7) so much that we stayed there.

La Concha

We also loved Cafe y Tapas on Plaza de Santa Ana and Cantina Belesur on Calle Huertas (both in the Huertas neighbourhood).

MadridCafe y Tapas, MadridCantina Belesur

The Street Signs

I actually wanted to photograph enough of these for an entire blog post, and then attempt to research a little of the history behind each picture, but my best laid plans never came to fruition (I ran out of time!), so I only came away with three photos.  However I loved the fact that every single one of Madrid’s street signs comes complete with its own unique illustration.


Although my time in Madrid had been brief, it definitely left me wanting more.  There are easily enough sights and activities here to keep you entertained for at least a week, and it will take you even longer than that to sample enough of the city’s tapas to satisfy your taste buds.

¡Hasta pronto Madrid! Until next time…


Further Reading

The Hostel Girl, Kate Dawes has written a brilliant guide on some (almost) free pastimes in the city, and if you have an unbroken 24-hours in Madrid, Kirstie Jeffries has written an incredibly useful structured itinerary.  Alternatively, there is the travel bible (below).  I never go anywhere without my trusty Lonely Planet guide!

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  • Reply Katie February 16, 2016 at 11:39 AM

    Hey Kiara – what a great post with some great pictures! Thanks for adding me to further reading – and suggesting some more hostels for me to check out on my next visit! 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 16, 2016 at 12:50 PM

      You’re very welcome Katie! I loved your article 🙂

  • Reply Anna February 16, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    Madrid looks like a lovely city from your photos! I’m not sure yet if we will be taking a trip to Madrid when we go to Barcelona this fall… but it sure looks like it’d be worth a trip. And the food! Looks so so good! I also love that you noticed the little details such as the street signs. I love these! They’re so unique.
    Anna recently posted…Chinese New Year: the first seven daysMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 16, 2016 at 7:36 PM

      I guarantee you, the food is just as good in Barcelona! I have plenty of recommendations for tapas bars and restaurants there, if you need any 🙂

  • Reply Laia March 23, 2016 at 4:56 PM

    I think you got a good feel of the city for the short time you spent there 🙂
    I’ve been in Madrid three times but always on short stays to visit friends and didn’t really visit the city. I didn’t even see the beautiful street signs… I’ll pay attention next time!
    Laia recently posted…Northern Thailand by motorbike (2): let the trip flow by itselfMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop April 4, 2016 at 7:22 PM

      Yes it’s always difficult when you’re going somewhere to visit friends, as you want to spend time catching up rather than sightseeing! But there are so many lovely spots in the city to share tapas and drinks 🙂

  • Reply Raymond Anthony January 8, 2017 at 11:14 AM

    I so love Madrid. I stayed there for two months is Spring 2016. I adored every minute of it.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop January 8, 2017 at 11:20 AM

      Two months, wow! Working or travelling, or a bit of both? It’s definitely somewhere I intend to return to 🙂

  • Reply Raymond Anthony July 24, 2017 at 3:43 PM

    I’ve been to Madrid many times and have grown to love this place more than any other city in the world. I just love the ‘feel’ of just being in Madrid. Planning on my next Madrid visit in spring next year. ‘can’t wait. BTW your photos are

    • Reply Kiara Gallop July 24, 2017 at 8:20 PM

      Thanks heaps Raymond! Yes I’d definitely love to return to Madrid – preferably in the Spring or Summertime. It was wonderfully quiet in January but not at all warm enough for sitting outside in the city’s beautiful plazas 🙂

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