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