Madrid, is a vibrant city. Full of well manicured parks, grand boulevards and original architecture. This is certainly a meeting of the old and new. Old as in, restored or retained buildings from yesteryear, used for todays’ every day business. New, as in the young generations of locals and Spanish nationals who flock to the capital, as well as constant flow of tourists.
It’s not a big place, which adds to its appeal. This is the epitome of city break as it is indeed a city and you can grab your experience in a short burst. But don’t let that put you off, Madrid is the main attraction with a supporting case surrounding it. Train rides to take you to gorgeous cities such as Toledo set on a hill, rich in medieval, Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments in its walled old City to Acala de Henares famous for its university housed in 16 century buildings. Madrid is the perfect place to plan your mid Spain adventure from.
Before you book your Renfe, let’s take some time to explore. I can safely say I did not get a chance to see everything that Madrid has to offer, but 20,000 steps per day later, I certainly took in a good portion. Plaza Mayor built during Philip III’s reign is one of a few plazas in the city centre. The Royal Palace, the 18th century home to the King of Spain. Cathedral de la Almudena, a Baroque Catholic church with its colourful chapels and Romanesque crypt. The Temple of Debod, an interesting ancient Egyptian temple and museum, moved from Aswan and rebuilt right here in Madrid. And of course, parks, parks galore. Let’s not forget the awesome Museo Nacional del Prado, with masterpieces from Velazquez, Goya and El Greco.
Even if you don’t take the decision to grab a train to a nearby city, Atocha Railway station is still an architectural marvel to enjoy. Onto the shopping, Madrid has the largest Primark, so you can really overload on the bargains if you have the stomach for crowds. Aside from that, there are no end of shops around Gran Via, which also serves as the shopping district.
Madrid is best enjoyed on foot, but the bus tours are quite good as well. There are two routes, one that takes you more internally and the other that goes further out taking in Real Madrid’s ground, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Grab yourself a seat on the top deck and you can get yourself some great pics. For 15 euros it certainly isn’t bad. Each seat has a plug in with English, German, French translation, so you can hear all about the wonderful places you pass.
Food is a big thing in Madrid. A lot of Michelin star chefs and restaurants are dotted around the place. Even family London based restaurants make an appearance like Benares (foodie reviews on separate posts).
It’s great if you know someone in Madrid who can help you manouvre through the dodgy tourist traps. That said, solo or without a guide during your visit, its pretty easy to navigate with great guides from Culture Trip and of course, this here wee blog too. Madrid, a city break for discovery, but also potentially my new home from home.