Being a person who loves anything that has to do with Spain, be it culture, food, language, music and well its people, I jumped at the first chance I got to visit the Spanish capital, Madrid. This was not my first time in Spain as recently I had had the chance to visit the remarkable Catalan city of Barcelona. (Read about my trip there-> https://thegirlontheplaneweb.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/the-artistic-side-of-barcelona/)
However, I had been yearning to visit Madrid for a quite a long time because as much as these two major Spanish cities may share some similarities (kind of!)…a capital city is always a capital city, at the end of the day.
And where else could you possibly get an authentic taste of the Spanish culture if not in Spain’s capital itself? So if you’re planning a trip to Madrid, here’s what to expect in this vibrant and charming Spanish capital…
A fast way of life
Only those who have lived all their life in a small town in the middle of nowhere or in my case, on a small island know the struggle (but also the rush of adrenaline) that comes with adapting to the fast way of life of a big city.
In fact, after taking the train from Barajas Airport all the way to the heart of Madrid (Puerta del Sol) I couldn’t help but feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the square and by the huge amount of people that were there, upon stepping outside of the train station.
Needless to say, this way of life does not only reside in metro/train stations, it basically is a characteristic of the whole city but don’t worry you’ll find yourself embracing this way of life without even noticing…see it as Madrid’s effect on you!
BONUS: For a real escape from Madrid’s fast way of life, do yourself a favour and visit the breath-taking El Retiro Park which is my definition of tranquillity! Whilst there be sure to visit the lake, the Crystal Palace and the Rose Garden!
Even though life is fast in Madrid, always make sure to look up, every now and then, because the architecture there is something to die for. It embraces detail and sophistication at their best.
Let’s start with Gran Vía, also known as the street which never sleeps… as you are walking along this busy street, you will come to a point where you cannot decide which building you like best. I mean do you get what I mean now?
Moving on to the Royal Palace of Madrid, this was certainly love at first sight, especially when viewed from the Sabatani Gardens, on the right- hand side of the palace… simply wonderful!
However, one of the most iconic buildings in Madrid is certainly the Metropolis building which reaches a new level of class and elegance. If you want to get a stunning shot of this building head over to the rooftop of Círculo de Bellas Artes, which lies on the opposite side of the Metropolis building. Entrance fee to the rooftop is 4euros and once you’re up there, you can rest your feet from all the walking, on one of the enormous sunbeds there are, with a cocktail in hand! Doesn’t this sound like the perfect escape from the city’s rush?!
A big city always promises enormous squares which serve as meeting spots for both locals and tourists alike. And Madrid boasts some not-to-be-missed plazas; all of which are home to stunning monuments which’ll remind you of all that Spain has achieved!
The one which immediately stole my heart was Plaza Mayor due to its uniform and eye-catching architecture which consists of 237 balconies facing the Plaza.
A short walk away from this square lies possibly the most vibrant square in Madrid, Puerta del Sol.
If from Puerta del Sol, you walk towards the opposite direction of Plaza Mayor, you’ll eventually come across Plaza Cibeles which even though is unpedestrianised, is still worth visiting. This square is close to both the Prado Museum and El Retiro Park.
One last square which I visited and loved was Plaza de España which lies a few minutes away from Madrid’s Royal Palace. Its central monuments here feature Miguel de Cervantes (the great Spanish writer) and his well-known characters Don Quijote and Sancho Panza (I still remember studying this book for my Spanish class! The good old days!)
Crazy shopping experiences
Let me just say one thing… According to Lonely Planet, Madrid is home to the biggest Primark in Europe, stretching across 5 gigantic storeys. Can you understand why I particularly chose “crazy” for this section’s heading now?
Apart from Primark, Gran Vía is jam-packed with retail stores, one next to the other, of the most popular brands. So, what are you waiting for, get saving! Did I mention the numerous El Corte Inglés complexes (Europe’s biggest departmental store group) there are in Madrid?
PS: if you love food or is simply looking for another stylist rooftop bar, make sure to visit El Corte Inglés of Plaza de Callao and take the elevator to the 9th floor. This uppermost floor is all dedicated to what is known as the Gourmet Experience and if you walk towards the terrace, you’ll be rewarded with some to-die-for views of Madrid’s busy streets.
And if you’re looking for something crazier than shopping in Madrid, then be sure to head over to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu whenever Real Madrid are playing and immerse within the multicultural crowd of football fanatics, some of whom will be as old as 70! Even though I’m not the biggest football fan, I still enjoyed watching Real Madrid vs Real Betis because the electrifying atmosphere you’ll feel there will be simply mind-blowing!
PS: If you’re travelling to the stadium by metro, then make sure to plan SUPER EARLY unless you’re looking forward for a claustrophobic journey. The way back to the hotel was nothing different so be aware!
However, if you’d rather visit the stadium in a more relaxed context, then I would suggest taking the day tour and look at the place from a completely different (yet equally appealing) perspective! The most basic entrance fee costs 24euros.
A rich culture of art
On a completely different note, Madrid is a dream for any art enthusiast considering it is home to numerous museums which suit different tastes. In my case, I opted for the remarkable Prado Museum which boasts a collection of some of the finest Spanish and European art all the way from the 12th century up till the 20th century. What a place to be in!! The basic ticket to enter this museum is 15 euros BUT if you’re a student (18-25 years of age) and is able to provide some form of proof for this, you’ll get to enter for free. If you visit the museum during the evening (Monday to Saturday from 6pm – 8pm, Sundays and holidays from 5pm – 7pm), you’ll also enter for free!
Other museums in Madrid are the Museo Reina Sofia, Museo del Romanticismo and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
A dedication for anything food-related
The Spaniards have a very special gastronomical culture, one which I simply cannot get enough of. However, putting the paella and tapas aside, one thing which anyone will notice after walking around Madrid for a few hours (or even minutes!) is the locals’ obsession (because it is an obsession) for HAM. In fact, various Museos del Jamón are scattered around the city, always packed with people enjoying a bocadillo con jamón, a good glass of cerveza and a word with friends!
Photo source ^: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/741200
Well, that pretty much sums up all that Madrid has warmly greeted me with… I guess it is quite clear now that Madrid has something to offer for any kind of person, be it a shopaholic, a football fanatic, an art/ culture enthusiast or simply put…a food-obsessed person like me 😊