On a sweltering weekend in June, we headed off to the beautiful and charismatic Spanish capital, Madrid. Upon arrival, we hopped on the train from the airport to the centre, checked into our apartment, and after a refreshing beer in the sun downstairs, set out on foot to explore. While wandering through the streets the afternoon we arrived, it became apparent that the architecture here is nothing short of beautiful and there is art EVERYWHERE! The mixture of mansions and palaces from its rich royal history teamed with the winding streets of picturesque Spanish apartments is just stunning.
We took in stunning views of the city from one of the many rooftop bars – Azotea. With a lift up to the top of this arts centre building, we were met by canopies to relax in, live music, a restaurant and bar with 360-degree views of the streets below – definitely recommended!
Buildings included, Madrid is an art lovers paradise. It adorns walls, entire facades, doors, and the city boasts more galleries than you could ever visit in one trip. A highlight for me was our visit to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, home of works by Picasso and Dali among many others.
The Cathedral and Royal Palace are artworks of their own. The lavish Palacio Real is only really used now for royal ceremonies with the family no longer living there so you can go on tours of the buildings. Across the square is the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena which is more modern and artistic in comparison to its neighbour.
Next up were the glorious gardens of El Retiro. A vast park scattered with elegant tree-lined avenues, sculptures and a boating lake, the latter of which was the most fun way to spend an afternoon! Hidden in the trees is the Palacio de Cristal, a magnificent glass structure, which creates almost dreamlike scenes from over the lake in front of it.
The last of our tourist destinations, before we spent the rest of the time leisurely strolling through the side streets and plazas eating and drinking, was the Temple of Debod. An Egyptian temple that was gifted to Spain in the late ’60s, shipped over block-by-block, as a thank you to Spanish archaeologists. It is pretty spectacular to see such a monument while in a bustling city!
Before we returned home we had three things to tick off our list:
Madrid’s most famous spot for churros, Chocolateria Saint Gines, is nestled away down a tiny side street just off the majestic Plaza Mayor (Madrid’s bustling grand square – worth a visit in itself!). Due to its popularity, we opted for a quieter but just as delicious and historic – Valor Chocolateria. We got warm, fresh churros served with four types of dipping chocolate; white, milk, dark and a hot chocolate drink. It was heavenly!
Tapas came by the plate load with any drink order from the hidden gem El Tigre. A popular spot that will fill you up for very little money (perfect for a budget holiday) with plates of bread with cheese, croquetas, patatas bravas, tortilla de patatas, Spanish cured ham and chorizo.
We had a lot of Sangria on this trip – and I mean a lot – but the highlight was from underground bar Las Cuevas de Sésamo. A seemingly dingy bar at first glance but one that offers history, character, the best sangria in the city, and on the right night, live music from local pianists.
Madrid is a lively, beautiful and vibrant city with plenty to do. If food, drink, nightlife and art are what you are looking for, then its the perfect location for you.
Where is your next trip?