Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain with a population of about three and a half million people city-wide. And I can say that I crisscrossed this city numerous times in my 4 day stay.
I’m not going to give you a history lesson on Madrid- there’s plenty of websites online for that. I’m going to tell you of my experience with the city, the food, the wine, and the people.
We chose to stay at Roommate Laura just steps from Plaza Mayor. It is a good, central location to start your daily sightseeing treks. We chose this not only for its location, but also its spacious interior and “quirkiness” from the online photos. It was a little less quirky than expected and I would say if you stay here and have children, ask for a non-loft style room as it could be dangerous for small kids.
When you arrive to Madrid, you’ll quickly see that its architecture is quite different than Barcelona’s. Madrid still has that “historic European” feel with elaborately decorated buildings.
You will see a lot of Churrigueresque, a Spanish Baroque style from the late 17th century. I find this as fascinating as Gaudi’s Catalan Modernism in Barcelona, if not more so. When Phillip II moved to Madrid, he began a series of reforms; the Plaza Mayor by Juan de Herrera and Juan Gomez de Mora was an embodiment of these reforms. Two of the most spectacular buildings to see are the Cybele Palace: City Hall of Madrid (at day and night) and the Royal Palace (Patrimonio Nacional). Cybele Palace has a lounge on the roof that overlooks the city where you can have a glass of wine or cocktail and recuperate from a day of exhaustive sightseeing. The Patrimonio Nacional is just simply stunning and a MUST DO. Don’t forget, there’s the armory across the courtyard that is included in your ticket. Also, across from the palace’s gardens are a couple of café’s where you can sit and enjoy a coffee, meal or just a glass of wine, soaking up the sun and enjoying the day.
There’s too many sites to discuss here-consult your local travel books such as Rick Steves’ Europe for more.
Food…I guess the best that I could say is Madrid is second to Rome when it comes to food. Everywhere you look, every street corner, every plaza, there are tons of restaurants. The biggest task is attempting to figure out where to stop. The best advice I could give is have a large lunch around 1:00pm with a menu del dia. It’s a three course meal for about 10-15€. Then in the evenings, tapa hop. At nearly any café you can get tapas and there are tapa bars that just sell tapas and beer/wine. Tapas are small appetizers costing around 3-5€ including meat or fish dishes, fried potatoes, and hundreds of combinations depending on the establishment. Explore, it’s easy to just point at what you want and say the amount. Madrid has some of the tastiest food I’ve had for such amazingly reasonable prices. Lest I not forget, the wine; Spanish wine is just simply delicious. In many places you have a choice of sizes, a small is about 2-3oz, medium about 5oz, and a large about 7-8oz. Prices are quite reasonable, starting at €1.50 but averaging about €4.5-€8. And don’t forget, there’s nothing like ending a day with churros and chocolate.
Finally, Madrid can be a cheaper alternative to other European cities as prices are very low when compared to the others. For example, at Room Mate Laura, for 4 days, the cost was less than $400. In Paris, even the small cheaper hotels can run $150-$200 a night or more. The cheaper prices carries over to the food as well making it an ideal place for younger travelers on a budget. I couldn’t recommend a visit to Madrid any more as I was captivated by this lovely city. Not only was I captivated by the city but its people, who where were as warm and friendly as any European city I’ve ever visited.
Until next time, thanks for tripping with me.
Room Mate Laura
Travesia de los Trujillos 3 | Plaza de las Descalzas, Reales, 28013
Pasodoble – Calle de las Huertas, 65, Madrid, Spain
Marcado de San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel, s / n 28005, M (Very Touristy but fun)