Our next stop was Madrid; we flew from a local European flight and it took us around an hour from Lisbon (given the time difference, we lost 1 additional hour in Madrid). Hotel we stayed at was Petit Palace Mayor Plaza; Overall it was a good hotel, average on cleanliness and did have a weird smell in the lobby, but it was a great location and accessible to transit.
We rested up a bit and then headed downstairs for some much needed hunger fix. Picked a restaurant/bar called Eduardo, it is right next to Mercado de San Miguel (Market of San Miguel); it was an average restaurant but we were super hungry, so it was very satisfying.
Then we walked and came across the area of Puerta Del Sol; to be completely honest I hadn’t research this place much, so I was very confused when I saw a lot of people gathered around a statue of a bear eating something off a tree. Of course, these people knew the deal and this bear eating fruits from the tree is one of the most famous symbols of Madrid. In Spanish they call it “El Oso y El Madrono”; you can read up on significance of this area here.
We roamed around this area and took lots of picture; it was late in the afternoon and it was very hot so I remember we took refuge in a huge air-conditioned glass Apple store, nearby, to cool down and leave our mark by taking pictures on their tablets. After roaming around several plazas’ here; Plaza de San Miguel, Puerta Del Sol and a few others in the vicinity, we went back for a rest break.
Later in the evening we roamed around the Bairro neighbourhood and spotted this majestic looking church called Real Basilica de San Francisco El Grande, we didn’t go in but you can check out the insides if you are interested. It looks really cool lit up at night.
Again, we got hungry and had heard great reviews about Emma Cocina tapas, so we ventured back to Plaza de San Miguel for some tapas. Tapas here were delicious and the lady that owns the place was a great host.
After eating we explored the Mercado De San Miguel; which is one of the top things to do in Madrid and do snack on their variety of options, you won’t be disappointed.
Next day we woke up bright and early craving some good breakfast; I had come across a place called Café de Oriente; it had raving reviews and great views from the patio. You can view the Royal Palace, which is located right opposite of it. It is located right in Plaza De Oriente. Breakfast here was great and refreshing; the only thing was our server didn’t speak much English and it was hard to communicate, but then again, since I don’t speak Spanish, language was certainly a barrier in some non-touristy areas.
After breakfast, we chilled around the Plaza and admired the Royal Palace. We had decided, in order to get the most out of the city, it was a good idea to do Madrid’s Hop-on Hop-off tour, as it was covering majority of the sites we wanted to check out. It costs about 18 Euros for a 1 day ticket.
Our first stop was Museo Del Prado (Prado National Museum); it is the main Spanish art museam located in central Madrid. Worth a visit and it is one of the most visited places in the world; consisting of an amazing representation of art from very famous artists through history.
Our next stop was intended to be Retiro Park, but for some unexplained confusion we ended up at Real Jardin Botanico (Botanical Garden); there was a charge to go in, so we paid about 4 euros per person; once inside we roamed around the place and saw various plants and flowers. However, I would say you can definitely skip this place if you are not into botanical gardens. It is much better to explore Retiro Park, which is not only huge but also has free admission.
After we realized this wasn’t the place we meant to go, we headed to Retiro Park, which is about 10 minute walking distance from the garden. This park is HUGE, so we walked around exploring various areas of the park (in no way did we finish the whole park), then we headed to check out Palacio De Cristal (Crystal Palace), which is also located in the park. After getting lost for a while, we finally found the Crystal Palace, and of course it is completely made out of glass with steel structuring, thus its name. There are lots of steps in front of the palace where people were chilling, taking pictures, and just plain admiring the place. There is a very big pond with a water fountain and turtles right in front of the palace.
When we went inside Palacio De Cristal, it had a very Middle Eastern feel to it (at least that’s what I thought)It had tent like structures set up within the castle and long cushions to chill on. I am not sure if they change the inside up constantly, as my friend went the year before and saw something completely different inside. So after our long walk, we relaxed inside the palace for a bit, even took a mini nap. There were artwork flowers on sale in one corner and another corner had a shisha with few people taking a few hits of smoke. The whole area is great for taking in the view and relaxing.
By the time we were done in Retiro Park, it was getting close to sunset, and we had a mission to watch sunset by Temple Debod. We got on the hop-on hop-off bus and headed on our way. It is a little over half hour from the park. On our route, we saw several other attractions in passing (certainly need more than 2 days to explore all of Madrid). Finally, we arrived here, just a bit before sunset. Temple Debod is an Egyptian Temple; dismantled in Egypt and placed here in Madrid as a donation/gift. This was a result of Spain’s part in saving Abu Simbel temple. You can learn more of the reasoning behind the donation here.
Not only is it amazing to see such a historic Egyptian temple (2nd Century BC) in the middle of the city; but you can also get high vantage point view of the city; great place to watch a sunset or sunrise. It was truly beautiful with the different colored skies behind the temple.
Later that night we went to watch authentic Flamenco dancing. No trip to Spain is complete without doing this, in my opinion. We watched it at Tablao Las Carboneras; they offer dinner and amazing Flamenco dance show. We mainly chowed down on olives and had a drink.
Day 3 (Day trip to Seville)
On our final full day in Madrid, we did a day trip to Seville. We took a train early in the morning which took about 3 hours to get to Seville (Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, as did we, since prices go up closer to the date and space may be an issue).
We arrived at Seville-San Justa station, and were super hungry, so we dropped by the McDonalds in the station for some “hangry” fix. Afterwards, we took a bus from outside the station to Plaza de España (which is right around the city centre). Beautiful plaza with amazing architecture and even mini gondola rides on the pond within the plaza. We explored the place for about 2 hours and took lots of pictures (of course).
Afterwards, we headed towards the Seville Cathedral, which is about 20 minutes walking distance from the plaza. Roamed around the cathedral and sat peacefully to admire its beauty and history. Basically, we sat by a guided tour group and eavesdropped to get some pointers on its history.
Within the Seville Cathedral, is its bell tower called Giralda; this is where you have to go up about 30 or so slopes and then an additional 5-6 stairs to get to the top. There was no elevator from what I can recall, so be prepared to mission up there. There are plenty of small windows along the way up to get small glimpses of the city view. Once you get up top, you can see great city views with its vibrant and historic architecture. Definitely a must see, but make sure you are okay with the walk up.
We walked around the neighbouring area looking for some food, as that climb can cause quiet an appetite. We came across Alcazar of Seville, which is their royal palace built by Moorish Muslim Kings. The lineup to go in was quiet long, so we decided to admire its beauty from the outside. But if you have time, this is one of the recommended places worth checking out; full of history and great architecture.
After grabbing a snack we were on our way back to Madrid, where we spent the night and woke up nice and early next morning to head to Barcelona!!!
Highlights of all the places to visit in Madrid:
- Mercado De San Miguel
- Puerta Del Sol (this is where you can find status of bear and tree)
- Try tapas at Emma Cocina
- Have breakfast at Café De Oriente
- Explore Plaza De Oriente
- If you are in Madrid for a short while, give their Hop-on Hop-off tour a try
- Museo Del Prado
- Retiro Park
- Palacio De Cristal (Crystal Palace)
- Temple Debod (watch sunset from here)
- Watch Flamenco Dancing live!
Highlights from Seville (Day trip from Madrid)
- Plaza De Espana
- Seville Cathedral
- Giralda (views of the city from top)
- Alcazar of Seville
Barcelona post coming up next and I promise it won’t take as long as this one 🙂 . Do share your thoughts on the post and if you have visited any other places in Madrid, you believe are worth checking out!