Continuing Coverage of Spain, Next up: Madrid
Madrid is a very easy place to visit and an even easier place to love. This major European capital city is steeped in centuries of history and has everything that comes to mind when you think of Spain: flamenco, tapas, wine, art, opera, and royals. If you can dream it, Madrid will have it. During our stay we strolled plush public green spaces, ate in world-class restaurants, sipped Aperol Spritz’s on the coolest rooftops, soaked for hours in an ancient Hamam, and covered centuries of art in museums and palaces.
Where to Eat in Madrid:
Casa Salvador in Chueca. “Taurino” spot well known with the bullfighting crowd. Pics of Hemingway, Sofia Loren, and famous toreros dot the walls. This place boasts a super classic environment with incredible food. Get the Gambas al ajillo, albondigas, judias verdes salteadas. Reservations usually not necessary but you can do so via their website. This was our favorite lunch in Madrid.
El Mollette– has about 25 seats in the entire restaurant- very limited albeit incredible menu- order everything that looks good but don’t skip out on the artichokes in the foie sauce.
El Botin – you will learn that this is the oldest continually operated restaurant in the world, or some statistic like that before you arrive here and you will get a sense of this rich history if you make it here. Get the suckling pig or lamb and plan on splurging for a better bottle of wine than the house offerings.
Want something on the sweet side? Look no further than the Chocolate & churros at Chocolateria San Gines and the pastries, especially the Napolitana de Crema at La Mallorquina. If you have an itch to send a post card, San Gines has postcards for purchase and a post-office on-site to send them.
Drinks – Vermouth is a big thing here, they do it on tap many places. Taberna Angel Sierra is one of the classic joints. You’re in Spain so it will be difficult to find a bad bottle of wine. Learn how to say “copa de vino blanco/tinto” before you arrive.
What to See in Madrid:
The Palacio Real – the largest royal palace in all of Europe- is absolutely unreal. You can buy tickets in advance to skip the line. Would recommend doing this on your first day to power through your jet lag. Easily doable in 4 hours or so. You can get a walking guide or do it on your own in less time.
The Museo del Prado and Reina Sofia are the most famous museums in Spain. El Prado has a “masterpiece list” for all their famous Goyas and Velazquezes. You can go to their website and find a self guided tour option that works for you, we spent 2.5 hours and didn’t even scratch the surface. The most well known painting in the Prado is Velasquez’s “Las Meninas”. Be sure to check out all the auxiliary art in the gallery surrounding it. If you are interested in more than just the super famous pieces, you could spend all day in there.
Reina Sofia is the modern art museum, most known for Picasso’s Guernica. We scored free entry tickets by going online. Must see. The Thyssen museum, rounds out the triangle of museums in Madrid, reminded me more of a DC museum. I would skip this one unless you have a keen interest in art history, or a week or so in Madrid.
Retiro Park is just a few blocks from the Prado and is wonderful. I ran the path around the perimeter on the final day of the trip (about 5km). According to my friend Maria who lived in Madrid for about a year, “there might not be a happier place on earth than a Sunday afternoon in Retiro park”. Families go out to pasear and there are usually random magic shows and such for the kiddos. Madrid’s most posh neighborhood, Barrio Salamanca, is directly to the north, so there are always extremely well-dressed and very cute children running around the beautiful park. The main things to see in the park are the Palacio de Cristal and the Estanque – a big lake with paddle boats if that interests you.
Things to see close to Retiro & the Museums:The Palacio de Cibeles (Ayuntamiento de Madrid) is currently under construction so it has wooden façade covering the scaffolding, but hopefully it’s done by the time whoever reads this post arrives. It is by far one of the most beautiful buildings in Madrid.
Metropolis building and the Gran Via: Gran Via is the most famous avenue in Madrid for a reason. Have a drink on the rooftop of the Principal Hotel (super posh and drinks are fairly expensive but you won’t regret it) right across the street from the Metropolis.
Hotels/lodging: Would recommend staying at the Be Mate Plaza Espana near the Palacio Real. Very affordable and super nice.
Written by Jason Vita