Madrid, Spain

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Ah, Spain!

Anytime anyone asked where I was going for my trip, I said Spain. I didn’t mean to leave Portugal out, and I was excited about going there, but everyone is more familiar with Spain and it just seemed easier. Also, everyone I had talked to that said they had been to Europe, said that Spain was their favorite. I found out immediately why that is and I couldn’t agree more!

Let’s begin with Spain’s capital and the heart of the Iberian peninsula: Madrid!

We took a short 1 hour plane ride from Lisbon to Madrid. There is a one hour time change, but that didn’t seem to effect us much.

The Weather

Before our trip, we were cautiously checking the weather because Spain was having some pretty crazy high summer temperatures. However, because of living in Texas, I wasn’t worried. Up to that point we had been having three-digit weather for like the past two weeks!

With that said, Spain is warmer than Portugal. Madrid is right in the middle of Spain and sits on an undulating plateau of sand and clay known as the Meseta which keeps it pretty warm and dry. So pack accordingly! I think I spent a majority of my time in shorts and chanclas! Even the evenings are pretty warm.

What To See

Since Madrid is the capital of Spain, there is A LOT to see! So much that I didn’t get to see everything I wanted. However, it just gives me an excuse to go back!

>Monuments & Buildings

Puerta del Sol – public square in Madrid, one of the best known and busiest places in the city. This is the centre of the radial network of Spanish roads. The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year.
This building is located on Grand Via, an ornate and upscale shopping street located in central Madrid. Today the street is known as the Spanish Broadway, and it is one of the streets with the most nightlife in Europe.
Photo: Jodi Bills
Fuente de Cibeles
Photo: Jodi Bills
Fountain of Neptune – Neoclassical fountain in the center of a roundabout depicting Neptune on a shell-shaped chariot.
Photo: Jodi Bills
The streets really look like this!
Most restaurants have an outdoor seating area. Perfect for a relaxing dinner.
Puerta de Alcalá – one of the original entrances to Madrid
Monumento Cervantes –  was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII in 1915, on the 300th anniversary of the publication of the second part of Don Quixote & Sancho Panza.
The Debod Mausoleum, which is more than 2,000 years old, was rescued from the waters of Aswan Dam by a group of Spanish archaeologists. They brought back every stone and rebuilt it in its present location, after the Government of Egypt donated it to Spain.
Photo: Kristin Leigh

This was one of our favorite tour guides! Not only was he knowledgeable about his city, he was also very passionate and very funny! This tour walk half bus tour and half walking. I really enjoyed the non-walking parts. 🙂

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Who did it best?
Not as much street art as Lisbon, but still plenty to see!
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We stayed in the LGBQT part of town and this is some of the street art we saw!
Plaza Major – They used to actually fight bulls here!
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Every street is so gorgeous, I mean just look at the colors and balconies!

>Palacio Real de Madrid

We spent a good amount of time at this palace, it’s where our tour for that day ended. This palace is actually still used by the king and queen of Spain whenever they need to host guest. They open it up to the people a few times a year! It’s absolutely gorgeous and now I want one!

It has over 200 rooms!
Coat of Arms of Spain
There is so much art and history in this place, definitely recommend visiting!
And there’s a chapel right next to it!
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Reina Isabel – the one that funded Christopher Columbus’s vogage
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Rey Fernando – and her husband! Both statues at the Palacio Real de Madrid

Where To Eat

El Buho – our first meal in Madrid was this traditional Spanish dish, a “tortilla”! Perfect for sharing with 4-6 people!
Yes, I tried vegan food again! 
Photo: Jodi Bills
This place was right around the corner from our hostel in the Chueca district.

Taberna La Española – this place was busy from the moment we got there to the moment we left!
I ate a lot of smoked salmon sandwiches, so good!
El Tigre Sidra Bar

This place came highly recommended to me by a friend, so I HAD to try it! Let me just tell you that I was NOT disappointed. This place is very casual, most people stand because there isn’t enough stools and it’s a fast moving pace.

See that drink? That’s a Tinto de Verano (best drink ever!) and it only cost us 5€. There was six of us and we each got a drink. Then they brought out about five different tapas (one for each of every type) for FREE! Yup, all this food (plus more not pictured) for six people – about 30€.

Tapas and sangria all day everyday!
Our awesome tour guide treated us to some churros and chocolate from Chocolateria San Gines!
I literally could not survive without my daily expresso!

What To Do

Literally SO MUCH to do in Madrid! There is something for everyone! Parks, museums, shopping malls, sports arenas, you name it!

>Parque del Buen Retiro

This park used to be exclusively for royalty, but they later opened it up to the people of Spain. Inside, you will find gardens, fountains and monuments, buildings, a lake and many vendors. It is located in the center of Madrid and a must see!

Palacio de Cristal – The metal and glass structure was built in 1887 for the Philippines Exhibition of that year. Designed by Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, the project was inspired by Paxton’s Crystal Palace. It was originally planned as a gigantic greenhouse to contain tropical plants but today it is used for exhibitions.
Monumento Alfonso XII – located on the lake where you can rent these iconic blue boats!
Palacio de Velázquez – neoclassical building houses rotating exhibits of contemporary art.
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Fuente del Ángel Caído – translated as the Fallen Angel, the statue that crowns the monument is the masterpiece of Ricardo Bellver who realized it in plaster in 1877 while a 3rd year pensioner in Rome, inspired by verses from Paradise Lost of John Milton.

>Flamenco Show

What is more Spanish than watching a flamenco show? This was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! The intensity and passion in these dancers was so captivating I could not look away or dare blink in fear of missing something!

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Got to sit front row, which made the show that much more intense! Not gonna lie, I thought they were gonna pull me up there, thank God they didn’t! Hehe.
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The dancers, musicians, and singers – AMAZING! 
Photo: Jodi Bills
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We all got dressed up and went to the show together! These group moments are the ones I miss the most!

>Shopping

Our tour guide told us that this is their “Times Square”. A lot of shopping streets connect here and there is a big tv screen behind that tree. At night, you can see street performs as well!

Of course I could not go to Madrid and not do some shopping! This whole area is lined with stores! We went into Bershka, Pull & Bear, Desigual, Zara! And just around the corner from this photo, on Gran Via, you’ll find these stores AGAIN but even bigger! Unfortunately we did not get to do shop till we dropped but we did pick up some cute things to hold us off until Barcelona!

>Night Life

If I haven’t said this already, let me just say it now: Europeans party hard! We are having dinner at 9PM and going out at 12AM and not stopping till 6AM. Or at least they are. Ehe.

We went out one night to a street festival and tried to blend in with the locals. That was fun! They have music, food, and drinks spanning through different neighborhoods and everyone comes out!

On another night, we went out to a pub and danced to a little bit of everything! However, we could only last till about 3AM and A LOT of expressos were needed the next day!

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With all the walking we were doing, there was no way I could wear heels! *cry*

Getting Around

Madrid is currently undergoing a lot of construction. Their goal is to make the streets smaller so that less cars can fit and thus encouraging residents and visitors to walk or use public transportation. We only used the Metro once because you can literally walk anywhere! We did A LOT of walking in Madrid!

Gran Via is one of their main roads and the one we used to get us everywhere we wanted. Probably walked this street about 4-6 times a day.
This is the Metro stop by our hostel. We stayed in the Chueca district aka the LQBTQ district.

>What I Didn’t Get To See

>Museums

Madrid is home to three major museums that have some amazing artwork

  • Museo Nacional Del Prado has art by Velazquez, Goya and El Greco  and masterpieces from the 12th- to 19th-century.
  • Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art with works by Gris, Dali, Picasso and Miro.
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum housing collection of 13th-20th-century European masterpieces, from Renaissance to Pop Art.

>Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

The soccer stadium for the famous Real Madrid team. It was completed in 1947 and host regular matches plus tours of the stadium and trophy room.

>Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

Yes, bullfighting is still legal in Spain. But ONLY in Madrid. This bullfighting arena was built in the 1920s in neo-Mudéjar style & used for bullfights, concerts & events.

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A map our tour guide circle points of interest to check out!

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When asked what my favorite city of the trip was, it’s really hard to pick between Madrid and Barcelona. Our group was actually divided between these two cities.

Being able to speak Spanish, really made me feel comfortable and at home in Madrid. I hope to return one day soon and check out all that I missed and go back to the places that left me with so many memories!

I know this post was extensive. I tried to cover as much as I could! But I still know I didn’t cover everything and in as much detail as I would have liked! I honestly could write a book with information for y’all! With that said, please reach out to me if you have any questions or need any information on anything!

What did you think of Madrid? Have you ever been? Any suggestions you’d like to add?

XO, Mayra

PS. Thank you to my fellow travelers for letting me use their pictures!

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