We lived in Madrid for more than 3 years. In that period we had time to meet the city, understand it, love and hate it multiple times, let it become part of our hearts, leave it and dream of it. We learnt how to fully live the city and enjoy the best of it.
Like many other metropolis Madrid has a lot to offer, which sometimes is overwhelming, but the city still has a sort of village atmosphere, that is there to be discovered!
So here come few things that you shouldn’t miss if you visit La Capital.
How and when to go
Madrid has a big airport, Madrid Barajas, with a lot of international flights. From the airport there are two ways of getting to the city centre. The first one is by Metro Madrid, the underground tube. The ticket costs between 4,50 or 5€ (a single ticket is 1,50/2€ plus the airport fee) and via Line 8 you reach the station of Nuevos Ministerios, from which you have a couple of option to get to the centre via other lines. The second option is by Cercanias-Renfe, the regional train. This is useful if you arrive at the international terminal of Madrid Barajas, since the train doesn’t stop at the others terminals, and if you have to get to certain farther areas of the city.
As for when to go, Madrid has in general a really nice weather, although due to its height summers are very hot. The best periods to visit are surely autumn and spring: the sun shines, it is not to warm and it rarely rains.
Where to stay
This is quite hard for us to say, since we didn’t try hotels or other kind of accommodation. But our suggestion is to find a place in the city centre, which will be more practical to discover the city by foot. It is not indispensable to stay in the area of Plaza del Sol, the central square. Really nice neighbourhoods are Chueca and Malasaña, the first is the gay area and the second is the hipster one. My family stayed a couple of times closet to our house, at the Gavinet Hotel in Calle de Toledo, which is a good compromise for quality, price and position. If you prefer staying in a more luxury place, try the Hotel Mercure Santo Domingo, which has a breathtaking rooftop swimming pool, a vertical garden and the excellent restaurant Sandó.
What to do
Prepare yourself and your feet to walk a lot: the city centre is not huge but it’s on a sort of hill so you’ll be going up and down all day.
From Palacio Real to Sol: walk from the Palacio Real, through the Almudena Cathedral, Plaza Mayor with the stunning facades of the city hall and the other similar buildings, and reach the huge Plaza del Sol .
Km 0: stand and take a picture of the point where all the streets of Spain originate. You’ll find it in front of the famous tower with the clock in Plaza del Sol.
From Callao to Atocha: start from Plaza de Callao and its angular building with the Schweppes sign and walk along Calle de Gran Via, up to Banco de España. From there turn right and enjoy the long walk in the central green area of Paseo del Prado. Reach Atocha, the old train station, with its botanical inside garden.
Museums: visit the Museo del Prado, the enormous collection of the private Thyssen-Bornemisza and finally the Reina Sofia Museum. If you prefer smaller exhibitions you should go to the Caixa Forum and to the Casa Encendida, that offer temporary shows of contemporary artists.
Templo de Debod: enjoy the sunset from the hill of the Templo de Debod, an ancient Egyptian Temple from the area of Aswan rebuilt in Madrid.
Anden 0: visit this old tube station that still conserves its original white tiles and signs.
Lavapies: walk in this multiethnic neighbourhood and remember to look around and above you to see the beautiful buildings and the various graffiti creation of the local artists.
El Rastro and La Latina: spend Sunday morning wandering through the stalls of the flea market of El Rastro. It is a great place to find vintage objects, antique furniture and any kind of weird stuff. After spending few hours in this labyrinth of streets, go to the neighbourhood of La Latina and spend the late morning and afternoon and if you’re not too tired even night, going from one bar to another.
What to eat
Chocolateria de San Gines: have a Chocolate con churros. It’s a cup of hot chocolate with “sticks” of fried-dough.
Mercado de San Miguel: enjoy a not so quick-lunch in this old refurbished market. There is a vast offer of food and drinks, from fresh fish to desserts. We suggest you to have a Vermut and a Rebujito (a cocktail with Sherry and soft drinks) at the spot where you can also try many different kind of olive snacks.
Museo del jamon: have a 1€ sandiwich with the famous jamon Serrano at one of the many shop of this local chain, of course accompanied with a caña, a little glass of beer.
La ideal (Calle de Botoneras 4): have a bocadillo de calamares, a baguette with fried calamari.
Café Melos: share a Zapatilla, a huge slice of bread with the fresh cheese tetilla and the ham jamon serrano.
Sidreria el Tigre: have a drink and you’ll get one or two full plates of food, including tortilla, paella and croquetas de jamon.
Casa Amadeo – Los caracoles: have the typical caracoles, snails cooked in stock, with potatoes.
El pabellon del Espejo: have a tea or a coffee at the fabulous pagoda of the restaurant El Espejo. You can enjoy the view of Paseo del Prado in a sort of ancient atmosphere.