Prior to leaving Melbourne most people (not including my brother in law who is madly in love with Madrid) mentioned that Madrid “…was a lovely Spanish city but it really is just a major city” and because of that I had no major expectations.
And they’re wrong.
After a 13 hour overnight plane (I was fed 3 times, happiness) we arrived in the land that makes it on everybody’s bucket list - España.
It’s 5am in Madrid and while we battled through Korean tour groups and fought to put our packs on, the city was still sleeping (and would be for the next 5 hours at least).
Welcome to Spain!
After a set of serious conversations with travel partner to talk about expectations it was early (or late) enough to catch the Metro. Note to self: 6am is ridiculously early for Madrileños unless they’re returning home.
Hey, it’s Spain after all.
You know what’s a godsend for weary travellers?
A direct train from the Airport to the city.
Particularly this metro that was efficient, fast, clean, easy to navigate and CHEAP.
Sorry to have a dig at you Melbourne, but you’re so far behind.
It’s 8am and Spain still tossed and turned in their beds.
Which made finding breakfast and coffee practically impossible… unless you find a Starbucks
Now don’t hate me, everything really was shut. And apparently the Spanish have breakfast on their way home from partying at hours that I find ungodly.
Once Madrid woke up, it had a certain je ne sais quoi that draws you in.
It could be all the different pockets within the city – you have your grungy area, tourist area, locals corner, gay corner and something for everyone all within walking distance.
The building were majestic, white and grand with such a Spanish flavour that would be hard to replicate anywhere else. The food was simple, delicious, affordable and there was always something to discover just around the corner.
I regret thinking I only needed two days to explore this city, I needed far more time than that. Te dejo Madrid but I have a feeling we will see each other again soon.
I stayed at Hostal Muralla where Maria and her elderly parents looked after us with smiles and the occasional hand signal (no English here). It’s a hostal so it was home-style accommodation and it really did feel like staying in someone’s home – no common areas.
The beds were comfy, the place was clean and they made your beds every day (bet you don’t get THAT at home). Despite feeling like you were staying in Maria’s home, she did ensure us that we were welcomed to come and go as we pleased and at any time of day/night. Heavily jet lagged, I never tested the theory but she was wonderfully welcoming. I’d stay there again in an instant.
Everywhere by how my jeans felt.
- Mercado San Anton (thanks for the hot tip David) which is a swish market that has bar styled food court on the third floor and free wifi (traveller’s dream).
- Try the Jamon Museum for jamon bocadillos and caña for 2 euros, it’s a bargain lunch.
- Mercado San Miguel, unfortunately we had already had lunch by then so it just means we’ll have to come back.
- Palacio Real de Madrid – 10 euro entry.
A majestic palace that’s was so significantly different from the palaces in Korea. Spanish kings were encouraged to live lavishly while the Korean emperor lived in almost empty room to show his frugality and be at one with his people. Interestingly, each palace had a feature of the other cultures. Palacio Madrid had an Asian room and the Korean palace had a Western building – grass is always greener, right?
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía – free on some days, make sure you double check with the museum as the visitor office was useless and we had to pay for our entry. Most famous for being home to Picasso’s Guernica amongst many others, including Picasso’s studies for Guernica. And while there were many other cool bits and bobs, let’s have a moment for Guernica. What a painting. I was so certain that the security guard was going to kick me out for standing there and gawking for half an hour. Gawk. Gawk.
Just as a side note it was so interesting to see so many studies prior to Guernica, I never thought there would be so many. Practice, practice.
If you’re planning on being in Madrid in the next six months there’s a current exhibition that is actually a room full of computers where you can take a survey on your thoughts of the economic conditions of Spain. The results are then projected on the wall. Fascinating answers.
The musem’s downfall is the lack of flow and it was here that I reached my museum quota. No more museums.
- Visit the plazas. Plaza del Sol is hustle and bustle as is Plaza Real. My favourite was Plaza Opera because it was arty, quiet and sunny.
- More shoe stores than you can poke a stick at. Hundreds of them all heavily discounted. Serial shoe-a-holics you need to make your way to Madrid.
- Visitor information booths are useless. Use the internet.
- Stay more than two days, you won’t regret it.
- Forget the Metro, walk everywhere.
- If you’re a night owl, the party is happening in Chueca.
- We flew Air Korea.
- Metro from the airport to Madrid city was 2,50 euros.