Madrid – the capital of Spain – is a great city. I think it reminds me of a more compact version of London (in a way) – very busy, always buzzing, with lots of great activities to experience, places to visit and things to do. Although it is similar to London, it does have a Spanish twist with way less stress and way more sun and good food.
Comidas y bebidas (food and drinks) is a big part of Madrid’s lifestyle, so get yourself ready for a trip full of Spanish tapas and, very likely, some good Spanish wine. How do you stay fit and healthy in such a food packed trip? Well, mainly by burning as many calories you can throughout the day to ensure that all the extra food and drinks do not sabotage your fitness goals. Here are some recommendations for the places to visit to have the best Madrid weekender.
Calorie intake: choose what you eat and where you eat
Madrid is full of cafes, restaurants, bars, ‘churrias’ (cafè for the Spanish dessert churros), ‘cervecerias’ (beer places), ‘patisserias’ (pastry cafes) and all the other “ias”. Therefore, it is important to choose the places to visit wisely.
A lot of local places do not take reservations (you just have to show up, hoping for a free table), however a few do take them, so you can save yourself some hassle if you book in advance. Another thing: if you visit a local place, it is not likely the waiters will speak any English. Ask for “una mesa” (a table), point to the food you want and ask for “la cuenta” (the bill) at the end. You’re all sorted!
La Rollerie (which is in between two main squares in Madrid – Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor). It serves typical Spanish breakfast, as well as a standard continental one, and opens relatively early for Madrid at 8am.
The second good place to eat in Madrid is the Brunch Club, located a 5 minute walk from the Puerta del Sol. You can enjoy a great ‘mini brunch’ option in this very cosy place.
Lunch or Dinner
For a really local feel, visit Taberna Bodegas Ricla. It looks tiny when you step in, however they have more tables at the back of the cafe. You can find all main Spanish tapas and dishes there – enjoy!
If you look for a fancier place – Cafe de Oriente (which is right by the Royal Palace) is worth a visit. It has a cosy bar upstairs and a fantastic looking restaurant downstairs. This is an upscale dining place, so just be aware that prices are high there (but food and service are impeccable).
Calorie expenditure: choose the right ways to burn the calories
In order to burn the calories from all the food, see below for the main places to visit in Madrid. In a three-day trip to Madrid, we walked 17.7km first day, 18.5km the second day and a mere 10km the last day, just before the flight.
Royal Palace (Palacio Real)
The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid is beautiful, however royal family lives on the outskirts of Madrid and hence Palacio Real is only used for state ceremonies. This palace, on the western side of the city, has 3418 rooms and although you can’t see all of them, you can still explore many of them. If you like palaces, castles and these sort of monuments, you will enjoy Palacio Real a lot.
Tip: by a ticket (10 eur) online before you go, otherwise you might end up quieting for an hour or two (see below).
Also, do not forget to check out Almudena Cathedral which is right next to the Royal Palace.
Free walking tour
Walking tours are a great way to explore the city. I tried walking tours in several countries in Europe and, so far, they have never disappointed me. The basic premise of the “free walking tour” is that you don’t by a ticket for the tour, but pay whatever you think it is worth at the end of the tour (most people leave 5-10eur per person). Our tour (Sandeman’s) took us through the western part of the city, from the Plaza Mayor through to the Royal Palace with several stops on the way. Our guide Sebastian was really entertaining, and we enjoyed the tour a lot, in addition to making our step count easily.
Retiro Park (Parque del Retiro de Madrid)
Retiro Park is a beautiful park in Central Madrid. Several smaller gardens and two palaces (Velázquez and Glass palaces, both used today as exhibition halls) are located within this park. You can easily have a quick run in the park during your stay or do an outdoor workout. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the park is temporarily closed, so if you plan to travel to Madrid this month, check whether it has been reopened before you go.
No, Teleferico is not a fitness place – it is a cable car! Located in the west side of the city, the cable car takes you across the Casa de Campo park (which looks like a forest). Although there’s not much to do in the cart itself, it takes a little while to walk there (around 30mins from the Puerta de Sol), so you can easily up your step count and enjoy really lovely views of the city from high above it. A return trip costs around 6 eur and the experience is definitely worth the walk.
Prado museum (Museo Nacional Del Prado)
If you’re a lover of art, the Prado museum is a place to visit. It is the main art gallery in Madrid, home to paintings of such artists as Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velázquez. The gallery is massive and we covered 2km after exploring only first two floors (there are four). This is another place for which you should buy tickets (~15 eur) online, as it queues for this museum get really long.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper trip without a flamenco experience. Flamenco is a Spanish art form made up of three parts: guitar playing (‘guitarra’), song (‘cante’), and dance (‘baile’). Although it originated with gypsies, Spain’s flamenco culture is probably its most iconic image. If you haven’t seen a flamenco performance before, well, that’s something for you to put on your list. There are plenty of flamenco classes for you to try in Madrid, however if dancing is not your thing, you can always stick to watching a performance (for example, in the Flamenco Theatre Madrid) instead!
All in all, Madrid is a great place for a weekend break. Although the weather was not great during our stay, it did not ruin our experience which says a lot about the city. With so many places to visit, Madrid has something to offer for everyone. Go, explore, experience and remember not to overdose on those delicious Spanish tapas! 😉
- When and how long?
- Travel duration: 3 days
- Visited: April, 2018
2. Where did we stay?
Stayed in: 2-bed flat in the Madrid’s City centre, near the Puerta del Sol. Booked via AirBnB and it cost us 306€ for 2 people, so 153€ per person for 2 nights. The apartment was great – clean, stylish and besides having 2 bedrooms, it also had 2 bathrooms. The best thing was the location of the flat – very central, allowing us to walk everywhere by foot.
- What was the weather like?
Not great. We experienced a mixture of rain, cloud, wind and a little bit of sun. Apparently such weather is not usual for Madrid, so it is very likely you will have a much sunnier experience whilst there.
- What about costs?
- Accommodation: EUR 153 per person
- Airport Transfers: EUR 12 per person (by metro)
- Tickets to Flamenco show: EUR 20
- Tickets to El Prado & Palace: EUR 25
- Walking tour: EUR 10
- Teleferico ticket: EUR 6
Total: EUR 226 + flights + food/drinks