The Spain Diaries – 10 Things About Madrid

I have a mantra – one of the many, which says “better late than never”.

So after almost 100 light-years (or only a month) I would like to speak my mind about all the wonderful things I saw in Madrid.

And because I love lists, I thought it would be better to turn them into one.

1. Parque del Retiro

Or simply El Retiro, its name could be translated as The Park of the Pleasant Retreat, conveying perfectly its design and purpose. As I’ve already confessed in my post about Aranjuez, I have developed an unhealthy infatuation with parks, so I couldn’t leave this one out of my list. It’s perfect for a stroll, basking in the sun, jogging (as if) and relaxing. The locals and tourists seem to agree with me on this one.

In case you find yourself there, don’t forget to pay a visit to Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace). When traveling I like to use the buildings’ and sights’ names in the local language, just because it sounds more fun and more authentic. And it might help you locate them easier, if the locals don’t speak English. Sometimes, when you need directions to somewhere, all you need to do is to look lost and the locals will be glad to give you advice. Even if it is in a language you can’t fully understand, so make sure to learn how to say “thank you”!

But let’s get back to Palacio de Cristal. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Rocking chairs are scattered across the room, so you can take a break, relax, and enjoy the light.

This is Fuente del Angel Caido, the Fountain of the Fallen Angel.

2. Walking everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, when I say everywhere I simply mean a lot. We did a lot of walking while in Madrid, not only to compensate for all that jamon we ate, but also because walking is a great way to explore any city. I’d suggest walking along Calle Mayor and Calle de Alcala until you reach Parque del Retiro. It’s basically the same street, whose name changes after reaching Plaze del Sol. Many tourist attractions as well as imposing specimens of architecture can be found along the way.
Edificio Metropolis for example…

… Plaza de Cibeles…

… as well as Puerta de Alcala. Fun fact: There is a Puerta de Madrid in Alcala as well. No need to guess which one is the most impressive and most photographed.

Make sure not to forget Paseo del Prado, too. The trees’ shadow make it ideal for an early afternoon stroll.

On the other side of the city, Palacio Real.

3. Museo del Prado. Or Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Or preferably both.

I was ecstatic when I found out there is no entrance fee for students in either of these great museums. Just picture being an art student who lives in Madrid; you could spend all your Tuesday afternoons/ Sunday mornings/ your day of preference there! A few hints from a art musem enthusiast: If you prefer modern art, then Museo de Arte Reina Sofia is more suitable for you. If, on the other hand, are a fan of Goya, El Greco, Velazquez and Rubens, straight to del Prado you should go. I’d strongly advice you to visit both; there’s always something new to find out about art or you. For example, I realised that I don’t like Goya and that’s fine by me. And I found the temporary exhibition El Greco and Modern Painting much more interesting than del Prado’s permament collection. At this point I’ll have to confess that I don’t enjoy El Grecos thematology either (I appreciate his use of color greatly, though). However, it was f a s c i n a t i n g to see how his work attracted the most innovative artists, such as Manet and Cezanne, was critical in the emergence of Cubism for its influence on Picasso, and had an influence on modern American painters, such as Pollock. Who would have thought of that?

Here’s me having breakfast and a quick talk about art and museums in general at Museo del Prado cafe.

4. Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel was nothing like my beloved La Boqueria in Barcelona, since you can’t buy meat, vegetables, and fish, but you can stop by for a quick lunch. If there was a paradise made of tapas and fresh seafood, that’d be it. I have to warn you, it might prove a quite expensive sport, but it’s definitely worth it. 

We went on a food marathon and little was photographed before being devoured. To be brutally honest about you, the best food I had in Spain could best be described my Frank Sinatra’s My Funny Valentine lyrics: “You make me smile with my heart; your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you’re my favorite work of art”.

5. Templo de Debod
If you’re following me on Instagram – if not, now’s the time!, you have probably seen this already.

I’d suggest visiting Templo de Debod around sunset, when the sky turns orange-pink so that couples can take selfies in front of it. But let’s not leave the facts out. The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple which was rebuilt in Madrid, after the Egyptian state donated to Spain in 1968. What we see today is about one half of the original temple, since it was surrounded by walls, which created two courtyards leading to the main building.

6. Barrio de las Letras.

This has to be my favorite area in Madrid. Barrio de las Letras means District of Letters in Spanish, because of the writers who lived there during Spain’s golden age of the 16th and 17th centuries. Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega resided here. 

Get lost, photograph street art, then stop at Matute for coffee and peoplewatching. Here you will see many hipsters as well as many chic locals.

7. Peoplewatching

… is a must regardless your destination…

… especially when it’s accompanied by chocolate con churros.

8. Plazas

This is Plaza del Sol, where Puerta del Sol is also located. If you like plazas bustling with people and noise, you’re going to like this one. If, on the other hand, you are looking for an oasis of tranquility in the middle of an try Plaza de Santa Anna in Barrio de las Letras. 

Or Plaza Mayor.

9. Madrid Rio

Located in the suburbs of the city, it’s the perfect spot to take a stroll (in case you’re lazy like me), go for a run or ride your bike.

Staying loyal to my second suggestion, we walked all the way to Campo del Moro Gardens. Where we saw a man jogging with his pet. Which was a pig. No kiddin’, major pet envy moment.

10. Cava Baja

Cava Baja reminded me of Barcelona’s El Barn quarter, mostly due to its plethora of cervezerias and tapas bars. It’s a very lively street, ideal for meeting friends over casual drinks.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

Lots of love and kisses,

PS: Facebook anyone? Tweet me maybe? 
PS2: Now I’m also on Instagram!
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