The beginning of our Spanish adventure marked my return to Madrid for the first time since I completed my study abroad program in 2007. I was excited to be back and was eager to see what Megan thought of the city I loved so much. I had everything mapped out and was ready to show her what the city had to offer.
For those that have not traveled to Spain, Madrid is the capital of Spain and can be found in the exact center of the country, which makes it a great place to begin a trip. The city is filled with wonderful sites, neighborhoods, restaurants, and bars. Covering it all can be overwhelming, but the metro system makes it easy to see all parts of the city very easily.
Returning to the city and seeing the great tourist attractions years later gave me perspective on what are the can’t miss things in the city. After our visit, I jotted down the sites that I think every Madrid itinerary should include. Below is the list I created:
Prado Museum: The Prado is the biggest tourist attraction in Madrid and one of the top-rated museums in the world. The collection highlights works of art by some of Spain’s most famous painters including Velazquez and Goya. My two favorite pieces at the museum are works created by these two men: Las Meninas and El Tres de Mayo. If you took an art history in college like I did, you more than likely studied these two pieces.
Tip: The museum offers free admission from 6-8pm Monday through Saturday and 5-7pm on Sunday. Keep in mind the museum closes at the end of these times. We took advantage of this since we can make it through a museum in under two hours. We showed up five minutes before six, waited in a line that formed outside, and were inside the museum in 10 minutes.
Retiro Park: This park is located on the eastern side of the city and is enormous. It is filled with numerous flower gardens, green spaces, and walking paths. It is a great place to go running if you are staying in the Prado museum district. Further, inside the park is a large pond (pictured above) that you can paddle boat on. A free drum concert is held at the pond on Sunday afternoons. We stopped at the park one afternoon, grabbed a much needed ice cream, and sat under the shade of a tree.
Mercado de San Miguel: This is an open air market located next to the Plaza Mayor. The time we spent here was some of the most enjoyable during our whole time in Spain. The market is filled with booths featuring Spanish cuisine, beer, and wine. Prices are also very reasonable here. We recommend you have lunch or dinner at the Mercado at least once on your trip. Order a few tapas from the vendors, grab a glass of Rioja wine, and enjoy your surroundings. Our favorite tapas were the chorizo con brie, gulas con ajo, and jamón croquetas.
La Latina: Just south of the Plaza Mayor is the neighborhood of La Latina. At night around dinner time, the area comes alive with its collection of tapas bars. For those visiting, this is the best place in the city to hop from one tapas bar to the next. Some of our favorites included Txakolina and Casa Lucas.
Chocolateria San Gines: After a late night of dinner, drinking, and dancing at the clubs, it is a tradition in Madrid to end the night at this chocolateria. Order a cup of hot chocolate and churros and wind down the night (or morning as this place usually is most popular after 2am). Be aware though that the hot chocolate is very thick and best used for dunking your churros in and not for drinking. If you are a couple like us, I would suggest ordering one hot chocolate and plate of churros. This is plenty to share.
After three days, Megan grew to love Madrid just as much as me. The jamon serrano, Rioja wine, and huevo revueltos were as good as I remembered them. As soon as we left, we began looking at the calendar to see when we could come back. Our next trip will include a Sunday though so that Megan can experience the awesomeness that is El Rastro in La Latina.