Madrid is the capital of Spain and is also the largest city in the country and the third largest city in the European Union. The city preserves the look of its older neighborhoods and streets even though it has gone through a modernization of its central infrastructure in order to accommodate for its population growth. This is what makes it unique and different from other major cities in Spain, the mixture of architectural styles and neighborhoods and the perfect balance between buildings and green areas. This is something I really liked about the city, even though it has been growing at a high rate, the city still maintains most of its green areas and not only that, they are perfectly maintained and restored and made it as accessible as possible for the population.
Its major landmarks to visit are the Royal Palace, The Royale Theater, The National Library, Cibeles Palace, Puerta de Alcala and Retiro Park. When you get to Retiro Park make sure to check out the Crystal Palace and its fountain and you can rent a rowing boat for 5 Euros for a 45 minute ride. After leaving Retiro Park, you will have to walk by Puerta de Alcala but I highly recommend checking it out at night!
For a dose of art you must check out the Golden Triangle, which comprises the Prado Museum, The Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyseen-Bornemisza Museum. If you are not traveling via train from Estacion de Atocha, cross the street from Reina Sofia and check it out, it’s the most beautiful train station during the day and night. And if you are not quite the artsy type or don’t have the time to check all three museums you must go to Museo de el Prado, it’s Europe’s museum with the finest art collection from artists like Velazquez, Picasso, Degas, Titian and many more. When you get all the way up to Puente de Segovia, cross it and start going up until you see the Cathedral to your left.
If you have some extra time I recommend starting the walking tour all the way south on Piramides metro stop, you can walk for about twenty minutes along the river on Isidro Park from Puerta de Toledo, an important monument as well, then go down to the river through Puente de Toledo all the way up to Puente de Segovia. If you are a big soccer fan, down this road you will also walk by Atletico’s home, Estadio Vicente Calderon.
From the Cathedral you will see the Royal Palace, the streets guide you in a one direction that will take you up to the Castle and through its gardens. You will then come into a big Plaza with a huge monument in the center, this is Plaza Espana, the financial center of Spain. Cross the street to head out to Gran Via, Madrid’s fifth avenue. Even if you don’t plan to purchase anything, its a must when in Madrid. This is my personal preference but right where Gran Via begins from Plaza Espana there is a National Geographic store, pardon my ignorance but I didn’t know such thing existed! It’s not only a store, it’s also a restaurant and a coffee shop and they have “meals for travelers” which is a meal of your choosing for 10 euros. Check it out!
After Gran via, on your right you will see signs for Plaza Mayor, the main and biggest Plaza in Madrid where you can check out other important and characteristic monuments. Here you will find Puerta de el Sol, an awesome mirrored metro stop and “El Oso y el Madrono” a symbol of Madrid. And you then must have some food here at Mercado de San Miguel.
Now for the important stuff… FOOD!! I can’t stress this enough you must visit Mercado San Miguel a few blocks from Plaza Mayor; it’s a good stop for a quick bite of awesome food and culinary experiments of all types of cuisine and the key of course, amazing quality products.
And the second must for food, head out to Platea. Platea is a three stories colective, a market, a bar, and restaurant row. The first floor is not only an amazing produce market but also has the most unique artisanal and craft products, fresh products. The second floor is the bar and tapas area, the third floor is the restaurant and at on the underground floor you will find the restaurant collective, here you will find a variety of amazing cuisines including Mexican, Japanese, Peruvian and many more. It is on the pricier side but totally worth the splurge! The chefs for Platea will not dissapoint you, their six Michelin stars and twelve soles Repsol will guarantee it. Promise!
For the more alternative plans, head out to Malasana or Lavapies neighborhood. Check out cool stores, flea markets, book shops, music fests and good food in creative and unique spaces.
It’s very easy to get around town, I found the easiest to be the Metro but you can also take the bus. You can buy a card for 10 trips that you can use for the train and bus for 12 euros and I believe there is a monthly one as well.