I recently was lucky enough to spend five days in the beautiful city that is Madrid. Having never learnt Spanish at school, I didn’t know that much about Spanish culture, but sure have learnt a lot about the oh-so-laid-back Spaniard mode de vie (yes, I realise that’s French, but as I said, “no parlo espagnola!”) Here I some things I found out:
Don’t plan a shopping trip in the period after lunch (2-3pm ish) unless you’re going to hit up the main high street stores – little boutiques will all close as the owners take their siestas! Spanish food = muy bien! You simply can’t go to Madrid and not have: paella, gazpacho, tapas (I love the patatas bravas and potato croquetas in particular… and yeah, don’t expect to lose weight either – most of what’s on offer is carbs, carbs and more carbs, but insanely delish), churros con chocolate (see below), tortilla, and of course, sangria! Flamenco dancing is a must! Whether you’re watching or dancing yourself, it certainly is amazing. Lots of restaurants put on free little showcases which is a great way to experience the flavour of this powerful dancing without having to shell out on expensive show tickets Eating habits tend to follow a different time scale – the Spanish will all siesta after lunch, have tapas at around 6pm, eat dinner at 10pm and hit the clubs at around midnight! At least on holiday you don’t have to get up early in the morning! T
El Palacio Real
Boating in El Retiro Park
El Palacio Real – an absolutely beautiful palace. You can walk around the gardens for free, but you have to pay to actually go inside (I think it’s totally worth it, and you can get a student discout if you have student ID! Kerching!) where you’ll find incredibly ornate, lavish rooms. El Retiro Park – basically a really lovely park. When I was there all the cherry blossom trees were in bloom which looked stunning. There are lovely cafes to pop into as you stroll around, and I seriously recommend going on the boats in the little lake there – so much fun and relaxing, particularly on a hot day. We just floated around soaking up the sun! El Prado Museum – Okay, after you’ve seen a few nice paintings of some naked little cherubs, you’ve kinda seen ’em all, but it’s worth going even if just for an hour or so (not gonna lie, I like art, but was bored by then!) because there are some really famous pieces in there. The Reina Sofia Museum – I much preferred this art gallery! It’s full of more modern pieces (think Picasso, Miro and the like) including really famous ones, and I loved looking at the intricacies and trying to work out what they mean. I’m no art buff, but it was fun all the same! An extra plus was that I saw (and had a picture with!) Curtis off Misfits there! Whoop whoop! El Puerta del Sol – it’s the centre of the centre of Spain. A beautiful bustling busy area.
La Plaza Mayor – just down from Sol (as it’s known by the locals), another stunning square lined with very expensive restaurants. There’s always lots going on both during the day and night.
El Rastro – the biggest flea market in the world, which happens every Sunday!
We <3 Bershka
Spain has lots of great high-street shops that we don’t have here in England (except maybe on Oxford Street in London), and most of them are all really well priced, stylish and, quite frankly, everywhere! (Seriously, I saw so many different branches of the same shops, it was mental.) Oh, and if you don’t have clown feet like me, I recommend buying shoes while in Spain… they just make them so well! Here are my fave fashion shops: Bershka, Pull and Bear, Lefties, (no that’s not an extra comma, it’s actually part of the name, which I love), Blanco, Fun and Basics, Oysho, and Stradivarius (who I sware had sprayed Abercrombie and Fitch cologne everywhere…) There’s also the famous department store El Corte Ingles, but frankly, I found it pretty disappointing.
For One Euro!
Markets pop up everywhere across Madrid, which I absolutely love (we all know that’s where you get the best one off pieces), and I managed to get a beautiful ring for a mere one Euro! The biggest and most famous flea market is El Rastro (mentioned above).
100 Montaditos (mini baguettes) – what’s not to love?
Chocolateria San Gines – for their incredible churros con chocolate. Rich, but oh-so-heavenly.
Churros. Chocolate. Nuff said.
Cerveceria 100 Montaditos – this has several branches across Madrid, and I wish so badly it would come to the UK! It’s basically a cafe/restaurant where they make 100 different mini baguette combinations. Epic right? There are sweet and savoury options and they are sooooo yummy. I mean let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t choose just one sandwich filling when they all look so good, can you? So here you can have a few. And believe me, I did. Mercado de San Miguel – a brilliant indoor food market just down from the Plaza Mayor, where you can find all sorts of Spanish delicacies, and there are places to eat inside too. Salad and Co – Okay, it’s not Spanish food or anything, but this place is amazing (right near El Corte Ingles too). For just 7.95 Euros, we got all we could eat of salad, pizzas, pastas, breads, tortilla, rice, drinks, ice creams, yoghurts, fruits, and sooo much more. It was summin else.
Any tapas bar – they mostly all look a bit seedy, but will all serve amazing tapas. What’s also really cool is that all Spanish restaurants bring you something to eat pretty much straight away, whether it’s a bit of tortilla, paella or crisps.
Patatas Bravas and Jamon tapas
So I think that’s most of my highlights. It really is a fabulous place to go for a short city break, and all the architecture is gorgeous – think mini balconies on every window. Do you have any other places you can recommend? I’d love to hear them, because I’ll definitely be going back to this fun-filled capital.