El Retiro Park is a green oasis in the heart of the city. The name, Parque del Buen Retiro, literally translates to “Park of the Pleasant Retreat” and that is exactly what it is. The park used to belong to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th-century, when it became a public park.
Today, there is a large artificial lake where you can hire rowing boats for a small fee. When I visited, it was €6 per boat on weekdays and €8 per boat on weekends and Bank Holidays for 45 minutes.
The park is also filled with beautiful sculptures and monuments.
Open 24/7, you will definitely find the time to visit Chocolatería San Ginés for their famous chocolate con churros – hot chocolate and churros.
Located in Puerta del Sol, the café has been serving locals and tourists since 1894. The hot chocolate is served Spanish style – thick, dark and strong – and the churros, deep fried batter, are freshly cooked and served hot.
Even though I’m not a massive football fan – despite being a Southend United season ticket holder once upon a time – I still found the tour around Santiago Bernabéu Stadium really interesting.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu has been home to Real Madrid since its completion in 1974.
We took the Metro Line 10, jumping off at the stop ‘Santiago Bernabéu’ which lies right next to the stadium.
Tickets for an audio guided tour cost €23 for adults and €17 for children aged between 5 to 14 years. You can also opt for a guided or non-guided tour. For more information, please click here.
The tour includes visiting the dugouts, presidential box, press room, changing rooms, players’ tunnel and trophy room – they have a lot!
No reservations are required, though the tour can be booked online.
Located near to Plaza Mayor in the heart of Madrid you will find the oldest restaurant continuously operating in the world. If you don’t believe me, check out the Guinness World Records!
Founded in 1725 by a French cook called Jean Botín, and his Austrian wife, Sobrino de Botín still has its original 18th-century interiors as well as the original firewood oven.
The restaurant is open daily from 1pm – 4pm and 8pm – 12am. Booking is recommended as crowds gather outside waiting for it to open!
The food is super tasty; we had the roasted baby lamb (€25 each), washed down with a jug of sangria. You can book your table here.
Flamenco is Spain’s most famous style of dance. It includes singing, guitar playing, dancing and handclapping. You can catch a performance any day of the week in Madrid. The city offers a wide variety of Flamenco shows from grand performances in the city’s theatres to small song and dance recitals in tablaos. I spent the evening at Cardamomo Tablao Flamenco which cost €39 each for a 1 hour show. Booking is recommended.
If you want to find good tapas during your stay in Madrid, head to Calle Cava Baja. Home to the most traditional and popular tapas restaurants, there will be plenty of choice. I experienced my first authentic Spanish tapas in La Concha. Lunch for two cost €37.50 excluding drinks.
If you’re in Madrid on a Sunday or Bank Holiday, make sure you head to the Embajadores neighbourhood to browse the largest and most popular open air flea market in Spain. You can buy just about anything here from clothing to kitchen utensils, paintings and souvenirs – to this day I still regret not buying a sangria jug from this market!
To reach El Restro, get on the Metro Line 5 and hop off at La Latina or Puerta de Toledo; it’s just a short walk from both stations.
Watch out for pick pocketers as they are known to operate and target distracted tourists.
The architecture of Madrid reflects a number of styles from various historical periods.
Thanks to my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide, I followed its best route to walk 5km through Madrid to admire its architecture.
Starting off at Plaza de la Ville, we headed past Plaza de España, Gran Vía, Plaza de la Cibeles, Museo del Prado, Caixa Forum before finishing at Antigua Estación de Atocha.
Reward yourself with a sangria after all that walking!
I still don’t know why or how Madrid, famous for its paella and tapas, is also famous for its calamari roll, known to locals as “bocadillo de calamares”.
You can find these fresh bread rolls filled with deep-fried squid rings all around Plaza Mayor. I tried my ‘sandwich of squid in bread of his ink’ at La Casa del Abuelo, a traditional tavern, just down a side road seconds from Plaza Mayor for €4.50.
If you’re into architecture and food, make sure you head to Mercado de San Miguel located just off Plaza Mayor.
Established in 1916, Mercado de San Miguel is one of the oldest and most alluring markets in Madrid. Colourful stalls selling all kinds of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, but this isn’t your traditional grocery market. It is also a gourmet market with over 30 different vendors selling a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams and olives. The building it stands in is a classic example of 20th-century architecture, it is worth a visit.
See what I got up to in Madrid here.