Let’s be honest, Madrid undeservedly remains in the memory of tourists only as a “capital” of the destination state of a beach holiday trip. In winter it is often cold there, in summer it is unbearably hot, and visiting this wonderful city is reduced to business trips and transit stops on long-haul flights to another continent. But this is fundamentally unfair! Madrid is a promising tourist destination in its own right and deserves a special attention. Even if it’s January outside 😊
The smartest way to get the most useful information about the city is deservedly a tour with a private guide. On the one hand, a professional will tell and show all the most interesting things, on the other hand, you will not get tired after a couple of hours of such an excursion, and you can modify the program based on your wishes. This is exactly what we did on the very first day upon arrival in Madrid – on the site excurzilla.com we found a suitable excursion and made an appointment with a guide.
The meeting with the guide was scheduled at the monument – the symbol of Madrid in the square of La Puerta del Sol. The bear and the strawberry tree is one of the most popular monuments in the city, perhaps because it is not dedicated to any commander, writer or other prominent figure 😊 At the same time, the tree on which the bear climbs is not quite strawberry – this is the local “madroño tree”, on which the berries grow 🍓 visually similar to strawberries during its season. The “Puerta del Sol” (“Door of the Sun”) is also one of the local attractions itself – here is the zero kilometer of Spain, as well as the clock on the tower of the post office, by which they celebrate the new year in Spain.
Among the remarkable places there can be mentioned a building of the oldest hotel in Madrid. Now it belongs to the Petit Palace hotel network and anyone can stay in it. We, as those who have something to do with the tourism industry, found this building particularly interesting. Had we known earlier, we would have stopped there.
The next important point of our excursion route was the “Plaza Mayor” or the main square of Madrid. It was created at the beginning of the 17th century by the famous architect of that time, Juan Gomez de Mora, and the main events of city and state life took place on it for many centuries, including the jousting tournaments or executions of the Inquisition. In the center of the square there is a monument to King Philip III of the Habsburg dynasty (now, for reference, Spain is ruled by a king from the Bourbon dynasty). Baroque-style squares similar to this one can be found in other cities in Spain – it has become a kind of exemplary one.
Further among the iconic sights of Madrid there can be named Almudena Cathedral (more precisely, the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena), located opposite the Armory Square of the Royal Palace. The current King of Spain, Philip VI, married his future wife, Queen Leticia, in this cathedral. Personally, we were particularly astonished by the variety of stained-glass windows in the cathedral, some of which were quite modern.
Opposite this cathedral there is the Royal Palace. When creating it, the authors were inspired by the building of the French Versailles, and the first king who settled in it was Charles III. Currently, the royal family does not live in it, and the building has more of a representative function. Nearby is a platform with a panoramic view of the Sabatini gardens.
Of course, during our tour we learned a lot of interesting details and cultural subtleties of life in Madrid. We visited the narrowest building in the city and the oldest pharmacy, the oldest building and the oldest bookstore (there are a lot of “oldest” things there, because the city has a history). We also learned how the crocodile influenced the conquistadors, and much more that would not fit in one modest post. The most important thing that we learned from this event is that we absolutely needed a city tour. We had previously visited Madrid several times, but could not really answer the question “What is there in Madrid?”. Now we can 😊
Since we came to celebrate my birthday, in the evening we went to dinner at the La Vaca Argentina restaurant, which specializes in meat dishes. Usually I take photos of dishes I especially liked, but they were so delicious there that we forgot about this ritual and ate everything in one sitting. All that’s left for the photo is the birthday cake.
Of course, the matter was not limited to one steakhouse, and we went to the Lovo bar. Wherever I am, no matter where exactly across the globe, in any bar I always order my favorite Negroni cocktail. The way it is served in each particular place for me personally is the same “fridge magnet” – I keep a kaleidoscope of memories (and photos!) about this when recalling the trip.
I am happy to repeat a well-known fact: Madrid is a city with a history. And wherever you go – everywhere there are institutions that have been operating for more than one hundred years. For example, the restaurant “Botin”. We have no doubt that older restaurants can be found among European cities, but the idea is that not all of them can confirm their continuous experience in this field, but Botin can. Thanks to this, it is included in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest restaurant in the world, officially operating since 1725 (2 years to the 300th anniversary!). The signature dish – suckling pig – we did not order. Perhaps in vain, because the ordered ordinary grilled dishes did not surprise us with anything specific. But the atmosphere in the restaurant is really special.
Nearby is the most famous market in Madrid – San Miguel Market. It can be compared to the Boqueria in Barcelona – such markets have long gone beyond equipped places for the sale of products, and are the trendy gastro-spaces to get acquainted with the freshest delicacies. The San Miguel market in its current form dates back to 1916, and its building (like many others in this city) is a local landmark. In it, in addition to the usual “jamoneria” and fish counters, you can find corners from chefs with a Michelin star. Well, in general, you can spend time there very entertainingly. For gourmets 😊
In general, for gourmets in Madrid there is a real expanse. There are many decent restaurants here actually. Probably because most of them are focused on local (regular) visitors and are intended for their regular visits. The choice of the hotel was determined by a number of factors, but the proximity of good restaurants was not the least of them. Our NH Collection Palacio de Tepa is located just in a such “restaurant area”, from Plaza Santa Ana, home to the iconic Reina Victoria Hotel (we stayed there on our last visit to Madrid and the view is amazing!) to Plaza de les Cortes. For 3 days in the city, we were able to visit only some of the local establishments and were very sorry that we did not have more time 😊
For dinner that evening we went to the Marina Ventura restaurant, which had a large selection of fish dishes and rices. Our expectations were met, and our dinner was a success! In general, this is a life hack that we have been practicing for a long time – how to choose a restaurant in an unfamiliar city. Restaurant ratings are very subjective, as are reviews in the relevant applications or on Google maps (a separate post can be written about the ways to influence such ratings). But what will not deceive is the photo of a dish attached to a review! Sometimes a restaurant has a 5-star rating, but the photos demonstrate, well, such “culinary masterpieces” that the fast food thawed and fried in oil will seem like a delicacy in comparison. And some very decent restaurants in terms of food can have a rating of 4 stars (because someone’s expectations simply did not come true). But the photos don’t deceive 😊
The king of the evening was the Salmon Guru bar. This nondescript place from the outside turned out to be stylish and cozy inside. But most importantly, there are bomb 💣 cocktails with a very original serving. The owners of the bar were so enthusiastic that they made an animated cocktail menu – we stuck on it for a while. The cocktails themselves are just a fire 🔥 ! And the atmosphere is mega-friendly – the bar staff treats you like a best friend, and you feel more than welcome there. Highly recommended!
Of course, the Prado Museum is a must-have in Madrid. For the travelers with any level of “cultural background” there will be opportunities to get the vivid impressions. For example, while comparing the “Clothed Maja” and the “Naked Maja” 😉 To spend time in this huge museum more rationally, a separate tour can be ordered specifically to study its exhibits on foxiepass.com, and not necessarily an individual one. You can study it in a small group of let’s say 5 people. So you won’t get lost in the museum, and you will see the most important things in it. Useful life hack: on the weekdays from 18.30 the entrance to the Prado Museum is free. The museum itself is open until 20.00, and an hour and a half is more than enough for a self-examination.
I would especially like to mention a cute hipster place – “Brutal”, located on Angel Square, 5. They prepare specialty coffee, serve gourmet breakfasts and brunches, let dogs in, and also sell clothes from a local Madrid brand. It is sometimes more interesting to bring a jacket with a bear and a strawberry tree as a souvenir than another fridge magnet 😊
For dinner we went to La Cabaña Argentina – there are as many as 2 restaurants with the same name on the same street. As it turned out, in this way the original institution simply expanded – it opened another hall in the opposite building. How delicious it is! If you’re looking for a perfectly cooked steak, this is the place for it.
As a tourist attraction, a flamenco show can also be visited. Of course, there are plenty of such establishments in any Spanish city, but it is quite logical to dedicate one of the evenings in Madrid to this event. There are several such places in that area of restaurants near Santa Ana Square, and you can choose the one whose program you like the most. The main thing is to book the tickets in advance.
In general, there are many other places and activities to visit in Madrid and it is a wonderful city in its own right. One of the days we, for example, devoted entirely to visiting Toledo (for a moment, the former capital of Spain!), And the other day we went to the outlet village Las Rozas. But this was not included in the mandatory program, I just mention it for a change 😊