If you have read my blog post on Barcelona you will know that we stayed in Barcelona for four nights, then travelled to Madrid for three to celebrate my boyfriend’s 30th birthday. After the 3 hour and 10 minute train journey to Madrid Puerta De Atocha, we then got a 30 minute taxi to where we were staying. During our half an hour journey we realised that Madrid was a beautiful, traditional and scenic city, just like Barcelona. It was also 30 degrees when we arrived so we were delighted as it was on the 25th of September so we were worried the weather would not be great.
Where we stayed:
We stayed in Hotel Ganivet which is a gorgeous hotel, a ten minute walk from the main Plaza Mayor square in Madrid city centre. I cannot recommend our hotel enough, this hotel was much cheaper than the hotel we stayed in in Barcelona, although our room was double the size. Accommodation in Madrid is actually very reasonable compared to Barcelona. This must be because it is less of a tourist area. The hotel was so clean, it had a bar inside which served breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also had a dining area which served free breakfast everyday, although I won’t lie, all I found edible at breakfast was the fruit and bread, everything else was a bit adventurous for breakfast for us. Some people might love that though with options such as cold meats, goats cheese, tomatoes etc. The rooms are very spacious, with a huge double bed, two full size wardrobes and a lovely bathroom. I couldn’t get over how nice it was for such a reasonable three star hotel. The best part about the hotel? It has an amazing rooftop pool area overlooking the whole city, with a vending machine full of beers and snacks to go along with it! It was absolutely perfect. If I ever returned to Madrid I would definitely stay here again. The staff are so friendly also. The hotel is also 2 minutes from a market they hold every Sunday, which sells hats, jewellery, ornaments, you name it! so if you forgot anything, like my boyfriend forgot everything.. you will get whatever you need here for so cheap! I picked up a sun hat for a euro!
Madrid is the same as Barcelona price wise. It is more expensive than it is at home eg. €6.50 for a pint, €14 for a starter and €15 for a cocktail in most places. However, in Madrid, it is worth it as the food and drink was gorgeous. Tourist attractions are also expensive which I will talk more about after, although of course like everywhere if you look hard enough or investigate prices before you go over you will find a bargain, but we had the money aside to spend so we were happy to do so!
We found Madrid very different to Barcelona, in the sense that Madrid is a lot more traditional and less of a tourist area. Of course there are still hundreds of tourists but the city doesn’t try to cater for tourists like other parts of Spain do. For example, most menus have no English whatsoever, a lot of people don’t speak any English at all and even the list of bus stops on the tour bus came in only Spanish, so it is a lot harder to get around and order meals etc. They really like when you attempt to speak Spanish and make an effort with them over here, which is completely understandable and should be the same in most countries. So maybe try and brush up a little bit on the basic Spanish sentences before visiting here, especially the food menus to make sure you know what your actually ordering ha ha!
Madrid isn’t really a city to go to if you are looking for good nightlife. Again, I’m sure if you went looking for clubs/bars to go to there would be plenty of choice but the main centre of the city is a much more relaxed area. It’s more of a place you go for bottles of wine at dinner, or a few cocktails rather than a night out.
The food was one of my favourite things about this city. Every dinner we had was better than the last! I found Madrid much better for meals than Barcelona, which is very important for a foodie like me. We ate in the Plaza Mayor square on our first night, however on our second night we decided to stroll around and try somewhere different and came across this beautiful side street, Calle Cava de San Miguel, with so many busy, traditional, family run restaurants and the food here was on another level ! Madrid is also in love with the sweet things in life, such as cakes, sweets, ice cream, crepes and doughnuts so there is endless amounts of beautiful, fresh bakeries and cake shops on every corner. Here are a few places that I would recommend you to try while here…
MESON DE DON CARNAL
This is a beautiful, family run business on the lovely little side street Calle Cava de San Miguel, with lots of tapas, paella, steaks etc. We order garlic prawns, and they were hands down the best I’ve ever had. I love strong garlic dishes and this was exactly that. The prawns were so small and fresh, we should have ordered more. We then couldn’t choose between the garlic chicken or steak so we got both and halved them. The steak was monstrous so you would be full on that alone, but they also gave us a huge portion of chips. The garlic chicken was nice, but there wasn’t a lot of meat on the bone. The steak was amazing and cooked to perfection. If you go here and order desert, get the profiteroles and not the cheesecake. The cheesecake in most places in Spain has no base and is very margarine like but the profiteroles are amazing. The wine and beer here was also gorgeous. I would have returned if we were there for longer.
MESON RINCON DE LA CAVA
This restaurant was facing the previous one I was talking about (Meson De Don Carnel) and was also a beautiful, family run business. This is mostly for tapas and it was our favourite tapas we had all week. We ordered miniature steaks, calamari rings, garlic prawns and a selection of breads. Everything was lovely, especially the steaks! They also gave us a selection of Iberian ham and different cheeses on the house.
This is right in the middle of Calle Dr.Drumen. We didn’t eat here, although they do serve fast foods such as hot dogs and burgers, but I loved this place! They had a huge selection of cocktails which some were priced at €1. Considering most places here charge €15 per cocktail this is amazing value! They also have shisha and sweets so this place was the way to my heart! It is a really laid back cocktail bar, with lovely staff and good music so it was perfect for a chilled night with a few drinks.
This was a typical Italian pizzeria on Calle Preciados and the food did not disappoint. I got a margarita pizza and Damien got calzone. They were so fresh and tasty!
WARNING: Do not order an English fry while in Madrid, we went on the hunt for a fry one morning with a hangover, and found a place that said ‘English fry available here’ and had a picture of rashers, sausages, baked beans, pudding, all the ingredients you dream of with a bad hangover. When the plate came it was filled with spicy bacon, chorizo sausage, kidney beans floating in some sort of spicy sauce and nothing else. False advertisement at it’s best! Needless to say we didn’t finish it.
The shopping in Madrid is just as good as Barcelona. They have beautiful boutiques and shopping centres to choose from. My one regret for this holiday was that I packed so much stuff. If I had packed any less I would have got myself a new wardrobe, the prices are just amazing and the boutiques reminded me of cheaper versions of Zara. They also carry all the best beauty brands here such as Flormar, Sephora etc. I will be writing a separate blog post with more details about the fashion over there soon.
Things to do:
MADRID BUS TOUR
The Madrid bus tour is a useful way of getting around the city to see all the different places. However, it is still quite confusing as the list is in Spanish and they drop you like a ten minute walk from the place most of the time so you will probably need maps! we got lost on the way home and decided a taxi was easier ha ha! They do show all the best buildings and sights around the area though so it is good to see! maybe just google the places before getting on the bus in order to decide which is the best stop to get off at. It takes about 40 minutes if you don’t get off at all. Otherwise you can get off and back on every 10-15 minutes so it is very handy 🙂 It was €25 per person for 2 days. We booked this with our hotel reception.
Plaza Mayor is the main square in Madrid, It is beautiful and filled with bars and restaurants so make sure to stop by and have a quick drink 🙂
El Rastro- El Rastro was the market just beside our hotel, filled with hats, jewellery, gift ideas, anything you can think of. Perfect if you need to pick up cheap, last minute essentials. It is open every Sunday from 9am-3pm.
Mercado de San Miguel- This is a food market open every morning at 10am until late at night, it has the strangest food you can think of and is very cool to see.
This is an area in Paseo del Pintor Roasales park, where you can get into a cable car to see the park. It is fun to do for something different but there isn’t really much to see as it is an empty park with a lot of houses and streets surrounding it. It is a 10 minute ride one way to the other side where you can eat and have a drink while seeing a beautiful view. Then it is a 10 minute ride back. I expected it to be a lot higher, if you are reluctant or afraid of heights, I really didn’t find it high at all.
PARC DE RETIRO
This park is absolutely beautiful ! It is right beside ‘Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid’ so if you are getting the bus this is the best stop to get off at. The park is absolutely huge and has so many beautiful parts to it. There is fountains, gardens filled with flowers and a gorgeous area with a huge lake where you can pay just €6 each to have the boat for as long as you want to go around yourself and see all the beautiful sights of the park. You can also do kayaking by yourself if you would like to do so. This was one of my favourite places in Madrid. There is about 8 entrances to the park and it is huge, so make sure you go into the main entrance, so you will walk straight into the lake area rather than walking around for an hour like we did.
ROYAL PALACE OF MADRID
You absolutely cannot go to Madrid without visiting this amazing place. It was by far the most incredible thing to see here. This is where the King of Spain used to live with his family and it is nothing short of extravagant! You get to walk around just about a fifth of the palace and it is massive! Every single room took my breath away, it is so luxurious and the work that must have gone into it is just crazy. It really is out of this world. Each room was designed so differently, was completely colour co-ordinated and was better than the last, each time without fail. They wouldn’t let us take pictures after the first two rooms, although I did attempt to so unfortunately I couldn’t get all the pictures I wanted. Here is a sneak peak:
We didn’t go to any of the stadiums as we went to Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, so we didn’t bother with these. I have heard that Santiago Bernabeu stadium is well worth a visit though. Of course there is also Estadio Atletico de Madrid too but I haven’t heard anything about this so I can’t comment on that.
Madrid is a fabulous city with gorgeous views, buildings and streets. I would recommend my hotel to anyone who is planning a trip here. However being very honest, I wouldn’t return to Madrid, purely because we did almost everything in one day. It is more of a city to chill out and relax in which was perfect for our last few days as we were exhausted from all the busy days and nights in Barcelona, so I am happy we visited here at that time. Having the rooftop pool made our trip though as it was something to do during the day and luckily the weather was so nice. Don’t get me wrong, Madrid is a beautiful city for a weekend break away, I think part of the problem was we kept comparing it to Barcelona, which we were so amazed by and could have almost done a week holiday there. For me personally, I think Madrid is more of a one time visit and for a short period of time as I think if you did more than three or four days here you would struggle to find things to do during the day. The three night visit was just the right time for us really. If you are the kind of person who prefers to chill out and not do too much it is perfect for that, so maybe a longer holiday here would work for you, however I love keeping busy so I would need more things to see and do. Overall we had a great weekend here and we were so impressed with our hotel so it was still a successful visit and we were happy we got to see the city.
Thanks for reading,
Just Jodie x