Intro: I honestly had low expectations for Madrid. I didn’t know too much about it, but had been advised by a friend’s mother to be wary of vendors as they were a bit rude. Situated in central Spain, I was curious to see what vibe would come from this sunny little city! You can read my journal-esque blog post about Madrid here.
Eat: My favorite thing we ate in Madrid was paella (think like a less-spicy jambalaya). We also ate churros from Chocolatería San Ginés, which we were told were the best churros in all of Spain. We were dumb and didn’t get them with the creamy chocolate sauce, and I regret not getting it because I’m sure it would have made them taste less… cardboardy. The historical chocolate shop has been open since 1894, and serve their churros with delicious milky coffee. The coffee was amazing, even in the 100 degree weather! That’s when you know it’s good. We also had modrono shots at El Madroño. They were sweet and syrupy and everything else dangerous you’d want in a shot.
Sleep: We chose to stay at Mad4U Hostel, which was about a 15 minute walk to Plaza del Sol, the heart of the city center. It was great! I have no complaints about the hostel. We got free breakfast, and the rate was about $15 a night per bed in a 8 bed dorm when we stayed in June.
Trek: We flew into the Madrid International Airport Barajas. It was large and clean, and easily manageable. Transit was easily figured out, and you can find several options here. We arrived after the metro closed, so we had to take the EMT airport shuttle (€5). The EMT shuttle runs 24/7, every 15 minutes during the day, and every 35 minutes at night. It dropped us off at Plaza Cibeles, where plenty of cabs were waiting for those of us fresh off the shuttle. We took a cab from Plaza Cibeles to our hostel, and it was just a 10 minute ride away.
Do: This is the perfect city to get lost in. Don’t set an agenda. Take in the beautiful architecture, drink wine, and relax among the Spanish. Puerta del Sol is pretty to shop around, eat around, and drink around. You can also tour the Royal Palace of Madrid, or wander into the Almudena Cathedral. Whatever you do, soak up the sunshine and enjoy the carefree Spanish lifestyle. Take a siesta!
Summarization: Madrid definitely has a different culture than Barcelona. The shopkeepers in Madrid were not as friendly as they were in Barcelona, and we really weren’t sure why. In one restaurant, we were blamed for our delivered food not being what we ordered, and in another restaurant, we were forced out of our seats by the hostesses before we were done eating because a large party that had just arrived to the restaurant “needed” our table. In the end, I liked the sunshine and beautiful architecture, but you can find that in Barcelona and that’s where I think I’ll stick to from now on when I decide to take on Spain!
- Take the free walking tour… it’s a great way to get acclimated to the city!
- Take sunscreen and sunglasses. This is the sunniest capital in Europe! By the end of the day, my nose was a tad burned, and I had a sandal tan. Gross.