In planning my four-city European trip, somehow Madrid fell to the bottom of the list for a few reasons. I knew very little about the city; there’s no Eiffel tower or Colosseum. I knew there were tapas, sangria and paella, but that was basically my knowledge of the city. When I would say I was going to Barcelona and Madrid, 9/10 people were like, “Oh, Barcelona is AMAZING.” Expectations were low for Madrid, but it ended up being so amazing.
Royal Palace of Madrid
Start off your day with a walk to the palace. You can watch the changing of the guards and sit on the steps and take rly cute “candid” pix like this. I think you can go inside, but we definitely were not allowed when we went because of official Spain things bc YES this is an actual palace/government building.
Mercado de San Miguel and Plaza Meyor
Plaza Meyor is a really awesome square to just walk through (beware of the cobblestones) or sit at a restaurant and people watch. There are weird street performers and tons of people selling selfie sticks. It’s pretty entertaining. We stayed in the area, so I ended up walking through the plaza plenty of times. It screams Madrid to me!
But if your stomach is screaming at you after your Palacing and your Plazaing, go next door to the Mercado de San Miguel. There’s tons of fun stuff in there, and it is just so picturesque.
Walk in the park
Once fed, more walking! I fell in LOVE with Retiro Park. The views. Just stop everything. Again, this was an amazing spot to people watch in. There were some youths (JOVENES!!) on some sort of school trip, and they cracked me up. Much selfies. Many jokes. We walked through a good deal of the park. I loved the Crystal Palace, which was gorgeous and a mini museum inside. I also enjoyed the water (you can paddle boat!). We had absolutely gorgeous weather, too, so fall. What is fall. THIS.
Lunch in Barrio Chueca
Barrio Chueca is the Montrose of Madrid. We were on a hardcore hunt for Paella and we found a dozen restaurants that looked delicious af, but no Paella. Finally, we found this little gem called La Kika that had a three-course lunch menu with a drink for less than 11 euros. And they had this black rice that was better than any paella I had ever had (I had never had paella but it was still great).
Reina Sofia Museum
Guess what! Europe really likes young people. For me, (with my expired school ID and my driver’s license that proved I was younger than 28) Reina Sofia was free! For people who didn’t bring their expired school IDs across the Atlantic, it’s only 8 euros. Lots of fun art exhibits inside, but don’t spend too much time on it. It’s not the Louvre (which I was hitting later in the trip), so don’t waste more than two hours on it.
Tapas and sangria
As I said before, tapas and sangria were a big thing I was excited about for Madrid, but I didn’t have a CLUE, you guys. First of all, there are tapas, then there are pinchos. Apparently, tapas are SUPER small (like a frisbee for a rat). Pinchos are a little bigger and most likely come on bread with a stick. Didn’t know that. But still a fan. THEN there’s sangria, which is wine and fruit, right? Then there’s tinto de verano, which is the ultimate summer drink (it’s in the name). It’s a little lighter. And by lighter, I mean it tastes like juice. I’ll have one pitcher. What about you?
Ps. Txapela (pronounced chapela) is a chain in Spain (lol), so there’s locations everywhere!
We went to two rooftop bars. One was on our hostel’s roof (The Hat Madrid, 10/10 would recommend), and the other one was on the roof of a hotel in Barrio Chueca, called Room Mate Oscar. Yes, your drinks are going to be more expensive, but yes, it is worth it for that view. Cheers!
Chocolate and churros
Your night has GOT to have some chocolate and churros on it. Guys. It’s the most bizarre dessert. So, you get hot chocolate (not hot chocolate as we know it, but literally melted chocolate) and churros. You dip and eat. So simple. So delicious. This place, Chocolateria San Gines was highly recommended as a post-bar spot. You know, like the Whataburger of Madrid? No? Not at all? Fair enough.