Before I moved to Spain I swore I was going to fully embrace the culture, learn as much of the language as I could and also see as much of the country as I could. Even though I met people from all around the country and my Spanish, without a doubt, improved, I failed in my last aim of seeing more of Spain as a whole. Yes, I left Valencia, but money and time restrictions meant it wasn’t as often as I would have liked. So, in some of my last weeks there, me and two of my flatmates decided to go to Madrid for the weekend. So here, I have compiled a list of all of the things we managed to cram into (technically just less than) 48 hours and which parts I’d recommend. Please note, we didn’t pay for any attractions in Madrid, but some of the ones mentioned here have options to pay. Also, we didn’t do any museums or anything like that because when you only have 48 hours, time is precious.
We arrived on the Saturday around lunchtime after a stressful night of not knowing whether or not we were going to be able to make it due to snow. Of all things. The first thing we did was arrive at our hostel where the receptionist recommended a range of things for us to do and mapped out a route for us. We were starving so the first thing we did was get food just off of the Plaza Mayor, which is the main and most famous square of the city. I can see why and it reminds me a lot of one in Barcelona, but unfortunately, they were cleaning up after an event the night before so there was a lot of people working in the centre of the square. After this, we walked for about 2 minutes to the central market. I would advise not eating before you go there, and learn from our mistakes! It was packed full of people and every now and then you get the odd whiff of cheese but the rest of the place is amazing. So many different types of food and drinks, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The best thing about it is it’s all under a cover so if it does happen rain when you’re there, you’ll be nice and dry.
After the market, we walked a little down the street and came to the Cathedral. This is a gorgeous, grand building which has a very Spanish feel about it. This is just down the road from the Palacio Real, Madrid’s answer to Buckingham Palace, and was gorgeous. Around these, there are many other beautiful buildings and many viewpoints from which you can see the whole city. After this we took a walk around the city and to be honest we got a little bit lost but it was okay because we found El Corte Inglês where the receptionist of our hotel had recommended the restaurant on the top floor which has an excellent view of the whole city.
After having a break and refuelling on food, we embarked on the almost impossible task of finding the Temple de Debod in the Parque del Oeste, back towards the palace. The temple was originally built in ancient Egypt and then in 1968 it was dismantled and relocated to Madrid. When we went, the whole park, especially around the temple, was packed full of people because the sun was just about to set so it was every photographer and instagrammer’s dream. You can also see a 360º view of the city and I have to say this was the perfect time to go and is probably the one thing I would, without a doubt, recommend for your time in Madrid.
On a Saturday night, we went out for tapas and had a few drinks in the Huertas area, and met up with a few of my flatmate’s Spanish friends. We didn’t go out-out because we knew we wanted to get up early the next morning and make the most of Sunday. However, as any brit who has ever visited Spain on holiday will know, Spanish people do not go out until 10 PM at the absolute earliest for dinner, so by the time that we had been for food and drinks it was already mid morning when we went home. If you are thinking of going out in Madrid, the area where most of the bars are is called Malasaña.
On a Sunday morning, we started off by having breakfast near the Plaza Mayor and making our way to the city hall which has a huge ‘Refugees Welcome’ sign on it and around there are also some examples of the wonderful architecture of the city. Following that we made our way to the Parque el Retiro which is Madrid’s most famous park. There is a gorgeous lake in the middle of the park where you can rent pedaloes and in the summer I imagine it would be great! The park sort of reminded me of Vondel Park in Amsterdam, just without the bikes. It doesn’t seem like you’re in the centre of a capital city when you’re there, and the hours fly by without you really noticing.
After the Jardin el Retiro which is the garden of the park, and just down from the lake is the Palacio de Cristal which is a small palace-like structure which is made from metal and glass and looks like somewhere Elsa from frozen would live. I read somewhere that art exhibitions are held here sometimes but when we went, there was just us and a few other tourists.
Overall, I would definitely recommend visiting Madrid, even though it was a busy city due to it being a capital, it wasn’t as stressful to get around as London and didn’t seem anywhere near as big. In comparison to Barcelona, I wouldn’t say that it has as many famous tourist sites, but the prices were more or less the same overall. As you may notice, all these attractions are free, so it is quite easy to do Madrid on a budget, however, I would advise allowing for extra money as it still has capital city prices.