Madrid Travel Guide
If you would have asked me about Madrid six months ago, there is not much I could have told you. Now, however, that is a different story. The Spanish central capital was never really on my radar, leave alone my travel bucket list. Luckily, my siblings took it upon themselves to gift me a very special weekend for my 30th birthday: all three of us (+ our partners) in Madrid. I will be honest, I was mostly just excited for the six of us to spend some quality time together, than about Madrid itself. And with little to no expectations at all, I was left speechless. A half-marathon by foot and countless bottles of rosé later, I can now say that it is surprisingly one of the most beautiful cities I have visited in a long time.
travel in style
I was never much of a fan of Barcelona and still don’t really get the hype around it. Sure, it is nice to have a beach and the park with an endless view. Overall, however, I found Barcelona to be rather dark, dirty and not my personal favorite. Madrid is a totally different story. Much more royal, lined with elegant boulevards and perfectly manicured parks, it is everything I love about a city and more! Boasting famous European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters, a lively culinary scene and beautiful buildings, it is a city worth visiting – that’s why I have taken note of everything from the best brunch spots in Madrid, the most beautiful neighborhoods and sights to see for you
Things To Do in Madrid: Sightseeing
- The Palacio de Cristal is located in the heart of the Buen Retiro Park, which my sister and I stumbled upon on our morning run. The crystal palace is worth a visit for beautiful photos and a stroll through the park. The Palacio is made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework on a brick base, which is decorated with ceramic tiles.
- Did you know that there is rumored to be a second Mona Lisa painting in the world? Guess where! In Madrid, of course. At the famous Prado Museum! The Prado Mona Lisa is a painting of the same subject as Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa (which is held by the Louvre Museum, Paris) and the fact that each pentimento, or change, in Leonardo’s original (to the bust, outline of the veil and position of the fingers) is repeated here suggests that the two works were created simultaneously. Even if you are not keen on seeing Mona Lisa no.2, the Prado is still worth a visit – especially with the free access Monday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays and holidays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
- Palacio Real de Madrid is the equivalent to Vienna’s Hofburg or Schönbrunn Palace – a stunning imperial palace. It is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family at the city of Madrid, although now only used for state ceremonies. We skipped the line to go inside (most royal palaces boast similar, golden interiors) and wandered the grounds and adjacent Jardines de Sabatini instead on a Sunday morning.
- Food is definitely part of the Madrid experience, but aside from my personal restaurant recommendations, the Mercado de San Miguel is a must. A stylish, indoor market that you should definitely visit with an appetite – you will want to stop at every corner to have a bite or two.
- In terms of neighborhoods and shopping, we loved Salamanca – specifically Calle de Jorge Juan.
Things To Do In Madrid: Food & Drinks
- You know a brunch spot is good when you end up going there twice in four days. We loved Federal Café (they also have one in Barcelona) for breakfast in the sun!
- In Madrid, people seem to be less active before noon, hence it is easy to get a table at places like Superchulo. I was not too impressed with their porridge (to “artsy” with blue coconut foam and the likes) but the avo toast and fresh juices were great!
- For the first night in the city, we went out to a late dinner at Café Commercial. At first, we were sad that we didn’t get a table outside or in the stylish restaurant on the lower floor (Gubi lamps and all) until we walked upstairs and found a super cool room with live music. The food was incredible for a fair price and the atmosphere spot on! Definitely don’t miss this place when you are in Madrid
- Cannibal Raw was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Not only is the restaurant super stylish, but the menu was also beyond – if you like seafood!
- Amazonico and Ten Con Ten are both part of the same group. Even though the vibes are totally different (Jungle vs. modern, plush Italian), the food was equally good (but expensive) in both. Service was not the best, but in all honesty we didn’t have great service once in Madrid and simply accepted it as such.
- For casual tapas and small dishes, La Gustava is a nice spot. The marinated tomatoes were amazing and the sangria delicious.
- Of course, you can’t visit Madrid without churros dipped in chocolate sauce. Traditionally, this doubles as breakfast in Spain, however, we decided to have some as an afternoon treat on the last day. After much research, we decided to go with the classic: Chocolateria 1902. Deep-fried dough, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate sauce… not the lightest snack but obligatory!
- Another thing that’s common in Madrid are rooftop bars to escape the heat of the streets. We went to the H10 Hotel Rooftop Bar and Casa Suecia Terrace which both offered a stunning view over the city. Again: Don’t expect great service but the skyline makes up for it!
Where To Stay in Madrid: Hotel vs. Airbnb
- I love finding beautiful, unique and stylish boutique hotels like the Coolrooms Hotel in Atocha, Madrid. We thought about staying there but ended up deciding on an Airbnb which is more social for traveling in groups. For couples, I think a hotel is the better option, but in our constellation I would always opt for an apartment.
- It is not always easy to find a good Airbnb in a city you’ve never been to. I am not sure how, but my siblings found a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom apartment in the heart of the Justicia district, right on Plaza Pedro Zerolo. From there, places like Cannibal Raw, Café Commercial and Superchulo or Casa Suecia were all within walking distance!