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The Madrid City Guide

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I’m at the point where all my offline-friends are like ‘Yeah ok Anna, we get it. You had an AMAAAZING time in Madrid’, so now it’s time to bore you guys with my extreme levels of enthusiasm over our latest city break. You see this trip had been a long time in the making. With our couple mates, whom we love but live in Birmingham so we don’t get to see all that regularly, we’d booked to go to Stockholm two years ago. Remember that? Here’s the city guide for that trip. Unfortunately our mate lost her passport and wasn’t able to come, so Mark and I travelled there alone and we’ve been meaning to get something booked in again with them ever since. Seeing as one of them lived in Madrid for three years it seemed like the most logical choice to head there. With them playing tour guides and Mark and I lapping it up, we had an amazing six days in Spain’s capital and I cannot recommend a trip to Madrid highly enough. The food was class – like seriously incredible – and no bill ever came in at over €100 for the four of us for food and a rather large quantity of alcohol. The city had so much to see, but everything was pretty walkable and the weather, well – I mean just take a look at the photos. If you fancy a bit of autumnal heat then you might as well just hop on a plane right now…

How To Get Around

Once you’re dropped off at Madrid airport, we found that the easiest and quickest way to get to our airbnb was to Uber, especially if there’s a few of you. On the way there we dicked around with trains, and although it was easy to follow and pretty cheap (THANK THE LORD FOR CITYMAPPER), sometimes when you’re lugging around a suitcase that definitely doesn’t fit the 10kg limit, it’s just easier to jump in a taxi.

Speaking of our airbnb – here’s the link. It was an absolutely stellar find and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you’re there with another couple. Each couple had their own bathroom and both of the bedrooms were of a similar size, so no one got a bum deal. The kitchen was huge, the living room spacious and it was so quiet considering that it was so central. The closest tube stop to our airbnb was Tirso de Molina and we found that we could get to most of the places that we wanted to visit with about a 30 minute walk.

When you’re actually there, we often found that the difference between getting the metro and walking was under 10 minutes, so mostly chose to walk, although the metro was easy to navigate when you did use it. I’d suggest picking up a ticket that lasts for 10 journeys, so you’re not having to buy a fresh one every time, but not buying a ticket for trips that you don’t use. Again CityMapper came in extremely handy – I <3 CITYMAPPER 4EVZ.

Where To Eat

OK, where do I even start here?! The food is unreal and we literally didn’t have a bad dish the whole time we were there. The quality of the food is through the roof, whether you’re ducking into a small window to grab a slice of pizza, or splashing out at a rooftop restaurant. So let’s start out with breakfast. We thoroughly enjoyed the platter-style brunches at Ojala, but we ADORED Federal – which was perhaps the most recommended spot by you lot – so much that we went there for three mornings out of the five that we were in town. It was just too good. The cornflake-crusted french toast was everything you thought it would be and more.

During the day we tended to drop into more casual dining spots; picking up snacks and loved the Mercado de San Miguel. It’s slightly pricey as it’s a magnet for tourists, but everything we ate there was delicious. The newly opened asian-fusion Yatai Market was slap-bang next to our airbnb and was something a bit different if you’ve eaten too much Iberico ham.

In terms of places to book before you visit, I’d suggest securing a table at La Pescaderia and Florida Retiro. The former serves classic Spanish fare in a cool setting and the latter is a restaurant up on a terrace in the middle of the park, which just felt so special. We also popped into La Musa Latina one night without a booking and enjoyed their take on tapas with the sharing menu options.

Of course it would be rude not to pop into a bar (or three?) on the way home. We had fun at Bodega la Ardosa, a vermouth bar which serves it on tap and apparently does amazing small plates, although we were too full to sample those. Then we stumbled across Sala Equis, which used to be a blue movie theatre and is now a trendy drinking hole that screens (non-blue) movies as you drink gin. Just make your final stop at Chocolatería San Ginés for the BEST churros which is thankfully open 24/7.

Where To Explore

I was trying to keep a note of all the areas that we wandered through, but in all honesty I feel like we worked our way through 95% of the neighbourhoods. Over the six days we covered 88,000 steps worth of ground so I don’t feel like it’s much of an exaggeration. I’ll highly recommend picking up bikes like we did on the first day and heading west. We followed the cycle path on the River Manzanares south, before turning round and visiting Lago Casa de Campo, going through Parque de Oeste, up to Temple de Bod for an amazing view of the city, then back to the Royal Palace of Madrid before dropping the bikes off. Another morning I’d recommend a walk around the Retiro, which is possibly the most beautiful park that I’ve ever stepped foot in. Hire out a boat on the lake for a couple of euros per person and make sure you find the rose garden.

Rooftops are the THING in Madrid. Most hotels have them and the views are B-E-A-utiful. If like us you don’t have access to one, for a small fee you can head up the open terrace at Circulo de Bellas Artes and I can highly recommend the Tintos at the top. We coupled that with a trip to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. The express audio tour was great and meant that you took in all the highlights. If you don’t fancy much of a walk to grab lunch after, head to Oven which is just over the road and pretty popular.

Our friends took us on a day trip to Segovia, which is just a 25 minute express train journey out of the city (book before to avoid disappointment as the trains book up fast and once all the seats are full they stop selling tickets. No standing on the train? LUSH). It’s the perfect place to wander around for a couple of hours, with great shops and a load of places to eat. We visited the Alcázar de Segovia, which was truly stunning and apparently the castle that inspired Walt Disney.

Where To Shop

To be honest we didn’t do much shopping. Anytime we did spend shopping was mostly my friend and I standing outside shops and rolling our eyes and tutting whilst we waited for the boys to mull over the purchase of a pair of socks (SPOILER: They finally bought the socks on their second visit to the store). However, we did wander through the Chueca part of town and there were some great shops around that location; Casa Gonzalez & Gonzalez was a great homeware store, tucked right beside a trendy nail bar called Lima. Around the corner is Doméstico Shop, which was closed but looked delightful from the window (although I’m not quite sure how I’d get the chair that I liked home with cabin luggage only). We also spent a fair amount of time in Isolee, which had trendy beauty, style, food, accessories – the whole shebang. Oh, and there’s a brand-new two-floor Sephora. Knock yourself out…

Photos by Mark, taken on a Canon EOS 33

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