Welcome to my newest topic, the “Top 10 Series”. I plan to post 10 absolute must things, in my humble opinion, to do in a selection of my favourite cities, starting with Madrid – the intoxicating, gorgeous Spanish Capital. Enjoy!
1. Try some Tapas!
In Madrid you’ll find some of the best tapas in all of Spain, and in some cases if you buy a beer the food is free. El Tigre is a personal favourite of mine on Calle Hortaleza in the Chueca barrio not far from the Gran Via.
2. Go to a Real Madrid game.
Arguably the biggest football institution in the world, Los Blancos (the whites) attract around 85,000 football mad Real fans to each home game. The atmosphere inside the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium (named after a former club president) will stay with you forever. I was lucky enough to get a ticket on the Spanish ticketmaster website for €30! If you can’t manage a game then the stadium tour (€19) is the next best thing.
3. Check out the “Museo de Prado”.
A must for the arty travellers, the Prado is huge. They have free entry after 5pm on some days but expect big lines. You’ll save around €15 but you’ll need more time to see it properly. Some really interesting works from Velazquez here, as well as El Greco and Rembrandt to name a few.
4. Visit the Retiro Park.
Only a 15 minute walk from the Prado, the “Parque del Retiro” is a stunning place to visit, acres of beautiful gardens, water features and plenty of places to sit, relax and take in the Madrid sun. Ideal spot for a picnic!
5. Azotea Rooftop Bar @ Circulo Bellas Artes.
This place is brilliant, 6-7 floors up is the “Azotea” rooftop bar, situated at the eastern end of the Gran Via next to the Banco de España, the Azotea offers amazing views of Madrid including the Retiro Park, Cibeles Fountain, and across to the financial district. It’ll cost you €3 to get up to the top but the views, ice cold beers, cocktails and chilled ambience (grab a sun lounge if you can) make it well worth the effort. Hint: it’s not known to many tourists either!
6. Shopping and a stroll down the Gran Via.
The Gran Via is the Main Street in Madrid’s centre and it is bustling with people and cars pretty much all day. There are loads of shops to indulge in some retail therapy if that’s your thing, but it’s just as good to just walk and take in all the activity and Spanish architecture of the many massive buildings overhead. It reminds me of New York in a way being on the Gran Via, and after shopping up a storm you’ll easily find a cafe/restaurant/bar to replenish yourself!
7. Churros and Chocolate at San Gines.
Sweet tooths out there, this one is for you! San Gines is tucked away around 5-10 minutes walk from the “Puerta del Sol”, and is worth it. Spain really is a gastronomical paradise, so if you haven’t had Churros in Spain before, just do it! They are so much better in Spain! The decor in San Gines is very traditional Spanish, which for me just adds to the experience!
8. People watching at Puerta del Sol.
Come twilight, Sol fills with locals who seem to congregate here just to hang out. You’ll often find street performers, buskers and if you can, try to find the statue of the Bear and the tree in amongst all the people, which is the symbol of Madrid. I would advise to be aware of potential pickpockets, it can get very busy here.
9. Visit Atletico de Madrid’s stadium.
There are actually 4 football teams in Madrid but you’ll only know of 2. Atletico or “Atleti” are the rival of Real and their stadium is in the west of the city, called the Vicente Calderon. (Again, named after a former club president) You can do a stadium tour and view the club’s museum for €10, which is terrific value, considering the tour of Real Madrid is €19. The stadium is obviously old and tired, but great nonetheless. In 3 years Atletico will move to a new stadium out near the Barajas Airport, so get in quick!
*The other 2 football teams in Madrid are Rayo Vallecano and Getafe.
10. Sample Madrid’s nightlife.
“Madrileños” really know how to party. The nightlife here is brilliant, but if your keen, make sure you have a Siesta earlier in the day. The party doesn’t start until much later in Spain, so don’t expect bars and clubs to get going until well after midnight. One advantage of going out in Spain is cheaper alcohol prices compared with other parts of the world. I would recommend a few places but my recollections are a little hazy! But Chueca, Malasaña and the La Latina barrios have some great bars.
So there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed the list, I really love Madrid, a fantastic city. Hopefully I’ve provided some ideas if you are heading there to help you plan your trip! Until next time, thanks for reading!