My Weekend in Madrid!
Even though I was tired, worn out, and was enjoying the comfort of my apartment in Spain after my long Spring Break trip, it was time to repack my bags. It was a splendid trip full of sightseeing, shopping and taking in the beautiful city of Madrid.
Friday morning came with a 6:30am wake up call for a 7:30 bus with the destination of Madrid. After the six-hour bus ride, we arrived in Madrid where we figured out the simple, but extremely useful metro system. Krista and I bought a 12 euro ticket for 10 trips, which was perfect for our short stay in the city. After finding our EquityPoint hostel, we set out to see a few sites before our other friends arrived. We ventured to Puerta del Sol, which is a big plaza that is constantly crowded with people due to the metro access and its central location. Puerta del Sol also contains the governor’s office, the central point of Spain, and is constantly filled with street performers. At night rollerbladers and bikers would create a circle and do tricks to entertain the people passing by. Luckily, our hostel was a 5 minute walk to this area so we were always at the center of what was going on.
In Puerta del Sol there is an amazing pastry shop, La Mallorquina, recommended by Rick Steve’s where one can both order her pastry to go or stand at the counter and enjoy a coffee as well. There are no seats, so standing is the only choice. Here I got a delicious Napolitano chocolate and a café con leche to give me an energy boost. With some sugar and caffeine in our system, we headed to Plaza Mayor, another big area full of entertainers. Men were making huge bubbles, there was a woman dressed as a flamenco dancer and a strange llama made of streamers. It was a lively plaza encompassed with restaurants and little shops. This location is a big site in Madrid because many events used to take place here when it was an open-air theatre. Events such as bullfights, the Inquisition, and royal pageantry occurred right in this plaza. Right next to Plaza Mayor is El Mercado de San Miguel, that is a different kind of market due to its focus on tapas and food to go rather than produce.
That evening we met up with my other roommate and headed towards La Reina Sofia, an art museum that houses Picasso’s Guernica. This museum was on my must see list because La Guernica was always discussed in all of my Spanish classes and is an extremely famous piece of work. The museum also contained works by Dalí, Miró and Goya so it was a really neat experience. After 7:00pm during weekdays, 2:30 on Saturdays and all day Sunday entrance is free, which is why we went later in the evening. Since I am not into art, one to two hours was a perfect amount of time to see the paintings I wanted. La Guernica itself was pretty amazing due to its massive size. It was really interesting to see it up close because I was able to see all of its imperfections such as runny paint and eraser marks. Madrid also houses another famous art museum, El Prado. This museum is also free daily from 6:00 to 8:00pm and is a huge building filled with many famous paintings. I decided to not go here however because with such limited time there were other sites I would rather see. The rest of the evening was filled with paella for dinner, churros for dessert and a little bit of shoe shopping since Madrid is known for their inexpensive shoes.
The next day began early with the main focus on seeing the Royal Palace and everything surrounding it. After less than a twenty minute walk we were right in front of La Almudena, the cathedral across from the palace. This cathedral was remarkable because it was completely different than any other cathedral I have seen in Europe thus far due to its completion in the ‘90s. After donating 1 euro to enter, I was greeted by a bright and cheery church full of color and beautiful altarpieces. After walking around and sitting down to take in my surroundings, we headed across the plaza to the Royal Palace, which contains over 2,800 rooms and 1.5 million square feet. We decided to do the twenty-four room tour of the Palace, only 5 euros due to my Erasmus card, and used the self-guided tour of the palace in Rick Steve’s book. He told us about the history of each room and pointed out things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. We were able to go at our own pace but still get an informative tour that was great. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed, so I can only tell you of how amazing it was to see the throne room where the King and Queen sit as well as seeing the armor room that contained items hundreds of years old.
|My favorite altarpiece|
After the hour and a half tour, we headed next door to the Jardines de Sabatini (gardens). These gardens were a great place for lunch or to take in some sun. The next stop was Monasterio de la Encarnación is a monastery that contains over 4,000 relics. My travelmates did not want to go inside so we forwent this site, but when I return I think this would be a cool place to visit. Plaza de España was the next stop for the day. It is nothing special but I was glad we went because vendors had tents set up selling scarves, jewelry and all kinds of trinkets.
The next destination was Retiro Park, my favorite part of Madrid. Luckily, our weather was perfect so we were able to fully enjoy the 300 acre park and its carnival like atmosphere since it was the weekend. Retiro is a huge park next to El Prado and has beautiful gardens, fountains and a lively lake where one can rent a rowboat. We of course did this and enjoyed a little ride around the lake. It was not anything exciting, but it was just fun to be on the water and provided some quality pictures (such as below).
|Putting some muscle into it|
|Carnival in the park|
After the park we returned to our hostel to get ready for the Real Madrid futbol game. Krista and I previously purchased tickets online and had them delivered to our hostel. We took the metro to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and arrived about an hour before game time. After browsing through the expensive team store, we found our seats, the second to last row at the very top. They were the cheapest seats, but still had a great view. I was able to see everything that took place from the first goal put it with a bicycle kick, to Ronaldo warming up on the sideline. It was such a cool experience and was amazing to finally see a big time, professional game in person, even though they just played Vallalodid. It was funny because in most of my pictures before the game the stadium looks completely empty, but right at game time the stadium was packed, with very few open seats, and as soon as the final whistle blew the stadium was empty again. This game reignited my love for soccer so I hope to see at least one more game while I am in Spain whether it be Almeria or when I travel to Barcelona.
|The packed stadium|
Our final day in Madrid was luckily a Sunday, and on Sundays a huge flea market takes place. We strolled down to the area of El Rastro and were surprised by how expansive this market was. It seeped into every alleyway within the area. Stores would have items outside of its doors, but on the inside was even more gadgets and trinkets up for sale. Everything was being sold from pottery to futbol jerseys and a lot of items one would find at a garage sale. It was such a cool experience to just roam the streets and see what people were selling. After we had done enough shopping we headed back to the hostel to retrieve our bags and head back to Almeria.
Madrid was one of my favorite cities thus far due to its liveliness in certain areas, but calmness in others. When walking near El Prado it was so quiet and peaceful which completely contrasted the vivacity of Puerta del Sol. There was so many sites to see, but I never felt rushed or overwhelmed by the size of the city. It is a must see city for anyone visiting Spain.
1. Take advantage of the metro. It is such an easy way to see all corners of the city.
2. Equity Point hostel was very nice and a reasonable price, but due to its great location there is a lot of noise. If you are a light sleeper, this may not be the best location for you.
3. Try and plan your trip so you are in Madrid on a Sunday to experience El Rastro.
4. Visit Retiro Park on the weekends when it is more of a carnival atmosphere and pack a picnic. There is no better way to enjoy this park.
5. Go to the Palace either early or late because lines form quickly. We arrived to the palace around 10:00am and suffered no line; however, by noon an extremely long line had formed.