When you think of Spain, the first thing that comes to mind is the colour red. It’s in their national flag, their world famous football club, their brave Matadors wearing bright red traditional robes taming the bulls at a grand arena, their flamenco dancers beautifully dressed in traje de flamenca giving their best performances to the tunes of Spanish guitar and obviously their very best Sangria.
Madrid, a big cosmopolitan city in Spain, is famous for its breathtaking squares and Plazas. The city has a mix of modern and historical architecture, like most of the popular European cities. As a first impression, Madrid would definitely impress you with the amazing underground metro transportation. There are numerous lines connecting the length and breadth of the city and we never waited over 4 minutes at any station to board a train. There are information signs posted everywhere in the station and you don’t have to ask anyone about how to get to a destination. The tickets are quite reasonable and only for the airport, there is an additional charge of 3 euros (again, quite cheap). To check out the connections, visit their official site. While on the metro, you might come across musicians playing beautiful and soulful Spanish music in full volume, entertaining you all along the journey. They usually expect some small tips in return for their services though.
What and where to eat:
Madrid is a food heaven for non vegetarians. There are many tapas (small sampler sized portion) bars and you should definitely try bar hopping, tasting the various tapas. Some of the well known and must try items are patatas bravas, patatas aioli and paella. One such place we highly recommend is Juana la Loca, in La Latina area. Try their fried spinach fritters, tortilla tapas and sangria. We had our first lunch in this amazing restaurant and went mad sampling their yummiest recipes.
A word of caution for vegetarians visiting Madrid, you will have a tough time finding vegetarian food. To top it, most of the waiters don’t speak English and you will have a hard time explaining them that you are looking for vegetarian food. Please also remember that fish is considered vegetarian in Madrid restaurants so make sure to ask the ingredients in the food. Fortunately, there is a restaurant called Pura Vida vegan bar in La Latina area, that serves amazing healthy vegetarian food. We loved the food there and they are open only for dinner. Another food heaven, away from the touristy spots you find in such metropolitan cities.
Another cool place to check out is the Mercado de San Miguel Market. This is an enclosed building and here you can find plenty of shops offering variety of food items and drinks. Very close to this market, you should visit Amorino for Gelato and macaroons. We have never tasted such delicious macaroons in our travels and even though it’s a bit pricey, it’s worth every penny. They also serve the Gelato in a flower shape which is equally delicious.
There is another ice cream parlour named Mistura, in the Chueca area. They mix the ice cream and the toppings on a very cold stone and the taste is to die for. Do not miss the yummy churros with hot chocolate at the city’s best cafe, San Miguel Chocolatier. It’s a high calorie experience but definitely need to be tried out.
Things to do:
Debod Temple is an ancient Egyptian temple built in the 2nd century BC, at the village of Debod, Egypt and was donated to Madrid and was rebuilt in 1968. We went there during the sunset based on popular recommendations and it was well worth it. We stayed until it was completely dark and put our tripod and long exposure settings to work. The temple looks absolutely stunning at night. We did not go inside the temple but we have heard that it’s gorgeous from the inside as well. It’s a very happening place with loads of tourists and locals chilling around the temple and in the gardens.
Plaza de Mayor:
The Plaza de Mayor is Madrid’s main square. It is a large rectangular area surrounded by three story residential building, located right in the centre of the city and is just a few minutes walk from the Puerta del Sol. This is a nice place to just sit, relax, enjoy some tapas and watch the time go by.
Visit this place at night. You can compose a really good shot with the use of a tripod, capturing this marvellous architecture alongside the Rolex building. Well, we didn’t have a lot of time in hand, so not so cool, regular day time shot. You can spend your evening at this restaurant, enjoy a cocktail and look at the sun go down.
This high energy dance will surely impress you. Flamenco dance is a solo dance with a combination of hand clapping, some high energy foot tapping and beautiful hand, arm and body movement. It’s accompanied by a guitar player and a singer and it’s an experience that you shouldn’t miss. We went to Cafe Ziryab for the dance and you need to book your place in advance. The entry fee of 22 euros per person includes a drink and an appetiser. Food wasn’t that great but you won’t go there for food. 🙂
Madrid is close to many other popular cities and the ones really worth mentioning are Toledo, Segovia, Avila and Cuenca. There are fast trains covering these cities in a matter of just 30 mins to an hour and it’s really worth visiting at least one of the destinations. We visited Segovia, home to a 2000 year old Roman aqueduct, just a 30 mins train ride from Madrid.