Travel blog

Exploring Madrid – the ultimate weekend guide

Since starting our blog in January 2018, we’ve only really touched on the places we’ve been during the past two years. HOWEVER, Mar and I did our fair share of holidays, weekend breaks and inter-railing before we decided to start sharing our travels with family and friends. So, we thought it was about time we covered some of the places we visited before the blog…

Let’s start with Madrid!

As a surprise for Mar’s 21st I wanted to take him to a European city (with a good football team ofc), and Madrid fitted the bill quite nicely. It was our first city break together and only the second place we visited as a couple, but it was perfect! We spent three days pottering round the city, riding on the open top tour bus, hiring bikes, and eating lots of delicious food.

Madrid is a vibrant city, that holds it own in terms of art and culture. It’s the perfect location for anyone wanting to experience traditional Spanish culture, food and architecture. We were pretty lucky with the weather as we visited in June, but it seems like a good all year round location as the weather remains mild in the winter and there isn’t too much rain!

We spent three days in the Spanish city, giving us a great little taster of what’s on offer. From cycling through El Retiro park on a sunny day to enjoying a coffee overlooking the Plaza Mayor, there’s something for everyone.

Here’s what we’d recommend you get up to …

  • El Retiro Park
  • Real Jardin Botánico
  • Plaza de Cibeles
  • Plaza de España
  • Plaza de la Villa
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Puerta de Alcalá
  • San Jerónimo el Real
  • Temple of Debod
  • Royal Palace
  • Santiago Bernabéau
  • Mercado San Miguel
  • Spanish food – tapas / churros

Green Spaces

El Retiro Park

The El Retiro park is one of the largest parks in Madrid and is perfect for a stroll on a warm summer day. There’s a lake in the park where you can hire rowing boats, or you can sit along the waters edge and watch the locals enjoying the Spanish weather, going for a run or rowing on the lake. The park is a public park, so it’s free of charge to wander round the beautiful grounds.

Nearby you can visit The Prado, one of the world’s most well-known art museums where you’ll find a significant collection of masterpieces by renaissance and baroque masters.

Real Jardin Botánico

Located just a few steps from the Prado, Madrid’s botanical garden is a must visit! In summer, the colours are simply beautiful and wandering round on a warm sunny day is somewhat enchanting.

Note - the Gardens can be very busy in peak times, so arrive early to avoid the crowds. 

Plazas

Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles is a square in Madrid’s city centre at the intersection of the Paseo del Prado and Calle Alcalá. This iconic spot in Madrid is well worth a visit. The square features a beautiful fountain and some of Madrid’s most iconic buildings, a perfect way to enjoy the impressive Spanish architecture.

Note - most of the places mentioned on this list are stops on the open tour bus, so if you're short of time, this is the perfect way to see all Madrid has to offer!

Plaza de España

The square is a popular tourist spot in Madrid, it features a monument and two of Madrid’s most prominent skyscrapers. We recommend grabbing a coffee and parking up on one of the benches nearby – you can watch the locals go about their everyday lives for a few moments before heading onto the next must see!

Plaza de la Villa

The Plaza de la Villa is an urban square in central Madrid, and whilst it does not require a lot of time in your itinerary, it’s definitely worth stopping by to view some of the oldest buildings in the city! We cycled through here when we hired bikes.

Plaza Mayor

Centred at the heart of Madrid, the Plaza Mayor is the city’s most vibrant square and was once the centre of the old city. It features lots of restaurants, shops and street performers, making it the perfect place to watch the world go by, or grab a delicious paella!

Monuments and iconic buildings

Puerta de Alcalá

Situated by the entrance to the Parque del Buen Retiro, this iconic monument is similar to the more modern Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

San Jerónimo el Real

St Jerome the Royal is a Roman Catholic church in central Madrid. This 16th century church is beautiful, but has undergone restorations and renovations over the years meaning it now features a mixture of architectural styles.

The Church is an impressive site, located next to the Prado museum and the royal palace, making it an easy addition to your city tour.

Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in West Park, Madrid. It is close to the Royal Palace and Plaza España Square and was opened to the public in the 1970’s so is free to enter.

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, although now only used for state ceremonies. The Palace looks beautiful in all weathers and is easily accessible, so make sure to add it to your itinerary.

Although we didn’t get the chance to go inside, we’ve heard it’s well worth it. You can do guided tours of the Palace where you will get to see beautiful collections of artwork, displays of watches, tapestries, porcelain and silverware, and even some of the personal weapons used by Charles V in the 16th century!

Santiago Bernabéau

The final and most important stop on our trip was, of course, Real Madrid’s home ground. As an avid football fan, Marcus couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see one of the greatest stadium’s in the world. Whether you’re a football fan or not, it cannot be denied that Real Madrid are one of Europe’s most successful teams – so a visit to their stomping ground is definitely worthwhile!

The Santiago Bernabeau stadium is located a little outside the centre, but is definitely worth a visit (and is located on one of the open top bus routes). A tour of the grounds will grant you panoramic views of the 85-000 seat stadium, a step inside the changing rooms, visit the dug-out and see all sorts, including the teams trophy collection, kit from across the years, the press room and presidential box.

Food

Mercado San Miguel

The Mercado San Miguel is a must see when you’re in Madrid. The food market is one of the most renowned in Europe and features a large variety of world-famous cuisine. Located in the heart of the city centre, the market does get quite busy but is worth the crowds to experience the beautiful food vibrant atmosphere and stunning architecture.

Spanish food / drink

We LOVE Spanish food, and it’s probably up there as some of our favourite from around the world! So make sure to try lots of tapas, drink the local wines and also visit a churros cafe as it’s some of the best we’ve ever tasted!


Have you been to Madrid?

We’re always learning and know that our three days in Madrid are probably pretty different to what others have done, so if you have any favourite spots that you think are worth a visit – let us know!!

For more European posts click here and make sure to keep an eye out for more in this series coming soon!

Adios for now,

Char & Mar x

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