First stop: Madrid
I moved to Madrid 9 months ago. And since I've been here I have been able to experience so much, not only from the Spanish culture but also from so many other cultures thanks to the people around me - who constantly teach me about their customs.
Madrid is where the idea for this blog started, a few weeks after I launched the Turismo Tasty Instagram, but I had been hesitant on going for it just because I thought it would be a lot of work, nobody would read it, and many other excuses that I don't even care about anymore.
Because of these reasons, Madrid is the first stop - the airport from which my journey starts. And although I might at some point travel back in time and talk about places where I have been before Madrid, this idea was born here. So let me give you an idea of what can be done in this city. And by done I mean museums, parks, places to visit, because I am dedicating a separate post to Madrid's food and drink repertoire.
When you arrive to Madrid, the first thing to know is that the city is large, but the city centre, where most things are is pretty walkable. I recommend you get a metro card if you want to visit the Santiago Bernabeu, if you go all the way down to Matadero, or if you're short on time and can't have the delight of walking places - this city is truly magical for it.
This list is created in a sort of logical pathway - you can start from the top down, or from the bottom up. But you will see that the different spots are created in a West-East, or East-West direction and therefore are simple to trace on your visit. You can do this in 2 days, and get to see them all, or skip a few and make your trip shorter.
Parque del Retiro:
Madrid's Central Park, even though in my opinion it's much more beautiful. You could walk this park for hours and not get bored. Would recommend you take a boat by the lake especially during sunset.
Palacio de Cristal: Located within Parque del Retiro, the Palace itself is stunning. Free entry and a quick visit it will not take much of your time... unless you want to stay and marvel at it for a while - which can be done too.
Museo del Prado: This is the most renown museum in Madrid, and it is definitely worth a visit if you meet one condition: Buy the Ticket IN ADVANCE online. I cannot emphasize it enough, because the line outside can get long (especially in the summer) and you can save so much time by being prepared. To see the most important parts, such as Velazquez' Las Meninas, or paintings by El Greco and Tiziano you will need 2 hours.
Estación de Atocha:
A visit that will not take too long, but is worth peeking into - because there is an indoor tropical garden with around 7,000 plants of 400 different species. It is also the station from which you travel in AVE (Fast train) around Spain - which can come in handy if you want a day trip to Segovia, Toledo or even Barcelona (ok... that's a stretch because Barcelona deserves more than a day visit).
Museo de la Reina Sofia:
In my opinion the best museum in Madrid. The pieces held here are more contemporary than the classic ones you will see at the Prado. The setting, an old hospital turned museum is spacious and you can walk around freely, to witness pieces by artists like Picasso, Dalí, Miró and Calder. The fact that there are less people here than at Prado also makes it a more attractive visit, in my opinion.
Barrio de las Letras:
To get to Gran Via, the most important and touristy street in the city, full of stores and renown hotels, I recommend you first stroll by this neighborhood. Maybe catch a beer, or a tapa at any bar that looks appealing and keep walking. Great Spanish writers like Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Quevedo lived in this neighborhood, from where it took its name.
One of the iconic buildings of Madrid, the building shows the start of Gran Via, a road that you can walk all the way to Plaza de Callao, where you find another iconic building marked with a Schweppes neon sign. It's a short walk, and if it's sunset, or even sunrise (after a night out) you will be more than pleasantly surprised.
Barrio de Malasaña:
Now... This whole paragraph is biased biased biased. I am in love with this neighborhood, and find it (along with La Latina) to be the best in Madrid. It has all you need... from coffeeshops, to restaurants, to bars - all which you will find in the post made specifically about food in Madrid. The neighborhood has great stores where you can find any gift you need to take back home, or any gift for yourself as well. I suggest you just get lost and walk, but don't forget that to walk through these streets:
Fuencarral - if you want to do some heavy shopping.
Valverde & Colón - for some good coffeeshops.
Corredera Alta de San Pablo - if you want dessert.
Plaza Dos de Mayo - to see an iconic plaza surrounded by bars and restaurants.
Plaza de Sol:
The most crowded plaza in Madrid. Where you will go to eat 12 grapes on New Years or see people dressed up in giant Panda costumes asking for photos... I say go, but don't linger - unless you see some guys that do one of those street performances... Those are pretty good.
This place used to be the old city center. An impressive plaza that often hosts small markets and other events, its part of the history of Madrid and definitely a good place to walk by and snap a pic.
Mercado de San Miguel:
Tourists. Favorite. Tapa. Place. And I say tourist because I too was a tourist once and I arrived to Madrid looking for tapas and ended up here. Don't get me wrong. If you have never been to Madrid or experienced tapas, this is a good place to start - but please KNOW that there are tapas everywhere else around you too (La Casa del Champiñon, 2 minutes from this place for example). My take: go, look, and maaaaybe try a tapa or two.
Palacio Real de Madrid:
My instruction (or advice, I guess I shouldn't be giving you any instructions because you are here on your own free will) is very easy: Buy the early tour ticket in advance. The Palace is worth the visit is you beat the crowds, because you will get to enjoy it so much more.
Catedral de la Almudena & Catacombs:
The Cathedral and Catacombs have different access points, just so you know. This is one of the newest cathedrals in Madrid and therefore you will find that the art is different, which for me is very appealing. All cathedrals in Spain however are stunning and I might actually do a post on Cathedrals and Churches in Spain at some point (add this to my to-do list too please).