The City that Never Sleeps
“Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.” That pretty much sums up Madrid. So much so that, I could finish the blog there, leave you to go explore Madrid, wash my hands and be done with this like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
Nonetheless, enough rambling. That quote that I dropped in to start off this little travel thing was by some guy called Ernest Hemingway from his book Death in the Afternoon that he wrote in 1932. Hemingway knew his stuff clearly and the fact that he saw the city that way in the 30s shows that this great city has always know how to make the most of the day.
Going Crackers for Barajas
Firstly, that is a great name for this subsection and I know great names. If you’re wondering what it means then don’t, I just thought it sounded good. Most people who travel here will be coming into Barajas airport meaning you’ve got to work out the best way to get to the centre. All taxis have a set rate of 30 Euros from the airport to the city, so they shouldn’t charge you more. I fell afoul of this when I first moved to Madrid in 2012 for Erasmus. I won’t say how much I paid, but let’s just say it was more than 30 and Richard (yes I referred to myself in the third person) felt kind of embarrassed afterwards at how ripped off I was. Basically, make sure they confirm the rate before the start of the journey.
Alternatively, you can take the metro from the airport on Line 8. Line 8 (the pink line as no one remembers the numbers) has two stops at the airport, one for T1, T2 and T3 and the greedy Terminal 4 has a station all to itself. A single ticket from the airport costs 4 to 5 euros, but you might as well just buy the 10-trip tourist ticket for the metro for 18,30. Failing that, you can get the intercity trains branded “Cercanias” from T4 with a single ticket costing 1,70.
Hotels, Accommodation – A Place to Lie Down in Madrid
As a resident of this great city, I don’t have much knowledge of places to stay, but I won’t leave you thinking, “What kind of travel blog is this if it doesn’t recommend a place to stay?” Therefore, I will tell you that I recently stayed in a NH Hotel in Lisbon, which was superb and ate at the NH Nacional in Madrid close to Atocha, which was once again, superb. FYI, get the Small Calamari Sandwiches. These are incidentally a delicacy in Madrid. Obviously, NH is quite up-market so be prepared to pay out for the quality, but with several hotels in the city they have some great locations to choose between and are a decent option if money isn’t a worry.
On the other hand, you can never go wrong with Air BnB. You can find competitively priced flats and rooms at short notice. I would stay in La Latina, a great area for bars and restaurants, which you’ll hear more about later. You’ll be within walking distance of Puerta de Sol, but have restaurants and bars on your doorstep, without being in the middle of the Madrilenian chaos.
Royal Families, 11 European Cups and a Tonne of Art
In case you didn’t know, Spain has a royal family and therefore a Royal Palace or Palacio Real as it’s more commonly known. Shock, gasp, horror. State ceremonies and functions take place there, but you can also go on a tour of the building. Prices range from €5 to €11. Adjacent to the palace is impressive Catedral de la Almudena, which can be visited between 10am and 2:30pm Monday to Saturday.
One of the most famous squares in Spain, it’s hardly a surprise about the popularity of Plaza Mayor with locals and tourists alike. Travelling football fans for European trips to Madrid, see it as a great meeting point before the match, taking advantage of the variety of bars and restaurants situated in the portal of the square. December sees the square turn into a Christmas market, creating those Christmassy feelings we know all too well. Puerta del Sol is just a hop, skip and a jump away and is undoubtedly one of the busiest places in Madrid. Believe it or not (you should), the location is the radial centre of all Spanish roads and harbours one of the most famous symbols of Madrid the Estatua del Oso y El Madroño.
For those of you who are on tenterhooks eagerly wanting to find out what it is, stay calm and I’ll tell you. It’s a 20-ton statue of a bear eating fruits from a tree, and this logo can be seen all over the city from the City Council’s logo to Atletico de Madrid’s emblem to shameless tourist souvenirs. Retiro Park is the biggest park in Madrid, houses great sculptures, galleries and monuments, whilst hosting a variety of events such as the finale of the city’s marathon.
Probably one of the most famous football cities in world, Madrid is mostly renowned for the trophy machine that is Real Madrid, who recently won their 11th European Cup against their city rivals Atletico de Madrid, who (do I need to finish this sentence) haven’t won any. Tickets to Real Madrid start from approximately 40 euros depending on the fixture and 30 for Atletico de Madrid. My advice would be to watch Atletico if you’re interested in a pure football atmosphere, but if you’re reading this post 2016-17 season, then this may be redundant as Atletico could be in their new stadium, the Wanda Metropolitano, pending construction delays. The Bernabeu tour is also a possibility for the football obsessed for 24 Euros.
If you love art, then there’s enough in Madrid to keep you satisfied for a bit longer than a few days with three internationally known museums in the form of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Museo del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. I usually can only survive in one museum, before my brain refuses to absorb any more complex paintings and drawings, but for those of you made of sterner stuff you can get a combined ticket to all 3 for 29 Euros that is valid for one visit to each museum from the date that you purchase it.
Eating, Drinking and Eating
If there’s one thing I love to do in Madrid, it’s to ir de tapas also known as to go out and eat tapas whilst having some cañas or vino tinto o blanco as you go. As a big fan of Mexican food, I’m going to throw in a few typical Mexican options as well, just because I love the food, heck it’s my blog isn’t it?
For a real bar-hopping tapas experience, La Latina on a Sunday evening is the place to go. Calle de la Cava Baja is the centre of most activity in this neighbourhood and you can criss-cross down the street until your heart’s content. A good place to start is La Taberna Los Huevos de Lucio, get yourself a decent red wine and don’t forget to order the Huevos Rotos here. In case you want to know what Huevos Rotos are, they are basically fried eggs, chips, serrano ham, but here they come with Pimientos de Padrón, which are small green peppers. Kiev as well is a great option. They serve niche beers from mostly Eastern Europe with an Eastern European s twist on the tapas experience. A word of warning though, I asked for a “Sorpresa” and they ended up serving me a few 9% beers. Game changer.
Alternatively, one of my favourite sit-down restaurants in Madrid is located close to Puerta del Sol. Normally, I advise people to stay away from the monstrosity of a tourist trap that Puerta del Sol is, but there is one place I can’t help but go to. This place is Venta el Buscon. My recommendations are the garlic prawns and la parrilla, add in a decent bottle of red and you won’t be complaining. Along a similar line, is Entre Caceres y Badajoz in the Salamanca neighbourhood of Madrid. You can either stand at a table or have a sit-down meal here. The tapas they bring with your beers or wines are rather substantial here, so I suggest you order a big salad and main plate to share as that will be sufficient. My standard order is the entrecot de buey, which is essentially a steak that they bring you out on a boiling piece of salted stone, allowing you to cook the meat how you want. Additional benefits here include a complimentary shot, pallet cleanser and pastry at the end (if you order enough).
I had promised you a few Mexican choices. La Taqueria Mi Cuidad is a small taco bar (it really is small) on Calle de las Fuentes. Tacos range from about €1,50 to €2,50 and are according to my Mexican friend “very authentic”. 6 tacos usually satisfy me. Nearby is one of the La Venganza de Malinche franchises in Plaza San Martín. This outlet is betting for drinking and having some nachos. €10 for a bucket of 6 beers and a plate of nachos represents decent value. The other outlet close to Gran Vía metro station is much more appropriate for a proper meal. My person recommendation is to ask the waiter for the €25 set meal, where the waiter brings you out an unknown mixture of dishes to try and dig into. Before you ask, yes it includes a drink.
We want to thank Richard for his contribution, thanks for the great story!