The last time I was in Madrid was December 2010, during my backpacking tour of Europe with my BFF. We arrived in the city about a week or two before Christmas, and the city was buzzing with festive spirit. Tons of tourists, lights everywhere, Christmas markets in place, and a giant tree lighting up Puerta Del Sol. The weather was chilly, but nothing our Canadian bodies couldn’t handle.
Madrid was at the end of our trip, and because of that I felt that we didn’t give it our all. We made sure to do the quintessential “free” walking tour which allowed us to see some of the major Madrid sights, such as Palacio Real and Plaza Mayor, while simultaneously brushing up on our Spanish history. But to be honest, we were more concerned with what night to do the pub crawl and if we should go into Topshop or Berksha first.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time in Madrid the first time around, however, I am excited to get a second opportunity to explore the city. Especially during a warmer time of year!
Here are five things I am excited to see / do this time in Madrid:
El Rastro is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid. I’ve been told you can find almost anything in this labyrinth, and haggle one hell of a bargain. Apparently, it is also one of the best people watching places in the city, and we all know how I love my people watching! I would love to experience the atmosphere of El Rastro and work on my negotiation skills in the meantime, so I’m really hoping I get a chance! El Rastro is open every Sunday and public holiday from 9:00-3:00, but it’s best to get there early to avoid the overcrowding.
Mercado de San Miguel
During my last visit I passed by Mercado de San Miguel a few times but never stopped in to grab a bite. What a mistake! This place looks like so much fun. The market is located just outside Plaza Mayor, and is one of Madrid’s oldest and most beautiful markets. With a variety of vendors it is essentially a tapas food market that is buzzing from open to close. I can’t wait to pop in for a tapas, a glass of wine and something to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Parque del Buen Retiro
Also known as El Retiro, the park originally belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until it was released to the public in 1868. This beautifully manicured 350 acres is right at the edge of the city centre. It houses amazing sculptures and monuments, pristine gardens, the Cristal Palace, and more. We’ve already knocked this one off the list just yesterday and spent the afternoon exploring the enormous grounds. It’s a great place to have an overpriced coffee, or as we plan on doing, bringing a picnic lunch, some reading materials, and relaxing the day away.
Day trip to Toledo
Once the capital of Spain, Toledo is located about 70km south of Madrid and has history dating back to the 8th century. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its extensive cultural and historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures. Popular for it’s beautiful cobblestone streets, delicious marzipan, El Greco artwork, and medieval castle, just to name a few features. With the city being a short train ride (30 min) outside of Madrid, I definitely think it’s worth a day trip to see the “City of Three Cultures”.
The Museo del Prado is Spain’s national art museum and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Madrid. It is home to extensive collections from some of Spain’s most renowned artists, most famously Francisco de Goya and Diego Velázquez. The museum contains more then 7,000 works of art that represent Spanish culture from the 12th century to the 19th century and although I am not an art buff, this is a collection that has definitely piqued my interest.
Do you have any “Must-See’s” for Madrid?