Madrid is a beautiful spanish city that is easily visited on foot. It’s a city with a lot to explore but relatively small (or rather, with all the main attractions near each other) and flat. I’ve been to Madrid about 5/6 times and I still love it! Visiting the Parque du Retiro , strolling along the Gran Via, entering the Royal Palace,… are always good plans.
About two years ago, on Ryanair’s Black Friday promotions, I saw flights to Madrid at € 10 roundtrip on a Wednesday. I thought it was an incredible opportunity to go to the Christmas markets and then I spoke to a friend of mine, we booked a vacation from work and bought flights there. It was a good adventure!
We woke up early that day because the flight was at 6.30 am. To facilitate the whole process, we left the car in one of the airport’s parks (if I’m not mistaken it was on P4 – see here). From there it was the normal process, going through check-in, having breakfast and embarking towards Madrid. The plane ride is very fast – about 1h15, meaning, we arrived at Madrid-Barajas airport around 8.45h (Spain has plus one hour when compared to Portugal).
Madrid airport is quite large but has several indications which makes it a lot easier. After disembarking from the plane , follow the arrows to the metro station. From the metro to the city center it takes approximately 45 minutes and the ticket costs around 5€.
Parque du Retiro
We went straight to the Parque du Retiro area and walked around there. Parque du Retiro is one of the main “green lungs” of the city with more than 1.25 km2 of area. It combines vegetation with culture, has a gigantic lake where the Monument to Alfonso XII is located and it is also in this park that the Crystal Palace is located. I have to write a post for the blog to tell you about this park, which is one of my favorite places in the Spanish capital.
Plaza Cibeles and Gran Via
After a long walk through the Parque du Retiro and already warmer up (it was very cold this morning!) we headed towards Gran Via. Until we get there, we pass through Puerta de Alcalá, which is in one of the corners of the park, and Plaza de Cibeles, one of the most important squares where several parties take place and where Real Madrid celebrates when it wins the championships. Right next to this square are two well-known buildings in Madrid: the Banco de Espanha and the Metropolis Building, which is at the end of the intersection where Gran Via begins. Gran Via is for Madrid like Times Square is for New York, or like Avenida da Liberdade and Avenida dos Aliados are for Lisbon and Porto, respectively. We traveled along Gran Via to Plaza del Callao (obviously we made a quick stop at the giant 5-storey Primark store ).
Lunch at Rodilla
When we arrived at Plaza del Callao it was already about 11.30 am. It was early, but we were already hungry because we had breakfast around 6 am. We then took a lunch break at Rodilla, a Spanish sandwich restaurant chain that I personally love.
Puerta del Sol
Already with a full stomach and with recharged batteries, we continue our visit to Madrid. It was my friend’s first time in the city so I prepared a simple itinerary that passed through most of Madrid’s attractions. We then went to Puerta del Sol, one of the most famous squares in Madrid where the Kilometer Zero, the Statue of the Bear and the Medronheiro and the Casa dos Correios are located. After enjoying the beauty of this square and taking some photos, we walked to Plaza Major where the Christmas markets were located.
Christmas Markets at Plaza Major
As I was only going to stay in Madrid one day, I only had the opportunity to go to the Christmas markets at Plaza Major and I can say that I was not surprised. I think I had more, so I ended up a little disappointed. In general, they are a set of red stalls where Christmas decorations are mostly sold and festive music is heard (Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle all the way ). I ended up not buying anything at Christmas markets because I didn’t find anything that delighted me.
Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena and Royal Palace
After a walk through the Christmas markets we went to another of my favorite places in the city: the Royal Palace. In front of the palace is the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena, a cathedral that combines Neoclassical and Neo-Gothic styles and which is over 100 meters long and 73 meters high. You can visit for free and I advise you to do so. Then we have the Royal Palace, the largest royal palace in Europe (yes it’s true!). A beautiful building known to be the official residence of the King of Spain 👑. As we had little time we chose not to visit the interior but if you have the opportunity do not fail to make it worthwhile (I have already visited it twice and I really liked it!).
Sabatini Gardens and Temple of Debod
The Sabatini Gardens are located at the back of the Royal Palace. They are a green space that has several fountains and sculptures. From there it is possible to capture very beautiful photographs of the palace 📷. Another site that has a privileged view of the Royal Palace is the Temple of Debod, which is an Egyptian temple from the second century that was donated to Spain. To get there you have to go up and up and keep going up (there are really many stairs!).
Plaza de Espana
And we are almost at the end of the itinerary that I had planned and thankfully because we were already quite tired… The last stop of the day was at Plaza de Espana, a very important square that is flanked by the Torre de Madrid (one of the tallest buildings of the city) and the Spain building (built in 1953 in a neo-baroque style). In the middle of this square is a statue of ‘Don Quixote’ in honor of the writer Miguel de Cervantes. When we arrived at Plaza de Espana it was only a few hours before our return flight, so we decided to go for a snack of chocolate churros before going to the airport. The return trip went well although, with a lot of turbulence!
Do you already know Madrid? If so, what are your favorite attractions? Tell me everything in the comments or on the blog’s instagram (if you still don’t follow don’t miss the opportunity – click here). I really hope you enjoyed this publication and have gain new ideas for your next trip to the Spanish capital. See also here the post about Parque Warner in Madrid.
Thank you all and Merry Christmas! ❤️🎄