It’s no secret that Spain is one of my favorite countries in the world. After studying abroad in the south, then returning as an au pair a few years later, I love the spirit and culture found throughout this beautiful place. Although I’ve explored all over Spain, I haven’t yet spent enough time in Madrid to satisfy my curiosity. In the near future, I hope to make a beeline for the capital city to see what all the buzz is about with some of my best traveling buddies.
Hit the hotspots
If pressed for time, the best way to conquer a new city is to see all the highlights first, then dig a bit deeper. Madrid has its fair share of incredible historic points of interest, outdoor spaces, entertainment venues and tasty restaurants. Get a lay of the land in some of the city’s biggest parks, especially Plaza Mayor. Perfect for people watching, this area is the prime spot for hanging out during soccer matches and Christmas markets too. Only steps away is the oldest restaurant in Madrid from 1725, as well as gorgeous examples of Hapsburg architecture.
To really get your history on, make a stop at any of the spectacular museums in city center, including the Prado National Museum and the Thyssen Art Gallery. Another grand presence is the Spanish royal family and Royal Palace of Madrid.
Wander without purpose
Madrid neighborhoods are all very unique and worth exploring a little on their own. The Austrias area is city center and where you’ll find most museums and plazas. Down a ways is the Gran Via, or main street of Madrid. There is where you can try some shopping or some afternoon Spanish tapas for lunch.
It can be a thrill to get lost in the more compact and residential neighborhoods too. Wander through Moncloa, connected to shopping streets and narrow lanes for exploring. Those who love nightlife can have their pick of places like Malasana, which has some incredible music bars and clubs, or Chueca, known for a vibrant gay scene at tons of al fresco dining.
Planning a trip to Madrid
It couldn’t be easier to get to Madrid from the UK. Many airlines provide direct flights from London airports every day, which are fairly wallet-friendly if you plans far enough in advance. These can be bundled with accommodations as well in the city, which are plentiful and fit everyone’s budget. Many people speak English in Madrid, but it can be polite (and fun!) to pick up a few Spanish words before the trip. As Madrid is central, you can also take domestic flights, train or a rental car to other spots in Spain, including southern Andalucía or the Mediterranean coast.