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After 4 days in Barcelona, we took a train ride for another 4 days in the capital of Spain... Madrid. My first impression of Madrid is that it's much more like any major metropolitan city in the states. Tall buildings with a metro station and lots of people. The museums in Madrid show more historical art. That being said, as a first visit to Spain, I had to visit the capital. However, I can say with certainty that I prefer visiting Barcelona over Madrid.
Retiro Park (map it)
- A large park (no admission) with large walkways, tall trees, man-made rivers, but not may flowers.
- There are a collection of statues and fountains to visit, but mostly picture spots without much description in the park (as expected).
- Palace of Crystal is a must stop. You need to put on shoe coverings and be careful where you step inside, but otherwise admission is free.
- Walk through the park at your own pace.
Barrio de Salamanaca (map it)
- An area to walk around with lots of shops.
- The perfect place if you like to shop, especially for fashion.
- Many boutiques and high end shops.
- Not very crowded at all. I saw very few tourists.
- It was nice to walk through, but not my personal interest.
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas (Bull Fighting Arena - map it)
- Bull fighting arena
- A big part of Madrid’s history, so a must visit.
- Includes a self-guided audio guide that guides you through the arena.
- Get a chance to actually walk on the sand of the arena in the middle (on days they don't have a bull fight)
- Takes about 1 hour to listen to the audio tour and walk through the museum.
- They still have bull fights, so if you're lucky to be around, you can catch a show.
Yakitoro by Chicote (restaurant - map it)
- Spanish-Japanese fusion
- Lots of good food.
- A great stop of the pace from the normal spanish food.
Hotel NH Collection Madrid Suecia (Hotel - map it)
- The outside facing rooms are much nicer/traditional/brighter than the inside courtyard facing ones. Because we arrived late, we got stuck one night with one of the inside rooms with two twins combined into a queen, which doesn't feel like an NH Collection caliber room. Luckily, NH Collection had available rooms the next night. The outside facing room didn't have a view, but was very bright. Outside room had a bathtub where the inside room lacked a bathtub.
- Room comes with bottled water and Nespresso machines with 3 pods per night (can always request more from the front desk)
- The entrance is a bit confusing, as the front glass window shows the name of their restaurant instead of the hotel name.
- Despite many less than stellar reviews on TripAdvisor regarding hotel customer service, I found the service to be outstanding.
- 2-3 blocks away from Espana Banco Metro station.
- Requires 1 transfer to get to the train station, so we decided it was easier to call a taxi since we had large roller bags.
Museo Nacional Del Prado (Museum - map it)
- Typical museum with mostly historical Spanish paintings.
- There is an optional audio guide for 4 Euros per person. If you bring ear buds, there is an audio port so two people can use one.
- The audio guide doesn't guide you through museums, but instead gives additional information regarding the famous pictures.
- There is free admission to the Prado National Museum for the last 2-3 hours (check their website for details), but the lines are VERY long, so by the time you get in, there might not be much time left to browse. The line queues (if facing the ticketing office), to the right side of the museum.
- Admission when we visited is 15 Euros per person.
- We got lucky and visited on National Day, where there was free admission for everyone for the full day.
Mercado San Miguel (Square/Plaza)
- A sort of covered night market which vendors selling ready to eat food.
- It can get crowded and I’m sure the food is overpriced.
- Limited standing tables to eat and drink.
Puerta Del Sol Station (Metro Station)
- At night, the areas surrounding this station becomes lively, mostly packed with tourists.
- Lots of souvenir shops
- Lots of restaurant options
Flamenco Show (Entertainment)
- We purchased the tickets ahead of time online for 39 Euros per person at the Cardamomo Theatre.
- Comes with a welcome drinking, and a bottle of wine per group.
- We have the option of ordering dinner, which we did not order. However you can always order food when you arrive.
- It’s an hour of dancing (reminds me of a Spanish style of tap dancing) and singing with live music.
- There are many places that do Flamenco Shows, including some street performances (throughout cities in Spain).
Plaza Mayor (Square/Plaza)
- A very large square completely surrounded by a continuous building.
- Lots of restaurant options with outdoor seating.
- Statue in the middle of the square.
- Shops line the first floor of the square.
Royal Palace of Madrid (Museum - TripAdvisor)
- Again, because we visited on National Day, the Royal Palace was on partially opened, and at that point only one exhibit was open featuring painting and sculptures.
- I expect the Royal Palace to be nice, but due to the holiday we were unable to visit. Based on the name, this should be a must stop location.
The Spanish Farm (Restaurant - TripAdvisor)
- A more unique restaurant that serves small plates of food good for sharing.
- In a relaxed environment, which only has a handful of tables indoors only.
- A couple of blocks away from the Royal Palace.
- Really well prepared veal fillet and jamon plate.
Los Montes de Galicia (Restaurant - TripAdvisor)
- Really good cheesecake, not as dense as the American cheesecake.
- Higher end restaurant, with white table cloth service.
- From what I can tell, I noticed many local business people at this restaurant.
Chocolateria San Gines (Restaurant)
- There were a couple of these, but we choose the more popular ones.
- We shared 1 cup of hot chocolate (thick a rich chocolate) that comes with 6 churros for dipping into the chocolate.
- Order first at the register. They will give you a receipt and a ticket containing your order. Find any seat. A waiter will find you and will bring you your order based on your ticket.