Madrid , like every other city I visit to was etched in my mind through articles, blogs and photographs. I had completed my usual research before visiting the country & the capital was the first place I was landing on. Most articles mentioned the "energy" of this city. When I kept feet, I could feel it too, its that obvious, & almost captivating! The people are loud,sometimes bursting into their favorite songs at a famous dining plaza or while strolling the streets at midnight! You feel that rush of something happening , and oh then you are reminded of how "pickpockets" are always around in Spain, and you should be alert. You shake yourself from that energy that draws near, afraid, you might get robbed. But no, the people are very interesting and brimming with life. I was lucky, I didn't have to deal with any unpleasant incidents,probably I seemed poor (laughs).
Here are the top 5 things you must do in MADRID:
1. Stay at the old city centre
Madrid is a mix of old and new architecture like any ancient developed city in the world. Travel back in time, by staying around Plaza mayor or near the San Miguel market. This is the place that reminds you of an ancient Spain, lined with heritage buildings of importance and scores of dining places around the plaza Mayor. Not only this,the old city centre is the best place to stay if you wish to cover every important place like the palace,plaza mayor,puerta del sol, Gran Via etc on foot! And most importantly, I always recommend staying at an apartment rather than a hotel. There's nothing more enjoyable than the experience of living like a local in another country!
|My window at RED Door Madrid- the apartment we stayed at!|
2. Visit the Palace
If you are a hopeless romantic , slip into any palace in the world and your dreams will come true. After visiting the Schonbrun Palace in Austria and the Palace of Versailles in France, the Real Palace in Madrid seemed like a logical decision. This is definitely 3rd in the line up of best palaces in Europe. You would be amazed this is a 2000 Room palace! I am glad I stepped into this huge palace and felt totally like a queen, yet again. Visit the lavish rooms -about 50 rooms are open to public, but alas, NO CAMERA allowed! While I am yet to share the Versailles pictures ,with you , I am glad to say nothing beats Versailles in grandeur. I will be soon writing about Versailles and you can see how the richest kings in the world lived! A thing to note in this palace is definitely the Royal Armory. Unbelievable heavy metal that was used in the wars- something that reassured the kings that they will never be wounded in wars! Again no photography allowed, so I couldnt click no matter how tempted I was. They had full armory even for their horses . The craftsmanship will stun you. If you were to wear that for wars, rest assured ,you wouldn't get a scar on your or your horses' body too! Also, like every palace in Europe, there is a nice cafe . You must end the visit with a cup of coffee ( Cafe Con Leche) and a salad from the salad bar at reasonable prices. Fill all you can :)
3. Do the Tapas Crawl
The Spanish are obsessed about how good their Tapas is. You might want to believe so. But to tell you the truth, it gets better only if you can eat everything and anything , and this includes the famous Iberian Ham & beer. For a vegetarian, choices are you might choose between differently done Patatas Bravas, Cheese croquettes or perhaps the Gazpacho and even Tomato-mozarella Bocadillo (sandwhich with Baguette ) .
For those who don't know "Tapa" is finger food or "starters". Mostly deep fried, tapas are flavored lightly and can fill you up like a meal. They are available in different portions - smallest portion - TAPAS- suitable for 1 or 2 persons depending upon how hungry one might be. The next portion size is "RACIONES" or dinner sized plates. Some bars also have 1/2 or media-Raciones. I always ordered 2 Tapas portions between the 2 of us and it was just perfect. I once had a 1/2 Raciones for myself which I couldn't finish! Though, I could eat the Croquette and Patatas all the time , boredom sets in & I constantly fell for the Italian cuisine and ended up with atleast a pizza a day! Why you need to hop between Tapas bars is because each place has a distinct flavor and a slightly different menu. For example the "Pimientos De Padron" or the Padron green peppers tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt aren't available everywhere, but I gulped them each time I saw them on the menu !!! They are crunchy, soft and delectable! The Spanish love turkish/lebanese cuisine too, which means you also have access to great Falafel.
|Must Visit Tapas joint|
4. Get Touristy at Puerta Del Sol
Post Sunset, don't forget to gather with the crowds at Puerta Del Sol- the liveliest square in the city, again very close to the old city centre. Locals perform on the streets- Dance/Drama/Music and so much joy! Though they would be talking in Spanish-Yeah! It will still entertain you.
5. Retail therapy at Gran Via/Puerta Del Sol
Starting from the Puerta Del Sol , there are hoards of shops where you can buy anything and everything. All fashion majors- Zara/Pull & Bear/Stradivarius/Mango/Woman's secret etc have multiple shops in here. Walk till the Gran Via for more of these fashion brands and shop to your heart's content. For me, I found shops like Lefties( Its from the same group as Zara- Inditex. Surprising right!!! ) , Ale-hop (utility knick-knacks) super reasonable and one should definitely pick up winter-wear from Lefties! You can get the best of bomber jackets, biker jackets from Lefties under 20 Euro~1500 Rs approx. Also, if shopping hard makes you hungry, dont forget to stop at Emporio Pizza at Serrano.
|Pizza at Emporio Ristorante|
Stay tuned for more posts on Spain and France!