72 Hours in Madrid
I'm finally (a little unfortunately) back in the US! I took a traveling literature course in January that spent seven days in Paris, two days in Venice, seven days in Florence, and five days in Madrid. It was incredible (aside from almost dying on TWO SEPARATE FLIGHTS but we don't need to talk about that). If you're applying to college, in college, or going back to college, take advantage of study abroad. I seriously believe studying abroad this time, and when I spent a month in Siena, were the highlights of my college career. I was so busy though I didn't have time to post anything (or sleep, do homework... you get the idea), so I'm super excited to start getting posts out on all these spots!! The photo gallery for my time in Paris is already posted, and you can find it here. Next week you can expect a post about Venice :)
So technically I was in Madrid for more than 72 hours, but I'm pretty sure you could knock off all these activities and restaurants in a long weekend.
Okay so I rant and rave about AirBnb all the time, but ESPECIALLY in Europe they're such a steal. You can get the coolest places for such a small amount of money. I don't like to provide specific listings because the links change and whatnot, but check them out here.
If you need some other suggestions, here are three more awesome places to stay in the heart of Madrid:
1. The Hat
The hostel scene is amazing in Spain, and the prices! After being in Paris, where a very subpar sandwich cost 17€, you can imagine what a relief it was to be in a city where a cute, clean hotel room cost the same price! You can get a private room for 17€, or a shared room starting around 15€. The rooms are seriously so well decorated (lots of natural light for the 'gram), this hostel has one of the highest rated breakfasts in the country, and it has an adorable rooftop bar that locals frequent for drinks and tapas. They also have an awesome location very close to Plaza Mayor, and they're great for accommodating groups.
2. Hotel Urban
If you, unlike some of us (me), have more than 17€ to spend, check out Hotel Urban. Things are still cheaper in Spain than the US, because you can get a luxury, five-star hotel room for around 160€. Splurge and spend a night here so you can enjoy the outdoor swimming pool, sauna, solarium, and gym. The decor is undeniably designer and the hotel is located in the cultural golden triangle of Madrid, between the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. There are two restaurants, one of which has a Michelin star. In addition to all of this, you get a welcome drink on arrival, a welcome bottle of wine in your room, and mineral water every day... 160€ is sounding like a better deal.
This hotel is where our class stayed during our time in Madrid. The hotel is beautiful, for sure the nicest we stayed at in Europe. It clocks in right between the first two, starting at 129€ a night. The rooms are decorated beautifully, and there's a fitness studio and hot tub in the lower level. The breakfast buffet was arguably the best part though. It's breath-taking. Literally beautiful. They have croissants, detox juices, supplies for Bloody Mary's and Mimosas, omelettes, all kinds of fresh fruit, and probably the most impressive Nespresso machine I've seen in my life. And more. They also have a "tea-time" from 5-8 pm where guests can get free appetizers and drinks. The location is great as well, we were able to walk pretty much everywhere, from the Prado, to the nightlife, to tapas and the Plaza Mayor.
I had no idea what the cuisine in Spain was going to be like, and I'm OBSESSED. I love the tapas culture, even if it means I have to wait until 9 pm to eat (seriously, restaurants don't start opening until 8:30-9 pm). You pay less and get a smaller amount of food, which makes it so much fun to order a bunch of plates and share as a table. Some of my favorite places around the Plaza Mayor were:
Probably the trendiest of all the restaurants we went to. They have got aesthetics right. Not sure where the name comes from or... why, exactly, but I'm into it. They have the coolest mini cocktails (they really aren't that mini) for 5€, served in awesome variations of fun drink glasses (think fishbowls and sombreros). Very Instagrammable. However, be sure to make a reservation. We went fairly early (so, around 8:45 pm), and it was still super busy.
I can't say enough good things about the service here. From the second we walked in the door (again, stupidly without a reservation), all of the staff were fun, funny, and so hospitable. They offered to create a makeshift table for five in the bar since the dining room was full, and provided a full on show for a friends birthday (including turning off the lights to sing, bringing out extra shots, etc). Also, the food was incredible. We ordered so much we thought we were going to die but didn't have the willpower to stop. That's how good it was. Our server pretty much created our order for us, and I suggest trusting the staff because, seriously, so tasty.
A really fun place for traditional tapas. This restaurant has a two level indoor seating area as well as a huge patio open year-round, and still managed to be almost full each time we went (yes, more than once). The patio is located in a picturesque square next to the patios of two other restaurants, which creates a great atmosphere. Lateral was where I experienced my first Spanish Tortilla, the traditional Spanish dish that is similar to a potato omelette, and it was amazing. Also, please do yourself a favor and order the mojitos, which might have been the best I've ever had in my life.
If you're going to get churros in Spain (and you have to get churros in Spain), do yourself a favor and go to this longstanding tradition. Open 24 hours, 365 days a year since 1894, it's understandable why this establishment is a staple of Madrid. Go during the day and you'll likely see a line of tourists, but the hours also make this spot a favorite for locals after the discotheque. Tell me what sounds better than a drunk churro dipped in chocolatey goodness. I'll wait.
Located along the Gran Via, the Museo Chicote has been frequented over the years by too many famous people to count. Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra, Sofia Loren, and more. The cocktail menu is ridiculous and amazing. They offer new spins on old classics, as well as premium cocktails served in the coolest glasses, shareable cocktails, and shooters. Be careful of what night you go, however. Fridays and Saturdays are the best (though busiest) nights to go, when they have tapas as well as the full cocktail menu. Only the classics are available during the week. Go early to snag a table or seat at the bar, as it starts to really full up around 9 pm.
One of the most prestigious art collections in the world. We spent around two hours there and didn't even brush the surface. It costs 15€ for admission to the 7000+ paintings on display. The artwork serves as an amazing window into Spain's history, from Velazquez royal portraits to Goya's "black" paintings.
The Reina Sofia may not be quite as famous as the Prado, but it holds Spain's arguably most famous painting; Picasso's Guernica. The Guernica takes up an entire room and offers an amazing view into both the Spanish revolution and Picasso's work. It was my favorite piece of art that we saw in Spain. The Reina Sofia, among many other amazing pieces, also houses an impressive and very interesting selection of Dali's work. Admission costs 10€.
One of our classmates rallied everyone to come to a football match, and to be honest I wasn't that excited about it at first but I'm so happy we went. It was an amazing experience and cultural immersion, plus I saw basically every swearing gesture I've ever heard of in the "away" section next to us. The stadium was huge and impressive and there really aren't even words to describe the atmosphere. Prices vary, but we managed to grab tickets for 40€.
Housed in an incredibly beautiful 20th century glass-walled building, the Mercado de San Miguel is one of the most impressive tapas markets in the city. It's located very close to Plaza Mayor and the place is packed on the weekends. You can find pretty much every kind of food imaginable for super reasonable prices. They have Spanish traditions like cod croquettes, as well as vegetarian spins on classics, like a garden Paella I tried for 5€ that I would do morally questionable things to eat one more time. They also have lighter sides like fresh fruit with cream, and so many dolços it's a dessert heaven.
Plaza Mayor is a beautiful open space with a bit of a nefarious past (I'll let you look it up yourself, but think Spanish Inquisition persecutions), built in the late 16th century. The old royal buildings that make up the walls of the courtyard are covered in beautiful frescos, and it makes a wonderful place to sit in the sun on a nice day. Most of the best gift shops and restaurants are located just outside the plaza, however. Most of the restaurants and souvenir shops inside are a bit of a tourist trap.
This beautiful palace is worth a visit whether you pay for a tour or not. We didn't pay to get in, but walked around the gardens and cathedral and it was still definitely worth the walk. Admission costs 11€, and once your inside, the views of the countryside beyond Madrid are truly amazing. You can also tour some of the 2800 rooms, hear about the history, and view the collection of Goya's and Stradivarius violins. The palace is also occasionally used for royal ceremonies.
This was one of my favorite places to visit. Circulo de Bellas Artes is an art building hosting exhibitions, readings, film showings, and more. But the best part about this building is the roof. Take the elevator to the 7th floor rooftop, where the view of Madrid is one of the best in the city. You can see the mountains, the skyline, and the beautiful dome of the Metropolis building. The rooftop also has two bars and a lounging area where couples lay in the sun with a drink, or groups of 20-somethings sit around high-top glass tables. It costs 4€ for admission to the rooftop, and after that you're free to just take pictures and leave, have a drink or two, or even post up with your laptop and an espresso and get some work done.