“God worked six days, and rested on the seventh. Madrileños rest on the six, and on the seventh… go to a bullfight.” ~ H O’Shea
They say that the party never stops in Madrid. Madrid is a bustling city full of life and a great atmosphere. In the heart of Madrid, streets are lined with restaurants, pubs, shops, hotels and so much more. The metro system is easily accessible, therefore you need not rent a vehicle to get around.
We quickly learned to stay away from the tourist area when eating out and headed towards where the locals ate. Our first breakfast was at a place close to the Plaza Mayor. We had the “Pincho de tortilla” (potato omelet), bread, coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Breakfast for two was €15. It was a good thing we spoke Spanish and could interact with the staff. They were very polite and provided us with friendly advice on where and what to do.
Cafeteria Neila at Calle Santa Maria 41 was about a 10-minute walk from the Plaza Mayor. It’s not a fancy place. It is a small café with not much appeal to it, but the breakfast was good. We had the same as the previous day at the other “touristy” café for €7 for both of us! I highly recommend it.
Another meal we enjoyed was at Ciudad de Tui Restaurant, right off of Puerta del Sol Plaza. One thing I wanted to eat in Spain was “Caldo Gallego,” it’s a delicious broth native to Galicia — which I didn’t know until we arrived in Spain. That’s why it was so difficult to find in Madrid, not all restaurants serve it. While searching for a place to eat we came across Ciudad de Tui which was running a lunch special that included an appetizer, soup, salad, bread, main course, dessert, and wine for €10.95 per person. The “Caldo Gallego” was the deciding factor of us, and I don’t regret it because it was delicious. The environment was clean and inviting and the decor was just a tad fancy but very nice. The service was great. I would definitely recommend it.
We could not leave Madrid without eating their famous churros and hot chocolate. There are a few places where you can enjoy this delicious local treat. It was one of the first places we stopped at and had churros with chocolate dipping sauce, coffee, and hot chocolate. It was good and less than €10 for both. It was the perfect complement to end the night.
Restaurante San Cristobal, at Calle Marques Viudo de Pontejos, is a small quaint place offering tapas and paella. We had paella and wine (of course). It was not the best out there, but it was good. The restaurant seemed popular among the locals because it was full. The atmosphere was pleasant, and the service was okay. Dinner for two was somewhere around €20 with wine included.
We also tried Restaurante Puerta de Vigo in Madrid, just a few steps away from Templo del Debod. Our breakfast was the same as it had been since we arrived, so we stuck with the same and paid about €8. They had other breakfast items on the menu, but, as you can see, we really liked these items, hence why we order the same for breakfast. Unfortunately, the service was not good, and the staff was neither helpful nor polite. We didn’t return after the experience and don’t recommend it. But it’s up to you.
La Mallorquina Bakery brought me memories of Puerto Rico. There is or was one in San Juan. I’m not sure if it’s still open. It is a famous bakery and established in 1894 in Madrid. You’ll find it just steps away from the Puerta del Sol Plaza. La Mallorquina specializes in delicious sweets and pastries. When we visited the bakery, it was fully packed to where there was barely any standing room during our visit. It was busy therefore we left and didn’t make any purchases.
Plaza Mayor is one of the most famous and busiest places in Madrid. It is surrounded by three-story residential buildings with over 230 balconies facing the plaza. Plaza Mayor is home to restaurants, vendors, locals dressed as characters and live music, and a lot of tourists. It is also a hangout for locals.
Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is another famous plaza where you will find the statue of The Bear and the Strawberry Tree. The statue is Madrid’s official symbol. It represents the official Coat of Arms of Madrid. At Puerta del Sol you’ll find famous name brand stores, restaurants, the metro train station, souvenir shops and lots more.
The very famous Mercado San Miguel is a stylish covered gastronomic market located just a few steps away from Plaza Mayor. From café, bakeries and meat markets to a beer house kiosk — you’ll find delicious and varied gourmet cuisine. However, don’t expect any seating accommodation because there aren’t any. Well, maybe a couple of tables at most. You can buy whatever you please, and if you’re lucky, you might find an empty chair at a table. Otherwise, enjoy your meal while walking around.
Mercado San Anton is a three-story building with an open atrium in the center that comprises a full traditional vegetable, fruits, seafood, meats and bakeries market where you can shop for your favorite foods. The second floor is a mix of culinary café which includes Spanish and Mediterranean foods among others. The third-floor terrace is their prized architectural restaurant, La Cocina de San Anton, which overlooks Madrid. At La Cocina de San Anton, a traditional Spanish restaurant, you can buy your choice of meat in the first-floor food market and take it up to the restaurant where they will prepare it for you to your liking.
We wanted to visit places where the locals shopped. That is how we ended up at Plenilunio and the Alvaro Medez shopping malls. Both are huge shopping malls in Madrid. They are very modern with a wonderful variety of shops and some exclusive ones too. They are both very close to the airport — a great option if you have a few hours to spare before heading to the airport.
We enjoyed a visit to The Templo del Debod (Temple of Debod) on Calle Ferraz in Madrid. It is an ancient Egyptian temple donated by the Egyptian government to the Spanish people in 1968 as a “Thank You” for the aid given by Spain.
We spent some time at Parque del Retiro, on Plaza de la Independencia. The park belonged to the Spanish monarchy until the late 19th century when it became public. It is one of the largest parks in Madrid and it’s free. There’s a lake for rowing, palaces that are now exhibition halls — one of them being the Glass Palace. It is a beautiful and peaceful park, perfect for meditation. The park is lined with many beautiful Mediterranean Cyprus trees, which seem as if they were carefully landscaped. I’ve never seen them anywhere else and don’t know if it’s trimmed to look this way or if it’s the natural form of the tree. Here’s a photo, what do you think?
The official residence of the Spanish Royal Family is the Royal Palace. They use it for state ceremonies. The palace is surrounded by a lovely garden, Campo del Moro. It has a large attractive fountain and perfectly landscaped grounds. You will probably see a wedding photography session in this area as it is a perfect place for it.
Madrid is a wonderfully vibrant city. Its narrow streets and architectural structures make a perfect backdrop. I love that pedestrians are far more important than vehicles. Pedestrian crossings equipped with stop lights are everywhere, which means a lot to me for personal reasons. I enjoyed my stay in Madrid and will definitely visit again.
Have you been to Madrid? If so, what places have you visited and what was your experience like?