Did you know that Madrid is the second most populated metropolis in Europe just barely smaller than Berlin and much larger than Paris? The capital of Spain is known for its beautiful architecture and for its green and leafy environs. In fact, Madrid has more trees and green spaces than any other city in Europe! The city boasts more in-row planted trees than any city in the world with the exception of Tokyo. All of this makes Madrid an excellent place to live and work, so why not give it a visit?
Madrid at sunset: clearly after siesta!
Madrid was thus fought over and switched sides several times until the final Re Conquista during the 15th Century. Madrid became the capital of the Second Republic in the early 1800s and has maintained political prominence ever since.
Aside from its size and green parks, Madrid is renowned for its baroque architecture, its expansive art collections, its vibrant old town, its unique culture and nightlife, and its love of football! There is something for everyone in Madrid and the local residents enjoy life as few others in the world!
Madrid-Barajas Airport is a modern facility where you are most likely to land. From the airport, you have three modes of transport to arrive in the city centre. The quickest and most convenient option is to take a taxi from outside your terminal. The journey takes 30-minutes and should cost around £30 one way. Alternatively, head to floor one of Terminal 4 and catch the train into the city. The route, departing from ‘Aeropuerto T4’, takes roughly 30-minutes and costs as little as £3 one-way. If you’ve landed at a different terminal, take the shuttle bus to terminal four and you’ll arrive in minutes. The third and final mode of transport from the airport to the city is by bus. The journey takes a little longer than a taxi or the train, but a return ticket costs just £5.
Here’s a Pro-tip: The Spanish siesta is real! Most family-run and boutique shops will shut between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, though larger chain stores tend to stay open. Similarly, most restaurants close after the lunch service at around 4:30pm and re-open again around 8pm. It’s worth knowing this so you can plan your days according to the local customs.
There are so many things to see and do in Madrid from admiring beautiful plazas to wandering through glorious gardens. Below are some of my absolute favourites:
- Plaza Mayor – Kick-start your time in the Madrid at Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square and the heart of Madrid. The square was first built during the early 17th century and has remained a hub of activity to this day.
The Plaza Mayor is no minor sight!
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – ‘Reina Sofia’ is the most visited museum in this capital of many beautiful facilities. It holds an incredible number of artworks from the former royal collection. I love to see the impressive Guernica painting by Pablo Picasso but there are so many priceless works held in this museum!
- Museo Nacional del Prado – Despite being a bit smaller than the Reina Sofia, the Prado is the better known museum. This national treasure hold masterpieces by Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, just to name a few. This exciting museum forms a triangle with the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum that offers the most incredible combined collection in the world!
Not everyone in this park seems to be retired?!
- El Retiro Park – Sprawling gardens, 19th-century architecture, and a stunning lake make up El Retiro Park in central Madrid. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a picnic, or perhaps take a romantic stroll, look no further than this green oasis.
- Royal Palace of Madrid – The official residence of the Spanish royal family is quite an impressive sight! Join a guided tour and learn about Spain’s royal heritage as you explore 19th-century gardens and private royal apartments.
- Santiago Bernabeu and Metropolitano Stadium – The homes respectively of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, these stadiums have all of the reverence of cathedrals for the followers of La Liga. Catching a home game for the side you support is a fantastic way to experience the vibrant passions of Madrid!
Madrid is home to a mix of Michelin-starred restaurants and quiet family-run eateries, and there’s more than enough options to suit every palette! Here are some excellent places to dine:
- Corral de la Moreria – This Michelin-star restaurant is headed up by chef David Garcia who creates simple Basque dishes with a twist. So, what’s so special? The restaurant is tucked inside a flamenco bar. Food and passion are on the menu in equal measure!
These goodies are hard Tapas up!
- Cantina la Traviesa – If you’re after a lively, family-run, restaurant then look no further than Cantinas. Passed down through four generations, this little restaurant cooks up a storm, and you must order their seafood paella.
- Botin – Want to tick the world’s oldest continuously working restaurant off your bucket list? Head to Botin, a traditional Spanish restaurant that dates back to 1725. If it’s good enough for the royal family, then it’s good enough for me!
Nightlife in Spain’s capital is never-ending, and you can enjoy a lively atmosphere from sundown to sunrise! Here are my favourite bars and clubs:
- Bendito – This cosy wine bar is stocked with some of the region’s best bottles and is a popular hangout with sommeliers and hipsters alike! The best thing about Bendito? It’s not too fancy, yet the staff are incredibly in-the-know when it comes to wine!
- Del Diego Cocktail Bar – For a glossy evening sipping Martini’s surrounded by Madrid’s most beautiful residents, head to Del Diego. There are more high-heels here than high-balls so don’t forget to dress to impress!
- La Coquette – This funky underground cellar bar is one of Madrid’s hippest watering holes and my favourite place to enjoy live music! Order a Mahou beer, take your seat, and settle in for an eclectic night of blues music.
Budget or boutique? Madrid is home to a variety of accommodation options from affordable self-catering apartments to 5-star luxury hotels. In 2019, it was determined that about 70% of downtown contained short-term apartments with Airbnb letting about 25% of all available. Below are my three favourite places to stay in the capital:
- Palacio Plaza Conde de Miranda – Palacio Plaza Conde de Miranda is a collection of funky movie-themed apartments, each equipped with a handy kitchenette and living area. For an extra memorable stay, opt for a balcony apartment and enjoy city views.
- Gran Hotel Ingles – Want to stay in Madrid’s oldest luxury hotel? I always do! The Gran Hotel Ingles offers a glamorous 5-start stay in the heart of Madrid. The hotel’s 48 rooms are elegantly designed, and you’ll likely be tempted to spend the majority of your stay enjoying the onsite facilities, which include a spa, restaurant, and lobby bar!
- Plaza Espana Skyline – Stay in the heart of Madrid in a luxury serviced apartment! You’ll feel just like a local yet enjoy the perks of a cleaning service, airport transfers, and a 24-hour reception.
Madrid is one of the great capitals of the world! Whether you visit to admire art, explore its tree-lined streets or cheer on your La Liga team, Madrid never disappoints!