With Europe’s winter closing in on our Best Life adventure we raced towards Morocco for some well-needed warmth from the African continent. But with the Spain’s capital smack bang in the middle of our path across the country it would have been a crime of gargantuan proportions to forfeit a quick stopover in Madrid.
With its elegant tree-lined boulevards, perfectly manicured parks and enough art to fill a galaxy-sized gallery taking a couple of days to get amongst it was a well-worthwhile deviation. But with only 48 hours to spend in this cultural wonderland it was a race against time to fit everything in…but somehow managed it!
GET YOUR ART ON…
Madrid is the epicentre of Europe’s art galleries and a walk of less than 1000m takes you past the door of three of the world’s finest. Each offer very different catalogues and collections of peerless masterpieces that change every few months so it’s worth checking out the websites to find which best suits your taste.
Take into account those listed below have free entry at different times of the day, so plan your visit well and you’ll get to see them for absolutely nothing!
Museo Nacional Centro do Arte Reina Sofia – Free entry on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m, Sundays 3 p.m. – 7 p.m
Museo Nacional del Prado – Free entry from Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 8pm, and Sundays and holidays from 5pm to 7pm
Thyssen-Bornemisza – Free entry to the Permanent Collections on Mondays between midday and 4pm
TAKE A BREAK FROM THE CITY….
Once you’ve raced around the palaces, promenades and paintings of Madrid there’s nothing better to escape the sound of people and traffic than a walk through Madrid’s main park El Retiro and, depending on what time of day you visit, it appears to take on a number of different personalities.
Arrive at sunrise and it’s the perfect platform for the fitness generation with walkers, runners, and early morning strollers using the wide roads and green spaces to flex and get in shape.
By late morning, families and friends socialise around the fountains and stroll through the grounds of the beautiful Palacio de Cristal, home to yet more incredible art exhibitions.
As the sun sets over the Monumento Alfonso XII fountain, in the centre of the park, the boating lake comes alive with cafes, bars and rowing boats that make the perfect place to watch the world go by.
FEAST LIKE A LOCAL…
A visit to Madrid isn’t complete unless you dined on some of the most tempting and tantalising tapas in the world. Home to world-class food, markets bursting with variety and the most delicious ham I’ve tasted mean it’s definitely worth visiting two of my absolute favourites. Just make sure your belt has a couple of holes in it to cope with your waistline expansion!
Packed full of enthusiastic foodies, this culinary, cultural centre has a huge range of tapas, sweets and treats where even the most discerning diner will struggle to taste one of everything before they leave.
My personal favourites – sea urchin croquettes, goats cheese stuffed olives wrapped in smoked salmon and any of the divine deserts on offer washed down with a glass of local red wine.
If you prefer to get away from the touristy hotspots and dine where the locals go, then visit O´Pazo de Lugo and gorge on pulpo a la gallega, a Galician delicacy of octopus and potato, sprinkled with paprika.
Other treats to sample whilst you’re walking the streets? Definitely a cone filled with Serrano ham, and of course some Churros con Chocolate.
LIVE AMONGST IT…
Being in the centre of a city usually means paying through the nose for good quality, comfortable accommodation but we found an absolute gem of a place, located right in the centre of the ‘art triangle’.
Artrip Hotel has been a labour of love for owner, Miguel and his family who’ve lovingly restored the former apartments that have been in his family for many years.
With its own gallery featuring the work of local artists, the hotel reflects the vibe of this cultural section of the city with exposed brick, a stunning staircase, bountiful breakfasts, staff who make you feel like part of the family and simply can’t do enough to help.
The rooms are light, bright and equipped with ultra-modern bathrooms, plus the view from the balcony onto the street below is a wonderful insight into the lives of the locals.
Madrid deserves more than 48 hours to explore and understand its different sides and, although we visited in the depths of winter, was warm, welcoming and easy to explore on foot. If you’re feeling lazy or the heat of the Spanish summer is cooking you to the core then rent one of the city’s electric bikes – BiciMAD.
Have you been to Madrid? What are your favourite local hang-outs?
Photo credit: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid Abariltur https://www.flickr.com/photos/abariltur/