Madrid: Travel Tips and Inspiration For The Spanish Capital!
Planning a trip to Madrid?
In 2011, I flew to Madrid which was the starting point of the European leg of my round the world trip. At the time my friend Jay was living there and doing his master’s degree. Lucky for me he hosted me at his apartment. I was only planning to stay 5 days in Madrid but on my 4th day I ended up in the emergency room. I was diagnosed with a lung infection and this put a damper on my plans.
Looking back I remember crying and wanting to quit my RTW trip and go home. I called my brother and he told me to relax and see how I felt in a few days. My plans had me in Barcelona next and staying in a hostel. Ugh. I decided to postpone my travel, stay in Madrid a bit longer, and recuperate at Jay’s apartment. While I was there I stayed mostly indoors but also managed to visit a few markets, a couple of museums, rest, and eat a lot of jamon.
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Here are some photos from my stay in 2011:
Rather than walk around aimlessly, I found a free walking tour by Sandemans that guided me around some of the major attractions around the city. The tours often advertise as free but you should always remember that these nice guides work on tips. Solo traveller tip: I always meet nice people on day tours. After this Madrid tour, I went for beers with a couple of other travellers.
Palacio Real de Madrid or the Royal Palace
Puerta Del Sol
The Spanish streets
I would often sit in El Retiro Park and just people watch
When in Spain, you eat a lot of jamon (ham). You will be over jamon by the time you leave Spain but then you will weirdly miss jamon once you leave.
I randomly came across a ham festival, yes it’s true (Feria de Jamon Iberico)
Mercado de San Miguel, a must visit in Madrid
Who doesn’t love breaded fried goodness? Croquetas!
Sangria jug at Mercado de San Miguel
Restaurante Botin, the oldest running restaurant in the world
Chocolateria San Gines: if you are a chocolate lover, you must go here
Chocolate y churros!
Another great market to visit, Mercado de San Anton
Seafood at the market
Outside the Prado Museum
Palace Hotel at night
Must dos in Madrid
- Mercado de San Miguel
- Mercado de San Anton
- Parque del Buen Retiro
- Plaza Mayor
- Puerta del Sol
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (omg Guernica by Picasso!)
- Museo Nacional del Prado
- Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
- CaixaForum Madrid
- El Rastro – flea market on Sundays
Some handy Madrid travel tips
- I took the Metro to and from Barajas Airport which cost me 5 Euros + the fare to your destination. It’s super easy and cheaper than a taxi. I took out some cash from an ATM so that I could get on the train. Click here for some foreign banking tips!
- The Madrid Metro now requires you to buy a Metrocard which is re-loadable. You can buy a single trip or a 10 pack
- Uber does exist in Madrid (use my code uberarnette in the app to get a discount if you have not used the service) so you can also get an Uber rather than take a taxi if you have a lot of bags with you
- If you are looking for an even cheaper way into the city, use the taxi app Cabify. I found a discount code and my cab ride cost me $12 Euros to the Salamanca area rather than the normal 30 Euros. Use my code ARNETTES1 for discount
- I needed to communicate with my local friend in Madrid so I got a prepaid mobile plan with Yoigo. I believe it was about 20 Euros and it gives you 20 Euros in credit or about 1 G of data for a month (2011). It worked out well because I was able to use it all over Spain and Google Maps gives transportation times for buses and metro. Please note they make a photocopy of your passport when you buy a sim card with them. Now I have a T-Mobile account in the US which gives me unlimited data worldwide. Click here to see more about the best phone plan for travellers.
- I am not much help for accommodations for Madrid since I stayed with my friend Jay. I also cooked a fair bit since I was sick with a lung infection so I would visit the Eroski nearby and buy groceries
- If you are looking for a budget-friendly grocery store, Mercadona is a good one
- Take a walking tour. Most of them are free. I took the one by Sandemans in several European cities. A great way to get a little bit of a history lesson, a guided walk to the site, a great way to meet other travellers if you’re solo, and meet a local (guide) who knows the ins and outs of the city. Don’t forget to tip them well!!!
- When I was sick I went to the Hospital La Princesa. I had travel insurance which was great but it actually was not expensive if I were to pay cash. Treatment was just like any hospital I had ever been to minus my lack of Spanish skills. The hospital gave me an inhaler for free (I know that Advair costs $150 at Costco in the US with co-pay) and prescriptions cough syrup and antibiotics were only 8 Euros at the farmacia. Insane!! I remember buying some antibiotics at Costco in Indiana and they were $150.
- Since I was sick and feeling under the weather, I would must up some energy and wander around different neighbourhoods each day. Some days I would sit in a coffee shop and drink cafe con leche and just people watch.
FOR MORE HELPFUL POSTS AND LINKS:
- Toledo: A Super Easy Day Trip From Madrid
- A 24 Hour Itinerary For Madrid
- 12 Free Things To Do In Madrid
- Guides And Travel Tips For Spain And Other Destinations
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- Use this link to research your flights
- Get up to $40 off your first stay with Air Bnb by using this link
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