Let me begin this post with one word: food.
Madrid is a foodie’s heaven! Between the tapas and the churros, I think we each gained ten pounds during our four days in the city.
We started our food trip with the famous Mercado de San Miguel. The market was packed and offered a wide variety of tapas, seafood, and desserts. Our favorite item was the mountain of burrata cheese served on a piece of bread below. Everything was delicious, but it was a bit pricey and touristy.
We had read about the delicious churros con chocolate in Madrid, so we were excited to try them, but were sadly disappointed by our first batch. We bought them in the Mercado de San Miguel, and the churros themselves were fine, but the chocolate was more like a hot chocolate drink rather than melted chocolate.
Once we filled up on fried dough, we walked through Madrid’s endless plazas. Below is the famous “Tio Pepe” sign located in the Plaza de Puerto del Sol. We’re not quite sure why it’s famous, but I figured it’s still worth sharing a picture of it!
We loved all of the street performers in the plazas—each one was more creative than the next!
The statue below is the El Oso y el Madroño (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree) located in the Plaza de Puerto del Sol. It serves as the symbol for Madrid and is the picture on their flag.
Plaza Mayor is the most distinct and colorful plaza (in my opinion), but it was always crowded and a major tourist trap. Some of the restaurants were very good though, and our hostel was nearby, so we ended up walking through it frequently.
After exploring the plazas, we visited the Almudena Cathedral.
The church took nearly a hundred years to build and is known for its unique ceiling paintings. Even though there’s no competition against the Sagrada Família for our favorite church, it was still beautiful, and we loved the distinct ceiling design!
Alright, I think it’s time I shed some light on our not-so-delightful hostel experience. We stayed at a really cute place called “The Hat Madrid,” which was very clean and had great decor. It’s a lot more like a hotel, which is why I picked it.
We stayed in a six person room and had a private bathroom in our dorm. Initially, I saw that as a huge perk, but I quickly realized having a shared bathroom right next to your bunk bed is far from enjoyable. Between being the only English speakers in our room and having a hungover guy stay in bed the entire day (aka we had to leave the lights off and be quiet every time we were in the room), it was off to a bumpy start.
By the second night, I was the only girl left in our room. Which meant I was sharing a bathroom with five guys. The smells alone were enough to convince me to never stay in a hostel again! I avoided the private bathroom in our room and opted for the communal one in the hallway—so much for splurging for the bathroom upgrade!
I will say, I would like to formally thank my brother for all of the traumatizing bathroom sharing experiences I encountered growing up. He certainly prepared me for this trip!
The next morning we found a cafe called “Cereal Hunters.” It’s a bar that serves every type of cereal you can imagine—alongside a selection of Pop Tarts and milk. Even though it was an American inspired restaurant and a bowl of cereal cost more than an entire box back home, we loved it! We rarely purchase cereal, so it was a treat getting to enjoy our childhood favorites! Any other Fruity Pebbles fans out there?
As much as I dislike hostels, we were impressed by the free walking tour ours offered. The guide was great and very knowledgeable about Madrid’s unique history! She even showed us a few spots we wouldn’t have found on our own, like the place below. This picture is taken through a circular hole in the wall surrounding the graffiti park, which is about to get torn down.
For lunch, we opted for tapas and sangria at a restaurant called Taberna El Sur. It’s off the beaten path, but worth it! Plus it was the most authentic Spanish meal we had. It’s traditional in Madrid to receive tapas whenever you order a drink, but not every restaurant follows that rule. Before our sangria arrived, we were already eating delicious tapas. The food was fantastic—particularly the Spanish omelet! And they gave us a complementary Amarula mixed with Kahlua shot along with a bowl of gummy candies for dessert.
While we were eating a man and his dog walked into the restaurant. The dog promptly put his paws up on the bar and barked. The bartender immediately pulled out a small plate of bread and started feeding the pup his doggie style tapas. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen!
We walked to the botanical gardens after lunch to see their new tulip display. Unfortunately, it was a little early for all of the flowers to bloom, but it was a beautiful park and a very relaxing way to spend our afternoon.
The Círculo de Bellas Artes is known as the best view in Madrid. They have a rooftop bar and great lounging chairs. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon!
As we were walking back to our hostel that night, we noticed a procession heading out of Plaza Mayor. We were there during Semana Santa (Holy Week in Spain), and this particular procession was for Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday).
The whole experience was like nothing we’ve seen before! We didn’t understand much of the symbolism behind the march, but it was incredible. We kept thinking they were moving so slowly until we realized that they were waiting on poor men carrying the massive casket structure on their shoulders. You can’t tell in the picture, but many of the men were shaking and grimacing in pain from the heaviness of their load.
We read a suggestion online to visit the plazas early in the morning before the crowds of tourists and street performers take over. If you’re out there by 8:00 am, the streets are empty! It was well worth waking up early for, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Spain.
To reward ourselves for waking up early we decided to try the famous Chocolatería San Ginés to give churros con chocolate a second chance. This place is open 24 hours a day and reminded us of Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.
We are officially hooked! Churros dipped in melted chocolate will forever hold a special place in our hearts—all thanks to this wonderful establishment.
After our major carb-loading session, we headed to the Puerta de Alcalá. It’s a huge monument, and they planted beautiful flowers for Spring on either side of it.
Madrid is full of amazing food markets, so we decided to check out a couple of unique, less populated ones. We walked through Mercado de San Ildefonso, which is small and known as the hipster market. The pictures below are of Platea. It’s located in an old theater and feels very upscale. We didn’t buy food at either place though since we were still so full from breakfast.
Some of you may not be familiar with geocaching, but it’s essentially a worldwide scavenger hunt. People hide tiny little boxes or capsules, and you use GPS coordinates to locate each one. Once you find it, you sign the ledger inside the object. It’s been a fun way for us to track some of the places we’ve visited while we travel.
I don’t usually take any pictures of it, but the two geocaches we did in Madrid were so unique I had to share them! We try to be a little discreet when looking for them, but sitting under a telephone booth drew a bit of attention to the hunt.
The next geocache required you to unlock a stool across the street and use it to climb up and grab the cache from behind a sign. Such a creative hiding spot!
For lunch that day we ate wraps since we had eaten so heavy all week. Of course, we couldn’t be healthy for too long because there was a fantastic ice cream shop called Mistura located right next to the cafe. I picked the arroz con leche flavor, and it was by far some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten!
During our walking tour, the day before our guide showed us where to try Madrid’s famous madroño liqueur. The El Oso y el Madroño (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree) statue shown earlier in the post is the type of tree where they get the berries to make this liqueur. If you go to a tapas bar called “El Madroño,” then you can get a shot of the drink in a chocolate coated cone cup. We loved it!
For dinner, we decided to go to “La Campana” to try bocadillos. We had seen a long line outside the restaurant every night, so we figured it must be a good spot. This was by far the most efficient line I’ve ever seen. Once we reached the front, we ordered, paid, and were given our food in less than a minute!
Unfortunately, we weren’t very impressed by the bocadillos. It’s just bread with salty calamari on top. It doesn’t come with sauce or anything, so I think that would have made it better. At that point though, we had already consumed so much fried food that the sandwich put our stomach aches over the top.
Even after our fried food coma the day before, we still had to try one last dessert the next morning. It’s called a torrija, and one of the best places to get them is “La Mallorquina.” It’s French Toast coated in sugar. The flavor was good, but it was served cold, so I’m sure it would have been a winner if it was heated.
Since we had extra time on our last day, we decided to explore Arganzuela park. It has a unique footbridge and a bunch of slides!
Our last stop was the Templo de Debod. We had to hike up quite a hill to get there, but it was cool to see an Ancient Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid!
Templo Debod is next to the Palacio Real (Royal Palace of Madrid), so we ended our time in Madrid by exploring the palace gardens.
We loved spending a couple of days in Barcelona (which you can read about HERE), but I must admit, Madrid won our hearts! The incredible food alone is hard to beat, and the city is beautiful.
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