I. Loved. Madrid. The Spanish architecture was very colorful and the people were so friendly. All of the museums had student discounts or free hours so that we were able to save money and experience everything that we wanted to. It had a lot of green space and the whole city closed for siestas. I can really get behind a culture that supports the mid-day nap.
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas
Our first stop in Madrid was the Plaza de Toros for a bull fight. Throughout Spanish class in high school, it seemed that every other example sentence had to do with bull fighting and I distinctly remember a poster of it in my teacher, Mr. Swaringen’s classroom. I am very grateful that I got to see an event so rich in Spanish tradition while in Madrid, but I would not go again. We paid for a ticket that lasted the whole evening, but we only stayed for one fight. It was fascinating, but sad to see an animal go through such a bloody sport.
Parque del Oeste
After the bull fight we returned to our hostel, Sungate One, that offered a picnic in the park at sunset for dinner. The hostel was located just blocks from the Puerta del Sol and a short walk from the park. The hostel was very clean and the rooms were the perfect set up for the three of us. The had several different events planned throughout our stay that guests were welcome to join, or not. I really enjoyed it!
Just a short walk from our hostel, we joined a free walking tour in the Puerta del Sol. From there we walked to the Plaza Mayor. There happened to be a royal procession going through the plaza at the time, which was very exciting to see!
Sobrino de Botín
From the Plaza Mayor, we walked past Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world. Our walking tour guide knew someone at the restaurant and we got there before lunch time so they gave us a tour. It was incredible! The restaurant opened in 1725 and was mentioned in a Hemingway novel.
The tour continued to the palace and the cathedral, but on the way our tour guide told us about this restaurant. The restaurant is named for the “strawberry tree”, madroño, on the flag of Madrid. It serves liqueur made from the tree’s berries in chocolate covered ice cream cone shot glasses.
Museo Nacional Del Prado
After our siesta, we headed to the Prado museum. I unfortunately did not take any pictures at the museum, but the art was incredible. I saw paintings by Picasso and Velázquez. We went during their free hours in the evening, so I wish we had more time to explore all the museum had to offer.
Right next to the palace in Madrid, is the Royal Armory. It had weapons from centuries of the long Spanish military history. There was armor, swords, and shields.
Palacio Real de Madrid
The palace in Madrid was really nice. And while it was opulent, it had nothing on Versailles, which we had seen just a week before. The palace had an interesting exhibit on the role of Spain and the European Union in recent history.
Catedral de la Almudena
Construction on the cathedral began in 1897 and wasn’t finished until 1993. It’s architecture is strangely modern with an exterior facade to match the palace standing just across the street.
Parque de El Retiro
I loved Madrid, and that may all be thanks to this incredible park. There were pathways with designed areas but also a lot of open fields. It was huge!
We were also able to rent row boats in a pond and paddle around for a little bit. We each took a turn paddling, and Cassidy took a turn napping.
Palacio de Cristal
Deep in Retiro Park was the Crystal Palace. (It looks just like one at Magic Kingdom in Disney World.) Inside, there was a modern art exhibit with tapestries. The palace tucked into the side of the park was really a beautiful sight to behold.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Our last stop in Madrid was the Reina Sofía. We were able to go to the modern art museum during the free hours toward the evening. The art was so different and interesting. My favorite is photographed below with the colorful string. It was mesmerizing to look at in person.