Updated: Jul 25, 2020
At last! I finally made it to the capital of Spain. I think I’ve been to Spain about six times in the last year, and this is the furthest north I’ve been. And I have to say, Madrid is probably my favorite “big city” in Europe. Everything about it was so charming. And the Spanish they speak in Madrid is so crisp and pure, as opposed to the tough accents they have down south.
I feel like everywhere I went the bartenders, servers and uber drivers were calling me “guapa,” which means beautiful, but in an endearing way, like “what can I get for you, beautiful?” I met my little sister Adela, 21, in Madrid for a super long weekend, Wednesday to Sunday. She is currently living in Spain (Sevilla) through Colorado State studying abroad. And I loved hearing her take on the country and its people. As you know, we are currently in the process of getting our Spanish citizenship.
Adela tells me the whole country lives by this motto, “no pasa nada,” which directly translates to “nothing happens” but means more like: don’t worry about it, nothing happened or chillax about it. People say this if you accidentally bump into them, are worried about something, or seem distressed. You will also hear people say, “tranquilo” or “tranquila” which means relax/smile/chill; it is a sweet gesture. My sister says if she buys a bag of chips at the store and starts opening them in the street the old people will yell at her to relax, meaning she shouldn’t eat in a hurry but should instead get home and eat in a relaxed state.
If you know anything about Spain you know about their “siestas” or mid-day naps. The whole country chills out from about 3-7PMish and takes a mini nap. People here wake up late, they start work around 10 AM and usually don’t eat dinner until about 9-10 PM. I find their way of life to be freeing and happy. That being said, I don’t think many Spaniards would get along well in our regular fast-paced American 8-5 world LOL.
Overall, Madrid was a lovely, slower-paced city with food from Spanish gods and goddesses. I live for the Spanish tapas! We stayed in central Madrid in the Las Letras neighborhood, it was the perfect location to walk to all of these things listed below. Enjoy!
Lindley's Madrid Top Ten
Via Wikipedia, “The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish royal family at the city of Madrid, although now only used for state ceremonies. The palace has 135,000 square meters of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms. It is the largest functioning royal palace and the largest by floor area in Europe.” But seriously, it is magnificent and you must go see it. The whole palace is adorned with gold, even the fences and light posts. The king currently lives in there, but the building is so large, that he opens up one side for tourists to go see inside. Also next door is the Amundo Church where the royals get married -- stop there too!
Colorful streets in La Latina
This neighborhood is a maze of tight streets painted different colors that is filled with little tapa bars and cantinas. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Madrid, it was built on a medieval Islamic fort. If you are in the area you have to go get tapas on Calle Cava Baja, it is a famous tapa street where locals hangout—the tapas bars are packing in tightly and their restaurants pour out onto the street (note they do not open until 7 PM).
I made a friend, Kirsten, on an Airbnb experience and she took us to this cool spot! On its website it calls itself the biggest gastronomic and leisure center in Europe. We went there on a Friday night around midnight. During the day you can enter, but it’s difficult. Apparently, you have to enter through a secret tiny door in a fruit market. It is a ton of fancy cocktail bars with amazing food that center around a huge stage, with kind of a Vegas vibe. There are multiple levels of seating and it has a wonderful, friendly laid-back atmosphere. I think most Spaniards “pre-game” here before hitting the big nightclub scene.
San Miguel Market
This market is absolutely stunning. I almost feel like the word “market” is too low class for this place. It is a market, but super upscale, and the prices reflect that. But they do up all the best Spanish tapas and they are made to look absolutely stunning. I will never forget seeing the avocado toast bar.
Puerta Del Sol
This is the Time Square of Madrid. When we got there, they put up a giant Christmas tree—it was bigger than most of the buildings. There are lots of street performers and outdoor concerts, and shopping galore.
Built in 1561, this is the original market square in Madrid. It is a perfect square that will most likely be filled with tourists. But it is still a must see, you can see how they used to close it off to protect against invasion.
This is another iconic stop in Madrid. This is a big street lined with shopping. The whole street reminds me of Paris in its architecture. Adela and I visited a six level Primark and did a little too much Christmas shopping.
The Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical feel, much of the architecture is made of marble and the main sculpture in the center with the fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid. The Cybele Palace is in this square, it was once the original post office in Spain but now serves as the city hall. These buildings are stunning.
Similar to central park, it is a giant park in the middle of the city. It is 350 acres and used to belong to the King as his private garden, it was open to the public in the late 1800s. If you are out walking around the city and need a nature break, this is a beautiful place to stop.
My good friend Sascha recommended this stop to me. Adela and I were about to turn in for the night when we came upon this place, and I am so glad we went inside. We had to wait outside for maybe 20 minutes to get a table, but it is worth the wait. The drink menu is what the place is famous for. If you are in the mood to drop 10 to 15 euro on a bomb drink experience, this is your place.
They had smoking drinks, crazy colored drinks, drinks in fruit.. drinks beyond your wildest dreams… Adela ordered a drink that came out in a glass snail bong of sorts! Plus the lights are wild. Oh, and there is no service inside-- so you won't be distracted by your phone. It is very inmate and a bit quieter than some bars, it has nice music and is a great place for a date or a relaxed drink.
C O M I D A
I told you I love the food. So, here are a few things to ask for and try. I really love the “tinto verano,” this is a bubbly red wine that all the locals drink and is typically cheaper than water. I am obsessed with: piemientos, paella, spainsh tortilla and jámon. Most tapas places should be able to get you those things! Adela really loves “chocolate y churros,” which you’ll see lots of Spaniards out having late at night—this is also a must experience.
A I R B N B
Here’s a link to our Airbnb plus, nothing too special, but nice and everything we needed. It was my first Airbnb plus and honestly I did not think it was much different from the regular ones.
All the photos of me in this post came from an photoshoot Airbnb experience I did. You can find that here: https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/691521 I highly recommend!
T O P S T O P S
There are a few other things that are also worth doing that were not in my top ten but still deserve some love. The Templo del Debod—it has some original Egyptian architecture in the outside open air, this location also overlooks the city. And do not forget the Prado Museum!
I also found two brunch spots I really loved: Zenith Brunch, which is right behind the Gran Via and Plenti, which is a cute family owned place in central Madrid. There is also an upscale Spanish restaurant called Velazquez, which is by recommendation of a Spanish friend, that is how you know it is good.
P R O T I P
If I can give you any valuable advice it is to go to Madrid Monday to Thursday. During the beginning of the week the city is empty, quiet and charming. But if you are out on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday… it will be shoulder to shoulder and very boozy, and that goes for their entire central Madrid area. It can also be fun, but it is harder to explore when weed whacking people. Also it is a very sleepy city, so if you want to see the sights in solitude go in the morning hours.
Thanks for reading! Off to Budapest in T- minus 12 days!
XOXO HAPPY HOLIDAYS