Beautiful architecture, tapas galore, and flamenco
Madrid was the first destination in our two-month stay in Spain. We explored beautiful architecture and tranquil parks, took in a Flamenco show, and ate lots of tapas.
The visit to Madrid was a bit sentimental for Lori because she has been there twice. The first time was a two-week high school trip at age 16. Her best friend and boyfriend at the time went too, so there were some fun times. The second visit was for a college summer study abroad program which also included Malaga and a bus trip through other parts of the country.
Sightseeing in Madrid
Madrid is a very easy city to explore because many of the attractions are within walking distance or a short metro ride of the city center. There are wide boulevards, like Gran Via, and quaint narrow streets that converge into plazas. The city has many elegant buildings, tranquil parks, and gardens.
The Palacio Real was built in the 18th century and is currently used for state ceremonies. We took a peek at the exterior and adjoining park and gardens, but did not go inside for a tour (Lori did the tour on a previous visit, and Michael didn’t really want to see the interior).
Retiro Park was built in the 17th century and is a wonderful urban escape. There is a small man-made lake where you can rent a rowboat (not our favorite part of the park), cafes, statues, fountains, and beautiful gardens. We really liked the narrow, tree lined walkways because it was like strolling in the forest.
The Plaza Mayor is in the oldest part of the city and is a popular site for concerts and events. The perimeter is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. Just outside the plaza, are many tapas bars and the oldest restaurant in the world.
Madrid has several major museums. Lori went to the Prado on a previous visit and Michael is not hugely into museum exploration. So we went to just one – Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The museum is in a really interesting building that has an interior courtyard with sculptures. The large collections focus on contemporary art and include Picasso’s famous Guernica. Lori’s favorite collection: Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World, has a historical basis.
Shopping in Madrid
Our flat was within walking distance of some of the main shopping areas, Puerta del Sol and Gran Via (which also has some lovely architecture). Two of Lori’s favorite clothing chains were steps from the flat: Custo and Desigual, where she got a few items to substitute for the clothes that were getting worn out after four months of wear.
Flamenco is a long time tradition in Spain, and seeing a live performance is a must when you visit. There are tons of tablaos in Madrid, and since we were not familiar with the different performers, we picked Cardamomo because it had good reviews and was close to our flat. The venue is intimate, there are 100 seats, and you can have dinner or just drinks. The 10:00 PM show included performances from four dancers, along with some wonderful music.
- Dancers: Isaac de los Reyes, Aloma de Balma, Kelian Jimenez, Irene la Sentio
- Guitar Players: Camaron de Pitita, Aquilino Jimenez
- Singers: Antonio Ingueta, Miguel el Rubio
- Percussion: Bandolero
Food and Drink
Spain is a great eating and drinking destination, and Madrid has an incredible nightlife. The sun sets late and dinner doesn’t typically start until 9:00 or 10:00. We picked a flat that was within walking distance of many restaurants and tapas bars so we could take advantage of the nightlife. We love noshing our way through the night on tortilla Espanola, jamon, and acetunas, accompanied by sangria. We went out at night more during our one-week stay than we did the entire four weeks in Istanbul.
Mercado de San Miguel: We were excited to find Mercado de San Miguel a few steps from our flat. Inside, there are food stalls with incredibly tempting gourmet yummies like olives, sausage, cheese, pastries, and palella, along with several wine bars. Our favorite was the olive stand, and we had many glasses of cava at Pinkleton and Wine.
Calle Cava Baja: Cava Baja is a narrow street lined with small tapas bars and restaurants. You could visit many times and still not try them all. We liked Toma Jamon.
Restaurante Botin: Restaurante Botin is the oldest restaurant in the world. We made reservations for one night and had a great meal. See the post about Restaurante Botin.
Meson del Champinon: When Lori spent the summer in Spain, she regularly went to Meson del Champinon for their yummy mushrooms. This tiny tapas bar is located just outside of Plaza Mayor.
Cheap beer: We found two places on our street to grab a beer for 1 Euro: Museo de Jamon (which is not a museum) and Cervecería 100 Montadito.
Try tapas at home
Michael makes an incredible tortilla Espanola, see his recipe.
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