Madrid is one of my favourite cities in the world.
It oozes Spanish charm without the superior attitude of Barcelona, the beautiful language of Spanish is heard as you walk along the cobblestone streets (unlike many other Spanish Cities- cue English tourists), and the marvellous proud royalist architecture is integrated into the hustle and bustle of the city. It is there to be walked past, sat on, busked on, and no one bats an eyelid. Locals sit out in the sun grazing and watching the world wander past with no hurry, no worry, and with a relaxed attitude. The ambience of Madrid is one of elegance and of traditional Spanish life. If Madrid had an Italian cousin it would be Milan, simply because yes, Madrid is also a hot bed for fashion in Europe, but the stunning architecture of the city here is intertwined with everyone’s every day lives with ease, similarly to Milan, with consistent stops for coffee, of course. The only thing that really separates these two cities, is Madrid’s buzzing after dark feel that is alive and wild.
The broad sweeping architecture of towering spires, ancient paved streets and obscure street art that border the walls, provides an ancient backdrop to this modern and hip city. Take the time to stroll around, soaking in the ambience and atmosphere of Madrid, as well as stopping for typical and tasty tapas, cerveca or cafe con leche. Madrid is filled with expansive plazas and layered tinkling fountains and Puerta Del Sol is no exception. Acting as the centre of down town Madrid, join the rest of the crowd wondering down this shop lined street to Plaza Mayor, popular with tourists because of its traditional design and vast amount of restaurants. Ignore the tacky and cheap restaurants that serve paella resembling plastic here, by taking a much needed picture and moving on to the area of Malasana to dine in authentic white linen restaurants with edgy interior and style, or head to the main strip of Gran Via where you can pick, nibble and drink in the hiving Cava Bajo for Madrid’s infamous array of tapas dishes. If you want to be whisked away from the historical Madrid and into the hybrid city of Madrid, head to the district of Lavapies: the alternative multicultural quarter of the city filled with international residents whom bring unique restaurants, cafe’s, music, shops and more importantly, style to the place, funking up this area of the city and ruffling a few conventional feathers.
Madrid is not only overflowing with plazas and fountains, but filled to the brim with diverse museums and art galleries, that are notably some of the best in the world. With so many reputable names and vast regions of knowledge and expertise, with a limited time here, I was precise and picky with my choice when visiting. Head over to the National Archaeological Museum of Spain to learn about the humanity and community of Spain, how they have responded to civil wars, colonisation and the various other territories that are in Spain. My favourite two art Museums are the Prado Museum which focuses on the time periods of 12th to 19th century artwork including works of art by Goya, Velasquez and Rubens, all masters of sensual soft brush strokes and prolific paintings. If you aren’t a big fan of classical art, head over to Reina Sofia Museum (which is wayyy more up my street), here art work is more original, odd, and both simple and complex. Floors and floors of various styles, expressions and art, line each exhibit and you will easily spend time here admiring or trying to comprehend, modern pieces of art. It also houses one of Picasso’s well sought out painting’s- Guernica, as well as many key works by Dali. Try come here on a weekday, the Dali area of the museum is as congested as the Louvre is in Paris.
Another sight to see is the Royal Palace of Madrid, where wandering around the lush grounds and numerous rooms you find a fine example of exquisite opulence. Although the Royal family do not actually reside here, wander around the palace and its royal armoury filled with national treasures, which make this building admired by all and considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Madrid. Plaza de Orient is nearby, an oasis of prim manicured gardens that offer spectacular views and photo opportunities, of the Royal Palace. Madrid, although a bustling city, is filled with many public parks that both locals and tourists can stroll through escaping from the streets, plazas and traffic. My favourite park is Parque Del Buen Retiro, which is a large park away from Puerta De Sol but is a pleasant walk from the museum triangle, and most importantly, you can hire paddle boats on the lake there, which is a highly entertaining activity.
Like the title name suggests, there is much partying to be had whilst you are in Madrid, and if you don’t enjoy dancing til your feet are sore or chatting in bars, I suggest you buy some decent ear plugs, because the rest of Madrid does. The city is famous for its melt in the mouth tapas, its bars that sell you drinks enough to knock out a cow, and its clubs that finally close its doors at 7am. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night”, and that saying is still true, locals don’t just go out, they go out like it is their last night on earth.
Madrid has more bars than any other city in the world. Fact. However, during my time here there was a large fiesta on, where everyone took to the streets and partied wildly, dancing on trash bins, swinging from lamp posts and sharing bottles of tequila. In fact, no bars were entered during my stay here. This fiesta, which carried on to the early hours, occurred every night, and became more risque each time. I did, however, leave there to continue my nights (mornings really but lets not get technical) at various clubs, Club Teatro, Joy, Kapital and Pacha, which are great places to dance in.
You, like me, might have now come to the conclusion that Madrid is a remarkable city, with an extensive range of things to do, both cultural, and entertaining. But, if you find yourself a little bored, or city sick, head to the archaic town and crumbling walls of Toledo, which was the former capital of the country and I have been told by many, is a “medieval city full of charm” and worth a visit.