A Introduction to Spain’s Central Capital City
At the geographical center of Spain sits it’s international capital city of Madrid; a top destination any tourist should have on his or her bucket list. With numerous sights to see, various museums to choose from, a vast array of open air markets, and wide mix of streets for shopping, eating and drinking; your to do list will be filled to the brim, keeping you entertained, and having you slowly falling in love with this vibrant city. And the best part of Madrid, it can be done even for a budget traveler.
Madrid is a city where you options are unbounded and you have endless possibilities around every corner. Once you step foot in the city you will be engulfed by the animated passion of it’s inhabitants, and the hustle and bustle of it’s urban environment mixed with a laid back approach to life. Everyone that visits Madrid finds him or herself drawn to its energy, staying for longer than imagined or coming back for more before they expect.
I’ve been in Madrid almost three months now and I have another three to go. But I’m already contemplating staying longer and figuring out a job that will never let me leave. There’s something about this place: the way it smells, the people, the atmosphere, the beautiful scenery, it’s invigorating and captivating. There’s no other place in the world I’d rather be than here right now.
A STROLL THROUGH THE CITY CENTER
A sea of bobbing heads fills my view in every which direction I look as I walk up the steps of the Vodaphone Sol metro stop and enter the hustle and bustle of Madrid’s city center on a Saturday afternoon. As I stop and look around I can see an array of characters. Various street performers are sprinkled throughout the plaza, while hoards of minions, Mickey & Minnie mouse’s, Whiny the Pooh, Homer Simpsons, and any other characters you can think stroll through the crowds, plucking out tourist to make a profit from. Street Dancers create exited crowds around them as their music blares from the center and they put on a show. Selfie sticks are in the hand of every other person as they try and capture the perfect moment. Street vendors come and go as they put down their sacks of counter-fit goods and call to the passerby’s to ‘take a look’. Different languages fill my ears as groups walk by, maps out in hand, pointing with their fingers in which direction they need to go. Promoters for all different companies and restaurants lurk on the corners as they wait for prey to walk into their territory and catch them in their web of solicitations. It’s a sight to see, one that can engulf you in an instant. And as I sit on the corner of the fountain people watching and taking it all in I wait to see my friends pop up from the crowd and go on our next adventure around Madrid.
Personally, I love to drink and eat. I have made it my mission to find the best little bars/restaurants around the city I’m visiting or living in. I feel it gives you a very local perspective and you meet some incredible people this way. Madrid is no exceptions. With a tapas bar on every corner you turn, or the indoor Mercado’s or Gourmet Experience you will never be out of reach from a drink or amazing meal. When you find yourself in Madrid next, don’t forget to try El Tigre, Café Jazz Populart, 100 Montaditos, Mercado de San Miguel or Mercado de San Anton, Bazaar or La Catedral and search for your favorite local place. You could spend your entire time in Madrid eating and drinking throughout the various neighborhoods. Trust me it’s easy enough, and easily worth it. But if you want a little more…
PARQUE DEL RETIRO
Parque del Retior, the massive and centrally located park, with lakes, a botanical garden, sprinkled with a museums and palaces and swarming with playgrounds and soccer fields, it’s a perfect place hangout spot and worth to take a walk around. Retiro is a big community gathering spot, people of all ages come to this park for all different purposes enjoying the sun and taking advantage of being outdoors.
No matter your plans, you must find time to visit the Gourmet Experience on top of El Corte Ingles. Off Gran Via this is the perfect place to take in the sights of the city from a bird’s eye view while enjoying a cold cerveza or bottle of vino. The food court offers a selection of different restaurants to choose from, satisfying any craving you might have, including a scoop of amazing gelato or a cup of coffee to keep you going. Dine in or outside and take in the sights.
When you are full from all the delicious goodness of the Gourmet Experience, find time to stroll down Gran Via and admire the amazing architecture of the old and incredible buildings that line one of the more famous Streets of Madrid. A great way to work off all the food you just ate, but also an opportunity to do some shopping. Being the shopping hub of Madrid, you will find every store imaginable along this street, from big worldwide name brands to Spanish local stores you can’t find elsewhere.
TEMPLE OF DEBOD
A the end of Gran Via you have the Temple of Debod sitting atop a hill, giving to yet another amazing 360degree view. One of my favorites at sunset, the Temple was donated by the Egyptians piece by piece in 1968 for Spain’s help in saving their temples of Abu Simbel. It’s free admission into the temple but most people just go for the photo opp.
On Sundays don’t forget to visit the El Rastro in the La Latina neighborhood, a great neighborhood to find time to explore. You will see amazing graffiti lined street art and be surround with peaceful hippie vibes. The El Rastro to add, is a huge outdoor flea market with anything and everything being sold, it’s a sight to see.
If you are looking for museums and history you have a wide selection as well. Make sure to stop into the Royal Palace of Madrid, it’s Catedral de la Almudena and Teatre Real (opera house) or you can visit the famous Museo National Del Prado, Museo Ferrocarril, Bolsa de Madrid (Stock Exchange) or Ayuntamiento De Madrid (town hall) or stroll through the main train station, Estacion de Atocha.