The 24th of February is Sylwia’s birthday. I wanted to surprise her with a trip to a place away from the Irish cold winter weather. I booked tickets for a weekend in Madrid and waited till her birthday…
It is 3:50 in the morning as the alarm goes off. We get up, eat some quick breakfast and take our bags. Sylwia’s father is waiting in the car as we walk to the street. We load up the car and are on our way to the airport, here in Dublin. It is surprisingly busy for a Friday morning, I suppose that there are more people looking to escape to the weekend. We go through customs and buy some sandwiches for breakfast. Then I notice a Dixons store with cameras, for some time I was looking for a wide angle lens for my camera. However, it has been out of stock in all of the shops in Dublin. I checked, and they had it in stock, for a 30% lower price! So I ended up buying the lens, a Canon EF S 10 18mm f/4.5 5.6 IS STM Lens. Perfect for taking pictures during sightseeing and exploring. After that, we had to run to the plane because it was about to leave.
Arriving in Madrid
We arrived at 10:00 in the morning at the Madrid-Barajas airport. Before we traveled to Spain, I did some research on how to get to the city center with public transport. However, my plans were completely derailed since the metro line that departs from the airport was closed for 2 months. Sylwia tried to find an alternative route while we are standing in the queue for the bus. After half an hour of looking and walking around, we found a bus that drives to a big terminal close to the airport. From there we took the metro to the Chueca station, close to where our apartment was. We rented our apartment via Airbnb. It has a superb location, in a street parallel to Gran Via (the ‘main’ street in Madrid). Unfortunately, we could not enter the apartment yet because our host was working till 14:00. This meant that we had 2 hours to fill. We tried to find some lunch, but this was harder than you might think because breakfast is served until 13:30 in most places. After our lunch, our host invited us to the apartment and gave us a quick tour of the neighbourhood. He even provided us with maps of Madrid. Relieved of our burden of the suitcases and bags, we were able to start our sightseeing adventure!
Different ways of exploring Madrid
Just like any other big city, there are many different ways of exploring all the beautiful places it has. For tourists, there are 3 main ways available is most cities. By foot, by bike and by sightseeing bus. Which option you choose depends on a lot of factors. Personally, I am not a fan of sightseeing buses because I like to be on the street and stop whenever I want. That is why, in most cases, I choose to walk everywhere and take a bus or metro when I am traveling over a bigger distance. However, for Saturday morning I booked a bike tour with Baja Bikes. They have bike tours and bike rental in loads of European cities and even some cities outside of Europe. We started our tour with a group of 10 people at 11:00 in the morning. Our guide was a super friendly guy who was living in Madrid for …. years and spoke fluent English. He showed us some of the highlights of the city and gave detailed explanations during the tour which took roughly 3 hours. It was a very nice perspective to see the city from. After the tour, we had lunch and decided what to do next.
A weekend in Madrid is too short
A weekend is too short to explore all of the beautiful and interesting things a city provides. So you have to pick some things you want to do because time is limited. Below is a list of locations and restaurants that we went to, and what we think about it.
Parque del Buen Retiro
This gigantic park is located in the middle of Madrid. When it is sunny, the people of Madrid come here to relax and enjoy their time. There are some highlights that are worth a visit. Palacio de Cristal is one of those, it is a building entirely made out of glass and looks beautiful when the sun is shining on it. Another nice but extremely busy area is the Retiro Pond. It is crowded with tourists but worth a quick visit. Our guide told us that king Alfonso XII used to practice naval battles with scaled down warships on this pond. Nowadays you can rent a rowboat and go all around the pond. There are many more areas to visit, such as the old zoo that was in the park. One of the animal residences has been transformed into a public library. Where once was an elephant, now you can sit and read about them. You can spend as long or as little as you want here.
We were staying in Madrid for 2 nights, so we only really visited two restaurants. For the first night, we went to a Mitte Restaurante (EAT ART), a restaurant which tries to make food art. The dishes are served in a Spanish tapas style, many dishes in small portions. Our experience at this was ok, the food definitely tasted artful. We did not like the experimental combinations of tastes and textures. However, if this is your taste, you will love it. The second evening we went to a Thai restaurant called Bambubox. We love Thai food, so we really enjoyed eating here. We tried out three different curries they had, and they were delicious. The restaurant itself is designed in a modern way but is incredibly cosy.
Palacio Real de Madrid area
Another very nice but busy area is around the royal palace. There are gardens in front and on the sides. We did not visit the insides of the palace, but our guide told us that is it worth a visit. We wanted to relax at the end of the day, so we walked to the Parque del Oeste which lies a few hundred meters north of the palace. One of the main sights in the park is an ancient Egyptian temple which has been relocated to Madrid. It was previously standing close to the Nile, but due to the construction of a dam, it had to be removed. UNESCO decided that the temple was important and had to be preserved. Egypt donated the temple to Spain in 1968, it was packed in boxes like Ikea furniture and rebuilt in this park. This is currently a tourist attraction because of the beautiful sunsets that you can see here. We decided to sit down in the park and expose to some vitamin D from the sun. There were lots of other activities happening in this park. One of the activities was slacklining. A group called the ‘Gibbons’ were practising here. We recognised them because they also performed at Rototom festival, that we visited in August last year.
Time to head back to Ireland
After a short but really enjoyable weekend, it was time to go back to Ireland. We saw loads of nice buildings, parks and interesting people. If you are going to visit Madrid, then I would recommend going for at least 4 nights. And you should definitely do a bike tour on the first day to find out what parts of Madrid you would like to see more of. Our flight on to Dublin was at 17:00 on Sunday, so we had some time to do shopping in the morning. The Chueca neighbourhood has lots of nice small books and clothing shops. After shopping, we took the metro back to the airport and looked back on a well deserved and relaxing weekend in Madrid.
Check out all the pictures!
Do you want to see more of the pictures that we took? Check out the full album with loads more of Madrid!