I had low expectations when I found out that I would be heading to Madrid and I’ll blame online trolls who called it “the most boring European capital”. Madrid differs from other popular tourist destinations like New York or Paris in that when you Google “things to do in Madrid” you don’t receive a list of three dozen museums or several structures to climb to the top of.
Maybe that’s why Madrid is one of my favorite cities and why it pained me after my first morning exploring that I had to sneak hours around work meetings just to see it. Madrid is a livable city. It’s vibrant and energetic with beautiful architecture and extravagant town squares but simultaneously feels quaint, easy-going and charming. One day in Madrid and I started wondering how easy it would be to get a Visa and move here. I could get rid of every pair of heels that I hate so I could more easily roam cobble streets. And after a long day of working, I could meet a friend at small spot to whine over wine and an array of tapas.
I had previously been to Barcelona and I loved it. But Madrid had made Spain a country I want to visit time and time again until I’ve crawled through the ins and outs of every town.
“How would you spend one day in Madrid?”
If I had no option to spend more than a day in Madrid – and I really didn’t, it would look like a little like this:
El Retiro Park is a wonderful piece of solitude in the middle of a bustling city. El Retiro is not so different from many other city central parks – boasting 15,000 trees, a fountain, and a beautiful lake in the center. But it’s its unique traits, like the Cuesto de Moyano book stalls, open every single day of the week, and lining the main walking path of the park that made me fall in love with it.
I have never experienced a more relaxing morning, beginning with a life-changing fruit smoothie and Kinder bar crepe from one of the park’s food stalls and ending with a sunny and calm row through the lake of El Retiro.
It was approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit while I was in Madrid but that was not enough reason, for me anyway, to not cross of my bucket list item of enjoying some crispy churros and delectable hot chocolate (for dipping) at the well-known Chocolateria San Ginés. Be warned serving sizes are rather large and one order is perfect for sharing between 2-3 people.
The area surrounding the choclateria which include the picture-perfect Plaza Mayor also makes for a lively afternoon walk, complete with local shops and live musicians.
At this point in the afternoon, it’s tradition to stop for a lunch of tapas amongst friends and perhaps a glass (or three) of wine. While I wasn’t in Madrid long enough to try a large number of restaurants, I will say that the “no research / glance at a menu and walk in” strategy did not fail me.
You’ll find a lot of cross among tapas spots but some places do offer specialties or fusion spin-offs of popular dishes. This particular spot in the photos below, for example, offered ten different variations of patatas bravas and four styles of croquette. Big props to LaLina Bravas, Tapas y Copas if that seems up your alley.
Even if you aren’t a collector of designer goods, you cannot visit Madrid without walking along the Gran Vía. This avenue may not be too different from the Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue and yet, it is. Where else could a Hermés or Fourt Seasons look like architecture at its peak?
This itinerary seems a bit quick because it is – and honestly, Madrid deserve significantly more time than just one day. But that day, will be a lovely one. And if you have more time than I did, just stop by another tapas spot.