It’s, at present, day 4/5 in Madrid. We have just finished an in depth 3hour walking tour & have decided to finish it off with a relaxing break in the Parque de el Retiro. I’m laying in the shade on the softest grass, listening to the Alfonso Monument fountains, going over everything I have just learned about this historical city.
Madrid was never going to be a city we were very excited about visiting as it was a stop we needed to make before our booking in Valencia, (for la tomatina) on the 27th of August, began. Most friends and people we have met along the way have said it to be a fairly simple and uninteresting place to visit unless you want to see a bullfight.
Dirty, smelly, humid & risky were the most common words they used to describe it. On the contrary, we have slowly discovered Madrid and each day we have liked it more and more.
It’s not dirty at all- there are your usual public urinal spots & graffiti. But for the most part a very well presented city.
It’s not smelly, the only thing that catches your nose is the ham museums & the occasional spot where someone has relieved themselves the night before.
Risk isn’t something I have encountered or even witnessed. Everyone is minding their own business apart from the Madrid gypsies who don’t really know when to give up or what the normal societal boundaries are (when your trying to enjoy a meal in a private establishment!)
The only accurate thing we have encountered is the heat! We got lucky and the mercury has dropped further each day we have been here. So on our first day it was 39 degrees at 7pm. Today it is 30 degrees at 3pm. It’s actually a really beautiful day with a gorgeous breeze about!
I’ll clear up now, for those of you only reading to see what I thought of a bull fight, I am against animal cruelty, so I have nothing positive to say about it. That’s why I did not attend a bull fight and will not ever. But that does not mean I will lecture those of you that do wish to. It is a big part of Madrids culture and history & not up to me to change.
Our Hostal is centrally located and comes with the highest rating for location on all booking websites. It’s not quite a hostel and no glamorous Hotel either, but it is definitely cheap & has great aircon! It averaged out at 36€ per night for the room. Wifi in the bedrooms ain’t so great, I know because I changed rooms & it sucked in both of them, but if you sit in the foyer it’s a little better. 50% of the staff were helpful and your room is serviced daily. If you’re no princess, this place is excellent.
Tripadvisor reviews of Hostal Valencia
Since being in Madrid, it’s become apparent that it is somewhere you need to visit once more to fit in the things you have missed. For us, at a ‘taking our time’ pace, 5 days wasn’t enough to see:
• a Real Madrid home game
• a tour of the royal palace and gardens
• the Prado museum
Bring more money, as there is LOTS of shopping and day to day expenses aren’t as affordable as people led us to believe.
I also recommend to do the walking tour & tapas/ flamenco/ pub crawl run by Mad Ride tours Both were incredible value in a city we had written off as ‘too expensive to appreciate’.
The mad ride FREE walking tour leaves daily at 11am. Runs for 3 hours and shares fascinating insight into the foundations and history of Madrid and its people’s customs. Our guide, Laura, was so full of energy it made getting out of bed early (after the previous nights pub crawl) that little bit easier after spending only 15 minutes in her presence!
The Mad Ride tapas/ flamenco/ pub crawl is 26€ (€25 if you do the walking tour first) and incredible value! At 8:15 you meet and head off to a local tapas joint. This food was a more impressive spread than most tapas places we tried in San Sebastián & you also get a free alcoholic beverage. Then it’s a 10 minute walk to your flamenco bar (no free drink) where the show is so intimate and interesting. As a life long intermediate dancer, I found the show amazing, I have never seen a mans feet move so fast for so long! After an hour you move to the first bar where for the rest of the night you spend roughly 1 hour at 4 pubs with free drinks and discounted prices at each one. If you can make it that far…. There’s a nightclub at the end. Needless to say, Mr & Mrs Old Fart, didn’t…
If you have a sweet tooth and want to get ‘in’ on a long standing Madrid custom by locals and celebrities, visit the Chocolate & churro s place in between puerto del sol & Opera. It’s tucked away, up a side street (left at the little book store stall) & is open 24/7. It will cost you 3.80€ for 6 churros and a cup of pure cocoa. Who/ what/ where?
Check out all the famous pictures scattered on the walls.
We also did the Bernabéu stadium tour, home of Real Madrid soccer team, for 19€ p.p. This was a bit of a peacock display, albeit deserved, but still very impressive. As a novice WAG (of sorts), I understand soccer enough to appreciate the holy ground of Bernabéu &, even if you don’t love soccer you will enjoy the tour. Most males will LOVE it as you can take your time through the self guided & interactive tour. There’s also photo opportunities with super-imposed players and the real UEFA Champions league trophy. You get to visit all the best rooms & spectacles (including the changerooms ladies.) We highly recommend it!
The only thing I wouldn’t recommend, for my own personal reasons, is the 23€ bus tour offered through Julia travel. It might be the way to go for those who are only in Madrid for 1 day and want to be able to at least go past the big name places. It’s a 2.5 hour tour and you only get to take pictures at 3 stops. The others are just a drive (at normal traffic speed) by sight see. The only positive things we took from this tour were identification of how to get back to certain spots we really wanted to walk through and see again & which ones not to waste time on. To get better value for money I regret not buying the most common pass for the hop-on/hop-off tour. This one goes on a set loop and you get on or off as you please. All for only 21€.
The only reason I chose against this option was because Madrid is a big city and I wanted the option of a personal tour guide & not a headset before I got off somewhere and had no idea how to resume the tour without wasting countless hours wandering. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Buy the Hop-on/Hop-off tour!
the tour we were unhappy with
the tour we wished we did
So as you can see, whilst we saw a lot of Madrid, there is still much more we missed out on. It is definitely somewhere we will get back to eventually. I put it to you not to write it off as we did. Give it a go & you will be pleasantly surprised.
Til next time Madrid as we journey to Valencia for La tomatina!