Ah Madrid…the first city I fell in love with. Growing up in Wisconsin is nothing like living in a busy city of over 4 million people and Madrid was the first stop we had on my high school trip. I was enamored with the energy and city lights. I knew by the first night I was in Madrid that I would forever have a love affair with Spain that lead me to travel back time and time again.
When I was studying abroad, we visited Madrid a few times, taking the 6 hour bus ride up from Sevilla in order to fly internationally to Italy or Greece. One weekend I did spend in Madrid to see the city on my own terms. If you only have a day or two in Madrid you have to visit an art museum, either the Prado or the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Some of the world’s most famous paintings are at those two museums and for a rather inexpensive price there is no reason not to visit. The most breathtaking at the Reina Sofia is “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso and I love that on the back wall they have photos of the different stages of the painting. You can see how the work evolved from the artist’s original plans.
After heading to a museum you should relax with a stroll through the Parque del Buen Retiro. I would suggest going on one of the row boats in the pond, which I have yet to do but recently had a dream about, or relax in the shade. Once you are done in the park you will need lunch. My favorite place for a cheap, filling and delicious meal is getting a Doner Kebab from Euro Doner Istambul on Calle Atocha. It is the excellent combination of salty meat with veggies and sauce and it is built so high that you will have trouble taking your first bite.
Spending the evening shopping will help you digest your sandwich. The center of the city is loaded with shops of all kinds to find souvenirs and, what I enjoy shopping for the most, clothes. When I lived in Madrid during the summer of 2013 I would spend most of my afternoons walking around the downtown, browsing in shops and enjoying some frozen yogurt to beat the heat. In the summer it is very dry and the heat is similar to the desert. By night it usually cools off quite a bit which is when people go out to enjoy dinner and for drinks afterward.
The next day you should choose to see other touristy sights like the Palacio Real. You shouldn’t waste the euros to enter the Palacio or waste time waiting in line; you can get the same pictures by standing outside the gates but cada uno a su gusto. Also the Plaza Mayor is a great place to people watch and there are plenty of little shops and restaurants where you can grab something you might like. On Sundays people come to the Plaza Mayor to sell their crafts and trinkets. The most famous of all are old coins, so if you know of someone who is interested in collecting coins, this is the place to go. While you are over in that side of the city, you could take a ride on the Teleférico to see Madrid from above. You can take scenic pictures and have a relaxing ride. Check it out: http://www.teleferico.com/
Additionally, if you are a sports fan, I definitely suggest taking a tour of the Real Madrid stadium Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. You should take the metro up to the stadium and the cost of admission is 13-19 euro. The tour includes seeing everything from the trophies they have collected over the years to the locker rooms, and you get to sit on the bench right on the pitch just like the players.
Madrid is a city that has a lot to offer and is ever changing. Visiting this metropolis is a must to begin to understand Spain.