Culture, sightseeing, and the best views – it all has to be done when in Madrid, or on any weekend getaway.
City breaks are all about exploring, seeing all the sights and going back cultured out, almost ready for a beach holiday and relaxation. I always feel the need to make the most of every day, to see everything possible – after all, there are so many cities to see, that the chances of going back are pretty limited.
If you read last week’s post on my weekend trip to Madrid, you’d see that we stayed pretty central (in an awesome apartment), meaning we could walk anywhere we fancied. However, even if your apartment is slightly further out, the Metro is super easy to get into the centre of the city and you can sight-see from there.
There were obviously stand-out parts of the trip (although it was all pretty awesome) so here’s my fave things to see and do in Madrid, for anyone thinking of planning a trip over to the Spanish capital:
- Basilica of San Francisco el Grande
This Roman Catholic church looks like just another religious building from the outside, but the inside…well. The inside of the 33 metre high dome is all hand painted, and is completely stunning! Photographs are prohibited, so you really do have to go to see it, and experience it. We stood inside watching a service and staring at the ceiling taking it all in for about 10 minutes – the beauty, the precision and the whole atmosphere. You really can’t quite describe the feeling which washes over as you walk in.
- Plaza Mayor
Popular with locals and tourists, this plaza (or square) was rebuilt in 1790 following a series of fires, and is surrounded by bars and restaurants. With beautiful architecture, it makes a beautiful spot to stop for drink when out exploring for the day. When we visited in May, there was a Spanish festival underway in the Plaza Mayor, with a number of Spanish acts (instrumental, dancing and other) performing, which was fab to see!
- Palacio Real de Madrid/Jardines de Sabatini
I love visiting palaces. It’s not that I’m a mega fan of royal families, (although I do like to see where they officially reside – it’s pretty interesting!), but the building are always beautiful! This one is one is no different. We didn’t go inside, as we thought it looked rather busy (it was Sunday!), and it was also €10, but we still enjoyed seeing the beauty. The gardens behind are also definitely worth visiting. A spectacular public space, a pond, a beautiful view of the back of the palace, lots of hedges which almost made it look like a maze, and plenty of spaces to sit and take everything in. If you’re heading to the Palacio Real, you have to visit the gardens too!
- El Rastro
This is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid, and you can see why. This huge market is open every Sunday morning (9am-3pm), with vendors selling clothes, antiques, bags, and all manor of other items. There is also the odd band busking on the side of the market too – we stopped to watch a really cool and funny brass band when we visited, which was awesome! Busy but bearable, you could easily spend hours shopping here.I came away with just a necklace, but were we not heading out for the whole day afterwards, I could have easily bought plenty more!
- El Retiro Park
One of the largest parks in Madrid, El Retiro is stunning. Home to the Palacio de Cristal and numerous statues and fountains, you can wander round for hours taking in the beauty and romantic atmosphere or sit back and relax soaking up the sun. There’s even a boating pond, where you can rent a boat and go for a row in the sun – something I didn’t do, but definitely would if I was to go again!
- Palacio de Cristal
This beauty is hidden in the middle of El Retiro. Built in 1887, inspired by London’s own crystal palace, this spectacular palace is made almost entirely of glass. Totally romantic, it’s a fab photo opportunity positioned by the pond and fountain, and must-visit spot!
- Madrid Botanical Gardens
Located close to El Retiro, the Madrid Botanical Gardens are great for a visit after a morning wandering through the park. Home to three terraces of plants, and two HUGE greenhouses, it’s said to hold around 30,000 plants and 1,500 trees, including all manner of tropical plants, fruit, herbs, and colourful flowers. Open all year round, it’s only €4 for entry (about £3.50), which is really reasonable!
- Circulo de Bellas Artes – rooftop bar
For AMAZING views of the city, you have to get up high and that’s exactly what you can do at the Circulo de Bella Artes. From the seventh floor of this building, which is packed with culture, exhibitions and events, you get panoramic views of the city, and it’s stunning. You can enjoy a drink at one of the few bars on the roof, sat at one of the tables, or relaxed on one of the sun beds, or just take in the view (and the sun!). Cocktails are about €10, and admission to the rooftop €4, which isn’t too bad when you think about the experience! Definitely one of my fave experiences from my trip!
- Shopping on Gran Via
This main shopping street in Madrid is packed with all the top names, and Spanish stores. From Bershka and Zara to Lefties and Primark, it’s the best place to make the most of the shopping scene and spend a morning doing a bit of retail therapy! I bought a gorgeous stripy embroidered shirt from Stradivarius and the cutest top from Lefties!
- Drink & Eat!
Keep your eyes out for the post in a couple of weeks all about the food & drink in Madrid!
Have you got any city breaks planned this year?