I hope you are OK with me blogging about each city separately instead of writing a longer post about my entire stay in Spain. This will also help me to include a maximum of details.
I went to Spain with Hubby and a group of friends.
Two days aren't enough
We stayed in Madrid for 2 full days. Our days were not overly busy. We had ample time to talk, rest and just be idle.
If you want a more in-depth visit, stay longer. At the end of my stay I felt like I'd need to come back, not only because I liked the city's vibe but also because I just didn't get a chance to explore as much as I would like to.
First order of business was the Mercado de San Miguel. On our way to the Mercado, we had the opportunity to see part of the city and snap a few cool pictures.
The photo below is of Puerta Atocha. More on this later.
I've been dubbed the selfie queen for a reason...
I'm a big fan of walking as much as I can when in a new city. In my opinion, there's no better way to take the city in. Quaint shops and small cafés are just waiting to be discovered, and you are less likely to miss them when on foot.
Mercado San Miguel
The mercado is a must do. Plan to have a meal there. Make it a movable feast--see what I just did. (If you don't, it was a reference to Ernest Hemingway, he lived in Spain for a while--my favorite book of his is set in Spain.)
It's the perfect way to get into the tapas culture. Go from stall to stall and taste the various options. Some will be bite size, others will be a bit bigger. But you'll need several portions in order to feel full. There's a wide variety of meats, breads, juices, you name it! You can have an entire meal complete with wine and dessert.
I am planning on writing a post solely on food. I've heard that Spanish cuisine has a bad reputation. While I don't have raving reviews for each dish I tried, nothing was horrible. Plus, I did have a few amazing meals in Spain.
Going to a football (soccer) game is a must. If you really don't want to, you should at least consider visiting the museum at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. See, football is such an important aspect of Spanish culture. And I'm not saying this because I like the sport. Their league (La Liga) is one of the most popular, if not the most, leagues nowadays. Plus, two of the best players of our time play there.
On our first day, we attended a football game—it was a football trip after all. We even appeared on TV very briefly, but you had to know we were there. Look at me showing my true colours. (I have to say that Val had the foresight to buy all of us jerseys for both the Madrid and Barcelona games. Well played, friend!)
If you're a fan of the sport, you won't need much convincing. Madrid is home to Real, one of the Liga's best teams. If you are not into football, it's a great opportunity to dive a little deeper in the culture. I promise that the energy at the stadium will suffice to convert you into a screaming fan.
And yes, I'm sneaking a CR7 picture in there for good measure.
Location. Location. Location.
My friend Val picked the perfect boutique hotel right on Atocha. Most attractions we wanted to see were close by. The Reina Sofia Museum was literally in our backyard. We had the most stunning view of the Puerta Atocha--train station (pictured above).
Location in the heart of the city may cost more, but think of the money you'll save on transportation. Certainly, after walking for hours, you may need to take a cab or an Uber back home. But guess what, your fare will not be that high: you're right in the city!
Take me to church
I'm not a churchgoer, but churches and other places of worship are almost always on my itinerary. I find that religion and culture often walk hand and hand. Also, I was raised Catholic (I still identify as such) and I know Catholic churches can be a sight to be seen. Especially the ones in former imperial powers (think France). These states had a lot of discretionary funds at one point, and my guess is that they've used a good chunk of it in their churches.
Below are shots of the cathedral. I didn't get a chance to go inside. (Next trip, I guess.)
Val just had to ruin my "photo on the steps of the church".
The shot below is of Saint Jeronimo church, it's right next to the Museo del Prado and the Real Academia.
Now, allow me a geek moment. I'm taking Spanish classes and I go on the Real Academia website all the time. (Their dictionary is bomb.) They're the equivalent of the Académie française. I saw the building, yelped, did my happy dance, snapped pictures (see below the church). You know when you're the only one who knows an artist or a song, that moment when you get all excited and no one else gets it. This was one of those moments. My 4 travel companions just stood there. I didn't mind their puzzled looks, though. Because, come on, it's the Real Academia!
Paseo del arte: a pass to 3 art museums
This is not for everyone. I should have tittle this section "must love art". I'll admit, 3 art museums in one day is a lot. The good thing about it is that the 3 museums are very different. Do I need to make the case for how art is often a reflection of politics and can serve as a great tool to understand history? No. You're not buying it? That's OK. Maybe the pictures below will convince you.
The Reina Sofia showcases modern and contemporary artists, most are Spanish.
The Museo del Prado focuses on the great Spanish artists. It also houses a collection of other European masters. No photos of the pieces were allowed.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza is home to the collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. It displays paintings from various periods.
We covered a lot of ground in 2 days. We could have easily fit in a few more activities. But we decided that including chillax time--you read that right, time to chill and relax--was just as important.