Cory and I recently got back from a trip to Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon. (Read: I say Cory and I but what I really mean is Cory, I and 20 of our friends.) I've been so excited to get these guides done and out to you guys but struggled to figure out the best way to do it and finally decided three separate posts it was. So post #1. Madrid.
Day 1: We got into Madrid late afternoon, checked into the Petit Palace Puerta del Sol (would def recommend this cute little hotel! It's right in the middle of everything, walking distance to all the sights & less than 5 minutes from the subway) and b-lined to the Mercado San Miguel. It's a market with bars and lots of different food stands. It was such a cool market we went multiple times throughout the trip. It was so close to our hotel. Some of our favorites were the sea urchin, the mozzarella bar and the rioja wine. But everything was delicious! Try it all.
From there we headed to La Latina with 4 of our friends and bar hopped the street getting tapas and Rioja at a bunch of different bars. This was actually my favorite night we spent in Madrid.
Day 2: Hungover. Started the trip a little aggressive but nonetheless. Off to the Royal Palace. All of Madrid's must see tourist spots are so close together we got them all in in one day! The Royal Palace. The Almudena Cathedral. Templo de Debod and the Prado Museum. TOURIST TIP: Prado Museum is free nights 6p-8p.
So, as I said we went with 20+ of our friends. We did things separately (you can't tour and eat as a group of 20 people) but made a point to plan a few things to do as a group. So this night we did a big group dinner. Your options are limited in Madrid to dine with this many people but the place we went took care of us. Not necessarily a restaurant I'd say you have to go to so the name is unimportant (+ I don't remember it).
Day 3: We slept in, took it easy in the AM and headed to Retiro Park. It's a huge beautiful park that used to belong to the Royal Family. It reminded me of Central Park but prettier. We walked around a little and ran into some of our friends on a bike tour (which I heard was amazing so def something to consider doing!) and wandered Madrid aimlessly.
Lunch: Oxtail stew at Alhambra. I should start by explaining they do big lunches in Madrid often a few hours long that start with an appetizer (tapas) then an entree and all accompanied by wine. Cory and I wandered around and ended up at Alhamabra, a cute restaurant full of locals hanging out at the bar and throwing chicken bones on the floor (yes, this is a thing that happens there and I kind of loved it) with 3 separate store fronts but all the same restaurant so pick the one that looks the least busy and get yourself a table or park yourself at the bar for a drink and a snack. Ok, so lunch. We love to try the native cuisine wherever we visit so we ordered the Oxtail stew - a popular dish in Madrid. It was life changing. It was incredible. Thinking about it now and writing this mid-snow storm and now it's all I want for dinner. I'm going to have to find the recipe.. Anyway, the meat was so tender and flavorful. It's a lot of food and was pretty rich so plan to share it. Definitely a must try.
Then back to the hotel for a quick food coma power nap and back to the Mercado San Miguel with the girls while the boys went to play soccer. Later that night we went to a seafood dinner that I have to find the name of the restaurant for so you guys can try it. It was so delicious! A little bar hopping through the neighborhood, more Rioja and Sangria and to bed.
Day 4: Started the morning by meeting a few friends for chocolate and churros because when in Spain and on vacation start your day with chocolate. They were delicious. I don't even like (American) churros but these were so good. The fried dough was so soft. Def something you should try. Chocolateria San Gines it was right by the hotel and such a fun way to start the day.
Then we walked through a street market and headed to an Atletico Madrid bar on our way out to the game. The bar was a dive you guys but such an authentic experience. No one spoke English and everyone was ALL OUT Atletico Madrid. I ordered a glass (ok a plastic cup) of wine and a pork sandwich - which if you could see this place you'd never order in America but you guys the wine was delicious and the pork sandwich was probably the best bocadillo I had all trip.
Then the Atletico Madrid game! It was such an experience. Walking past the away team everyone was yelling at each other from opposing teams. It's so intense and so much more exciting than American Football. The fans are a team of their own cheering and banding together for their team. As someone who is not a sports fan, it was really fun!
Day 5: Cory and I walked through a local street market which was a lot of fun to see their local goods and experience the culture in that way. We love really diving into the culture wherever we are. Then for Vermouth Hour (yes, that's a real thing) we headed to El Anciano Rey de Los Vinos to try our first vermouth. Vermouth is a traditional before lunch drink intended to 'awaken the palate' for eating. We ordered one to try thinking we wouldn't like it and then liked it so much we each ordered our own. I should mention now that anywhere you order a drink in Madrid they bring you 1 or 2 free tapas. So vermouth with olives and chorizo as a quick snack before catching our train to Barcelona.
Ok, that was a whirlwind. We spent 5 days in Madrid and loved it there's so much to do but you could easily do the city in less time (2 if you're trying to breeze through or 3 comfortably). Madrid is beautiful and reminded us of a Spanish NYC a little. We love the culture there - it seems like they really spend time to enjoy life as opposed to us New Yorkers who are always rushing to the next thing. We discussed how we could really see ourselves living in Madrid. It was definitely our favorite city in Spain that we visited and a city we'd go back to.