Sometimes you find that you only have one day to explore a new destination. This is often the case with my job as a flight attendant. I tend to get 24-30 hours on a typical international layover, so I’ve become skilled at making the most of a short time in a new city. This month that new city was Madrid.
If there’s ever a time to experience Madrid, I believe it’s in May: temperate climate, and lots of sunshine, blue skies, and emerald green parks. It’s a walkable city, but there is also an easy to use, comprehensive metro system. Before you start exploring, make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, and lots of memory on your camera. (On a side note: this city is notorious for pickpockets, so be mindful of this when you’re out.)
Start the day right with a relaxing breakfast and delicious cafe con leche. Cafe de Oriente is located just across from the Royal Palace. With a beautiful view and a traditional Spanish menu, it’s a great way to take in the morning and caffeinate for the day ahead. After breakfast, head over to the Royal Palace. It’s scenic, perfect for photographs, and there are often buskers playing music nearby. So have a sit on the steps and people watch, sun bathe, and listen to Spanish music.
Other breakfast ideas:
From the Royal Palace, make your way over to the Templo de Debod, Madrid’s Egyptian temple. The temple was built to honor the Egyptian Gods Amon and Isis, and it dates back to the 2nd century B.C. The Egyptian government donated the monument to Spain in 1968 as thank you for Spain’s monetary donations to UNESCO to help save sacred monuments and archaeological sites from being destroyed by flooding. There is also a park that surrounds the temple. From the temple, you can either walk the scenic 40 minute walk to Retiro Park (El Parque de Retiro) or take the metro. This park is a perfect midday hang out because there are plenty of eateries to pick up a light lunch and horchata and have a picnic! When you’re finished eating, walk towards the lake and check out the surrounding sculptures. You can also rent a boat for just a few euros and paddle around the lake. For the most part, I say, save the museums for a rainy day, but Centro Centro is a gorgeous building, the museum exhibits are free, and there is an observation deck overlooking the city and it is only 2 euros enter the deck.
Temple de Debod:
Now, evening in Madrid is where it’s at (to quote Beck). Spaniards love food, wine, and nighttime so be prepared to be up late eating, drinking, and generally enjoying life. For both good quality and wide quantity of Spanish food and culture, I recommend ending the day in central Madrid at Plaza Mayor, more specifically, the San Miguel market. Grab a glass of wine and walk around the market sampling anything from fresh prosciutto to sea urchin. There are stands featuring “One Euro Tapas,” so even though it’s not a traditional sit-down dinner, you will eat your fill. End the night with some flan nearby at the world’s oldest restaurant according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Restaurant Botin. It is a bit of a tourist spot nowadays, but it’s one still enjoyed by locals as well because the menu is top quality.
Of course, Madrid has so much to offer. It’s quite impossible to really experience it in one day, but this day is well rounded and will leave you content with what you did experience, and excited to return for more.