Madrid, España. The very last destination on a backpacking journey around Europe. Only one night and two days were spent in Madrid, as our flight left late on a Monday night — the day of my nineteenth birthday. We tried to make the most of our time in Madrid, although we didn’t really know what we wanted to do and, at this point, we were so exhausted from three weeks of bickering, getting lost, and being utterly amazed 24/7.
I absolutely loved the hostel we stayed at. It was called The Hat and was in a great location, was beautifully designed, and the staff were so helpful and friendly. Sydney, Kyla, and I had an eight person dorm room to ourselves which was wonderful. The beds were actually cozy — I didn’t know that was possible at a hostel. The sheets were soft and fluffy and they had outlets and shelves for each bed! Also, the breakfast was included in the price and there were so many choices of what to eat.
Most of our time was spent walking around the city. We never took public transportation besides when we hailed a taxi to get to the airport on our way out of the city. And since our hostel was located in the historic center of Madrid, just 5 minutes from Plaza Mayor and amidst tons of shopping and restaurants, we could walk around the area and explore with just out feet and a map. So that’s what we did:
We saw Palacio Real, constructed from 1734-1755, which is “the official residence of the royal family,” but they don’t really live there. We decided against going in and taking a tour and instead sat on the steps across from it, just looking and listening to a tour guide provide his listeners with information about the palace. I was completely ignorant on the subject, having just learned that Spain still had a royal family from an old woman on a previous trip to San Sebastián. Still, I’m glad we made a stop here on our made-up walking tour of Madrid.
Most of the places we went in Madrid were places we just happened upon or pointed to on the map and said “I want to go there.” So, on our way to somewhere else, we stopped at Plaza de España which was a cute little park with an interesting monument in the center. In ignorance, I just looked up what the monument was to and it is actually to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote. Go figure. Now I feel stupid and silly. Despite not knowing that important fact, the park was very pretty.
We actually just happened upon the place on our walk, but apparently its a pretty famous tourist destination. While there, an elderly, little dog approached us with his elderly owner and proceeded to stand there, panting and staring for about twenty minutes. The man just let him stand there, in the middle of the walkway with his collar and leash. I guess this was a daily walk for the dog and he liked to just chill in the middle of the walkway. We all thought it was hilarious as we sat on a bench under the cool shade from the trees and stared right back at the dog.
We also walked along Calle Gran Vía — without purchasing a single thing, might I add — and it was bustling. There were crowds of people, tourists and locals alike, just walking along. Traffic on the road also seemed to be very crowded. We were fortunate enough to be walking.
As usual, at some point in the historic center of Madrid we walked into a random church and took some pictures:
I found Madrid to sort of have a dual personality. While it is a huge city, the capital of Spain, and bustling with shopping, museums, parks, monuments, historical sights, and so many things to see and do, there is also a side to it that is laid-back and old-fashioned. Parts of the city (like the historic area we were staying in) feel so relaxed. Time slows down and it’s wonderful to just take it all in and walk a little slower. Maybe stop at a fruit stand and buy some fresh, tangy mandarins. Or visit a cafe and order some cafe and just sit outside and watch people walk by. Or, unlike us, some churros con chocolate. You should definitely do that, which is something we didn’t do because our lack of attention to detail. Kind of disappointed in myself, really.
Or, you know, order some delicious sangria.
One of the great things about Madrid was the delicious food. There were millions of choices, and with so much to choose from, we looked to the internet to find us the best place near our hostel and we came upon a cute little restaurant. The food there was delicious and the sangria was beyond amazing! (We especially love anytime there’s bread and Sydney especially loves anytime he can add some olive oil and spices to whatever he’s eating.)
My favorite thing about Madrid was the weather. The sun was ever-present the entire time we were in the city and it was absolutely gorgeous. Another thing I loved about the city was the architecture. I found myself looking up at the intricate designs of the buildings but I was also captivated by the more simple, white-washed buildings and gorgeous red-tiled roofs.
As the sun began to set on our last day in Europe, we went for a walk, feeling sad, but also so happy. It was my nineteenth birthday the next day and I felt like I had just seen the entire world and was so content to go home and relax and daydream about all these amazing places I’d been to in the past three weeks.
I bought myself a little slice of chocolate cake from a nearby bakery and ordered una caña and sat in the lobby of the hostel and celebrated my nineteenth birthday. It was a pretty good cake and I was so
We then walked around and eventually made our way to Parque del Retiro where the sun was glistening off everything, making everything in sight beautifully warm and inviting. As usual with parks in Spain, it was so crowded. There were families, soccer, popcorn, ice cream, runners, balloons, dogs, couples, trees, and laughter all mixed into this one huge park and I couldn’t help but just smile at everything and take it all in.
We sat behind the monument you see below as the sun inched further and further on its way to the horizon and watched as light glistened through the leaves and onto the grass. It was so beautiful and so peaceful and we just kind of sat there. Then, as the sun was so low in the sky, we began to walk toward the exit of the park and saw the most beautiful sunset of the entire trip reflecting on the lake. There were two men and a hippie wife playing the saxophone and the guitar and it was just so enjoyable to stand there listening to the music and gazing at the lake. Even a little family of ducks seemed to be having a good time.
Madrid truly captivated me, which was quite the surprise to me. I thought we would just be packing up and getting organized for our flight the next day, but instead we spent the time exploring a beautiful city and really having fun with it. I think what I loved about it was that, while it was a big city, the beautiful architecture was charming to me and the weather was absolutely amazing. I could see myself living there. It probably rains like once a year. It was so hot and sunny and it felt like California or Arizona back in the United States (I’ve never been to either of those places).
To sum it all up, I loved Madrid. I would totally go back there for way longer than just one night and I would definitely stay at The Hat hostel again, using that as a base camp for more in depth explorations of an amazing city.
I didn’t even try the churros con chocolate like everyone else always does! So I definitely need to do that next time.
one night and two days is not enough time in Madrid or any major European city, as I believe you are well aware. We were always surprised when people came to visit us in Spain, and only wanted to spend a day or two in Madrid and head for Barcelona or Sevilla or other place. Madrid is where everything happens, and when people skip Madrid, they skip Spain to a large extent.
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I can completely understand where you’re coming from. There’s just so much to see and so little time. I was completely stricken by Madrid in a way that I never would have thought I would be. I would love to go back and truly explore some more. But I feel that way about every place I’ve visited and loved! I’m glad that at least we didn’t completely skip Madrid. Seeing the little that we did see made me wanting more.
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We lived in Madrid for almost 4 years, and I’m doing a series on my WP side of my blog called Letters from Madrid. They are old letters I found on an archive that I’m publishing. Interesting to look back at what I wrote 20 years ago.
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Fantastic post and great pictures, you really made the most of your short stay in Madrid!
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We stayed in Madrid, in 2014, your photos brought back happy memories. Everywhere was close enough to just walk and enjoy.Slower than Barcelona and so different.
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A great post! I’m thinking of visiting Madrid soon so will definitely taking your advice on where to visit.