Spain
Madrid

Here you’ll find travel reports about Madrid. Discover travel destinations in Spain of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

234 travelers at this place:

  • Day23

    Toledo to Madrid

    July 20 in Spain

    Today we said goodbye to Toledo, stopped on our way out of town for one last photo and then drove to Madrid. We checked into our Airbnb in the centre of town at about 3.30pm. The traffic in the centre of Madrid was crazy. Our host could not believe we had brought a car into the centre of Madrid. She doesn’t even own a car and recommended that we get rid of ours too. I am already scheduled to return the car tomorrow.

    We walked around town to get our bearings. We found a supermarket close by to stock up on supplies.

    Sam had a quiet night in. I had planned to attend the bullfighting display in the Madrid bullring. There were young matadors, picadors and banderilleros putting on a bullfight during the summer while the more experienced bullfighters take a break. It was an interesting spectacle.
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  • Day24

    This morning I braved the crazy Madrid traffic to return the hire car. In some ways I was happy to return the car in one piece after braving the Madrid traffic, sitting on the left-hand side of the car, driving on the right-hand side of the road, and just to add a bit of spice, the far right lane in Madrid city centre is reserved for buses and taxis. The far right lane is the slow lane, my preferred lane in the circumstances, but that was unavailable to me, something which my Spanish compatriots on the road were equally frustrated about - they were all quite keen for me to move into the far right lane, something they regularly urged me to do by use of their loud honking horns. Also, turning right from the middle lane is something the buses and taxis are not keen for motorists to do, as it means cutting through their lane. I discovered that buses have much louder horns than cars, and taxis are even more ready to use their horns as well in such circumstances, as I discovered, having many right turns to make as I circled rather fruitlessly around the train station trying to find the hire car drop-off point. One-way streets are also something Madrid town-planners have embraced with enthusiasm disproportionate to their practicality. I am not sure the complete guidelines around their use was complied with in my driving experience this morning, although I am unsure I could pinpoint exactly where I went wrong. The Spanish were keen to give me hints about this, once again using their horns to maximum effect.

    The hire-car depot was in the huge Madrid Train Station, which is so large and filled with commuters and tourists coming in on the fast trains that it is more like an airport. It took me three hours just to drive to the station via a petrol station to fill up, find the appropriate location to return the vehicle, and then find my way back to the apartment. It was quite an ordeal, for me and the Spanish citizens who interacted with me for various purposes, including providing valuable feedback on my use of large roundabouts.

    As I walked back to the apartment I was sidetracked by quite a few fascinating sights and spectacles in Madrid. It was a Saturday so there were markets aplenty. One market I came across was just all bookstores selling second-hand books. There was a line of permanent wooden stalls that housed thousands of books in little stalls. It was amazing. Even though I can't read Spanish, and there wasn't an English book to be seen, the atmosphere was similar to the stalls on the walkway beside the Seine in Paris. I found a copy of Asterisk in Spain, in Spain, in Spanish.

    I also tried churros for the first time in Spain, having resisted until today. I ordered what I thought was going to be some churros with dipping sauce, but turned out to be churros completely covered with chocolate. A carb overload for sure. I was given a bag-full of them and I only just managed to finish them.

    Madrid is an entirely different kind of city from anything we have seen before in Spain. This is a much more modern city like Sydney or Melbourne. The crowds are packing into the city and its shoulder to shoulder. As our Airbnb hostess was keen and correct to emphasise - never bring a car into the centre of Madrid.
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  • Day24

    Segway Tour of Madrid

    July 21 in Spain

    I came across a shopfront in Madrid, on the way back to our apartment after dropping off the hire car, that organises and runs Segway tours of Madrid. I have seen plenty of them running around many of the other cities we have been to, but it seemed today was a perfect time, and Madrid a perfect place, to give these cute two-wheelers a go. I booked a 2-hour private tour via Segway at 6:30 pm and then returned to the apartment and told Sam. He was very keen, as was I.

    We arrived promptly at 6:30 pm to begin the tour. It doesn't get dark here till 10:00 pm so things are just getting started in Spain at 6:30 pm. We were given instructions on how to ride the Segway, and a guide named Irene (what is it with girl guides named Irene in this country? we have only had two young female tour guides and both of them have been named Irene) proceeded to lead us on a 2-hour journey around the most beautiful sites in Madrid.

    Our tour took us through the gardens which were once part of the Royal Palace. The gardens had a French area, a huge greenhouse and a massive lake. The greenhouse was for plants from the Philippines (named that after Philip the King of France at the time of colonisation) and the massive lake was for mini naval battles using full-size galleons for the entertainment of the king and the nobles.

    We spent about an hour through the gardens, then we went on a tour through some of the older areas of Madrid. We saw the impressive Royal Palace and the Cathedral on the opposite side of the square, both built in renaissance style. We also visited the Main Square which dates from the 15th century and used to be used for bullfights. Also, it was used by the Inquisition to execute convicted heretics - about 4000 were executed in that square alone over the years. Franco, the dictator on Spain from 1939 to 1975 also like to use the square for executions. There were places for hangings, beheadings and garrotings. The last garrotting took place in the square in 1975 (yes, only a little over 40 years ago) under the orders of Franco.

    Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer who spent a lot of time in France and Spain, travelled to Spain and fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He also watched many bullfights here in Madrid. His famous book, For Whom The Bell Tolls, is based on his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He also wrote at least three books in which bullfighting plays a major part in the story, including Death In the Afternoon, and The Sun Also Rises. We saw the restaurants and cafes where Hemingway had a regular table and watched the Spanish day go by in the 1930s.

    We saw medieval prisons, the town hall, museums and concert halls, the world's oldest continually operating restaurant. I have visited at least three restaurants claiming to be the world's oldest, in various countries now, one in Paris, one in Vienna and now one in Madrid. The guide assured me that it was in the Guinness Book of Records so I will have to remember to consult it to verify the claim.

    The Segway Tour was a highlight. They are remarkably easy to control, despite them appearing very difficult to ride. They are very stable, extremely maneuverable, and quite speedy. I really thought these would be useful in Australian cities as an alternative to other modes of transport. They run on rechargeable batteries and go for at least 2-3 hours on each charge. I am not sure of the rules in Australia about their use, but I would presume the rule-makers and fun police would have outlawed them.
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  • Day25

    The Royal Palace

    July 22 in Spain

    The Royal Palace of Madrid was the next site to be explored. Spain currently has a monarchy - King Felipe VI. Spain has been through various versions of political constitution, including republic, dictatorship, monarchy. At the moment it is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In that sense, Spain is like Australia (except our monarch is really the Queen of England). There are two strong views in Spain - one group say that the monarchy should be eradicated in favour of a republic, and the other support the king. One of our guides said that one day there will be another civil war to decide the matter. Obviously all the previous civil wars have not decided the matter satisfactorily, so I'm not sure what another civil war will achieve.

    The Royal Palace is not the permanent residence of the King and his family, although it is used for special state occasions. The royal family live outside Madrid in a more peaceful setting. The Royal Palace is now used for state events and a whole wing of the palace is open to tourists. This wing is furnished as it was in the 18th century in the reign of Carlos 111 (Spanish for Charles 111). The sumptuous palace and its rooms are magnificent. The artwork and furnishings on display are much like the other great palaces in Europe. In fact, this royal palace is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. It has 3418 rooms. If you visited 10 rooms a day, it would take a year to visit all the rooms!

    The throne room in which the king received ambassadors is furnished as it was. The visitors would wait in a smallish room, to get acquainted with their smallish status, and then enter the grand throne room where the king (and queen) would be seated, elevated, and surrounded by royal fabrics and statues of lions with their paws resting on carved spheres, representing the power of Spain over the earth.

    There was one thing on display that particularly caught my eye. In one room there is a full quintet of Stradivarius string instruments of the highest quality. It is the only such set in the world. They are on display in glass cases. There are two violins, a viola and a cello, all decorated the same. Then there is an additional undecorated cello that is the finest instrument of them all and one of the best in the world. I wasn't expecting that. With all the crowns and gold sceptres around, it was these instruments that held the most value from my perspective. It was tempting to break the glass case right there and do some busking. The instruments are all set up ready to play, and apparently they do get played on special occasions. These instruments would be priceless, but I would reckon the set would be worth more than 150 million dollars if it went onto the market right now.

    The Royal Palace is worth a visit for a number of reasons, not least of which is the collection of Stradivarius string instruments. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in most of the palace, so my photos are only those I could surreptitiously take when the security personnel weren't watching and they will be low quality.
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  • Day25

    The Royal Gardens are attached to the Royal Palace and are as impressive as would expect them to be. The largest palace in Europe is not going to be embarrassed by a small veggie patch and a few pot plants out the back. The formal gardens were huge and well kept. They were pleasant to stroll through and they are open for the Madrid residents and tourists to enjoy on the hot summer days.

    The Madrid Cathedral is very young as far as cathedrals are concerned. It was only completed in 1993, 110 years after the foundation stone was laid on 1883. When the capital of Spain moved from Toledo to Madrid in 1561, the seat of the church remained in Toledo. The cost of running and maintaining an empire came first for the monarchy, and then some wars with France, civil wars and other costly ventures diverted funds from a project that was alwayd meant to happen, but just didn't for lack of funds. Finally the project was completed in 1993. The external design is classical to fit in with the architecture of the royal palace across the square, but the inside is neo-gothic, a bit more modern. There is also a large crypt which is the same size as the cathedral itself, underneath, which was completed many years ago and houses some famous Spanish graves.

    After visiting the cathedral and the crypt, it was time to wander back through the streets of Spain for our last night in this amazing country. Tomorrow we fly to Paris. It has been an whirlwind tour, and an amazing journey, around this unforgettable country. Grazias, Espania.
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  • Day25

    Prado Museum

    July 22 in Spain

    Today we explored some of Madrid's most amazing sites - the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Palacio Real de Madrid, the Madrid Cathedral and the Royal Gardens. These places are magnificent.

    The Prado Museum takes its name from the "meadow" (Spanish "prado") which once existed in the area gave its name to the location in which the museum now stands. It is one of the pre-eminent art museums in the world. It's collection rivals the Louvre. There are some huge paintings in the collection, and many fine works by artists such as Goya, Rubens, El Greco, Titian, Valezquez, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, just to name a few. We spent four hours there and still did not see everything. It was an amazing place. The artworks are breath-taking. One could just look and the giant paintings by Rubens in the main arched hall for hours and still see new things in them. One of the paintings that captured my imagination was a 16th-century painting called The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. It depicts life as a battle between the forces of death and life, and that death is winning the war and everyone living is, or is soon to be, a prisoner and casualty of death, who is depicted as a scythe-wielding skeleton on a horse leading an army of skeletons swamping the army of the living. It is very graphic, almost cartoonish, and difficult to believe it was painted in 1562.

    There are many famous paintings in the Prado, and around every corner, there were new amazing sights to be seen.
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  • Day2

    Day 2 - Exploring Madrid

    September 11, 2017 in Spain

    First full day in Madrid! We got a much needed 11 hours of sleep then ventured out for a long day. Started with pastries at the famous La Mallorquina where I had the best croissant of my life! Next, we walked for miles, hitting some of the top tourist attractions of the capital - Museo Del Prado, the Royal Palace of Madrid, and the Plaza Mayor for lunch. Early evening siesta and then tapas and vino!Read more

  • Day1

    Day 1 - Madrid Arrival!

    September 10, 2017 in Spain

    Long, mostly sleepless night/morning flight from JFK to Lisbon. Long line to get through customs. Long 4 hour layover in Lisbon. Long, confusing, Spanish-practicing cab ride, while attempting to dodge a crowd-filled national cycling race through the city of Madrid, to get to our Airbnb. Finally made it to our cute studio apartment in the middle of everything by early evening. We were ready to go right to sleep but decided to push through and enjoy our first night! Dinner of pork loin, ham and peppers tapas, goat cheese, onion and blueberry tapas, and seafood marinara paella. Followed by people watching with wine and cafe outside on the streets of Sol. Very long but very awesome first day in Europe! Now hopefully 12+ hours of sleep!!! Buenos noches!!Read more

  • Day595

    A night out & Sunday in Madrid

    February 11 in Spain

    After a refreshing siesta, Will whipped up a broccoli and chorizo paella (broccoli for Vicky, chorizo for him). Making ourselves look presentable (aka removing as many Poppy hairs as possible), we wandered down the hill towards central Madrid to sample the nightlife!

    After disappointing experiences of researching bars and trying to find them, we opted to just go with the flow and follow the groups of people who looked as if they were out for a drink, chosing any establishment that caught our eyes along the way. Despite temperatures in single figures, the outdoor chairs and tables were still being used by people huddled up in padded coats, large scarves and woolly hats; there were no skimpy dresses and goose pimples on show, as there might have been in Newcaastle's Bigg Market on a Saturday night!

    Astorga was a small bar up a side street. A few couples and a group of friends sat on the high stools chatting quietly and picking over their bowls of complementary crisps. It had a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, with light rock playing quietly over the speakers. As we left, we felt like visiting somewhere with a bit more Oomph and '100 Montaditos' certainly delivered! There was a mixed crowd, most in their 20s but some older and a few younger. Everyone was drinking beer out of handle glasses instead of the tulip shaped stem glasses we've been used to in Spain. There was standing room only but we found ourselves a ledge to lean against and moved to a more comfortable spot at the light grey marble topped bar when others moved on. It was load and raucus and just what we'd hoped for. With a smile on our faces we enjoyed watching as groups chatted animatedly and friends shared earphones to dance to.

    On the move again, a sign for craft beer on draught caught our attention and lured us into the dimly lit La Zurbanita. It was only once we were in that we realised it focussed on British style beer, but the barperson was friendly and other customers seemed to be having fun so we ordered Spanish IPAs and had them brought to us in traditional UK pint glasses. The beer was really good but very strong. We took our time and were brought a complimentary slate of crisps and two small bites of bread topped with creamy goat cheese and apple chutney!

    On our way back to the van we popped into another Cerveceria 100 Montaditos. We love how the Spainish language will so often take the product being sold and add 'eria' to the end to describe the shop! Cerveceria= beer shop, Paneria = bread shop, Churroreria= somewhere that sells churros! Now that 100 Montaditos was on our radar, we've begun seeing a lot of them, a bit like a Spanish Wetherspoons. Unlike shops in the daytime, most of the bars we visited were brightly lit. They had a lot more standing room and a higher proportion of bar stools than UK pubs. We'd really enjoyed our night out in Madrid, but it was definitely time to go home. On the way, the capital city had one last treat in store; an impromptu street dance! A large group were gathered around a quartet of trumpeters and in the middle around 40 revellers had joined arms to do a kind of Hokey Cokey Can Can. What could we do but join in?!

    You can see a short clip of the dance on the VnW Travels You Tube channel: https://youtu.be/dsRUdvvKunc

    Morning brought the bin lorries once again. Luckily we didn't have banging headaches so the noise was bearable. Big cities such as Madrid obviously hold different attractions for different people. Will's brother Pete had recommended the world famous Prada art gallery but we only had time for one more thing and can never resist a good market; a decision that was viewed disdainfully by Pete - sorry Pete! El Rastro is a Sunday institution in Madrid. Located in La Latina district, the market has three very distinct sections; the tourist area sells hippy clothes, wall hangings, leather bags, t shirts, shawls, scarves and wooden toys to name but a few. This borders the clothes market that has everything from good old fashioned jumble sale piles, to antique fur coat stalls, to plastic wrapped shirts and boxes of shoes. Beyond this is the original flea market, its stalls far less fancy than in the previous two sectors, many of them a simple display of goods arranged on the pavement, or spilling out of an antiques shop. In contrast to the bright colours of the tourist goods and the loud shouts of clothes market sellers, the merchandise here sold itself. People would go looking for items and make an offer that the owner could consider whether or not to accept. Polished silver gleamed and old photographs told of times gone by. There were paintings in guilded frames, decorated tin boxes and suitcases, old iron keys that might have once granted the holder entry to a castle and even a wooden spinning wheel were among the plethora of historical items available.

    We'd planned to get churros with chocolate as a mid morning snack but after searching in vain, we came accross Animal & Té. A café come dog accessory shop, vet and doggy salon, it was unique in our experience and so of course we had to go in! Although there weren't any dogs in there at the start, a couple came in and recieved their obligatory biscuits as we sipped our coffee and camomile and savoured our pastel de zanahoria (carrot cake). It was a really great idea that worked well in practice and we'd definitely recommend a visit if you are ever in the area (and like dogs).

    Will bought a couple of shirts from the hippy market but the lanes were beginning to get rammed with tourists so we made a quick retreat to the terraza (street tables) of Restaurant Cantalejo in sight of La Latina metro station. A tapas plate of mixed meat paella was delivered with our beers and we sampled the bocadillos de calamares; squid ring sandwiches. We found the concept odd but they tasted fine and we enjoyed soaking up the warmth of the sun and watching people go by.

    If anything, the streets were even busier than on Saturday and we felt it was a good time to get back to Poppy, pack up and drive to a much needed van service area. Leaving the high rises behind we felt a little relieved. We had very much enjoyed our time in Madrid, the grand buildings, the food, bars and street cafés. Park de Oeste were we'd stayed was a gem of a space and quiet in the early mornings. However, Spain's capital is a city that is nearly always on the go, with so many things going on and vying for our attention, we found it tiring and were grateful for the limited time we had enjoyed its company.
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  • Day596

    Tagus River, Aranjuez

    February 12 in Spain

    Exiting Madrid via kilometres of underground roads, we managed to fill and empty at a service point in the suburbs, then drive to our overnight destination outside Aranjuez, by the winding Tagus river. Backing up to the fence of a playground, we positioned the van so we could watch the numerous white geese that had claimed the river meander as their own. The sky was blue, the sun was out and so were the locals, enjoying Sunday afternoon strolls, jogs and trips to the park.

    Will sat out within earshot of a campervanner strumming Dylan songs on their guitar and Vicky spent the afternoon reading. It was a nice come down from the highs of Madrid. We might have taken the canoe on the river the following day but it was chilly and overcast with occasional patches of rain- a good day for driving!

    Before leaving we crossed the bridge into a large park with a network of paths lined by Plane trees and low Privet hedges. We were able to cut through the park to the town of Aranjuez, where we bought bread and straight croissants at a paneria. Resting on a small and ornate metal park bench, we ate a couple of the sweet treats before returning to Martha Motorhome and getting on the road once again.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid, Comunitat de Madrid, Madrilgo Erkidegoa, Communauté de Madrid, コムニダ・デ・マドリッド, 마드리드 지방, Область Мадрид

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