In Januray 2015, my two roommates and I booked a flight for a spontanous weekend in Madrid. As I already recommended for Italy, Madrid is much cheaper and equally lovely in Winter!
Here are the places I loved most:
1.) Parque del Buen Retiro
This amazing green island in the middle of the city jungle is the best place to fill up your batteries after a long day of sightseeing. It also has a cute little lake at the middle, where you can rent a boat and go rowing for a while. You can also meet up at the “Monumento a Alfonso XIII”, an incredible place for photo shoots.
2.) Puerta del sol
Incredible piece of spanish culture right in the centre of Madrid, with very famous sights like the statue of the bear eating strawberries from a strawberry tree (which, by the way, don´t exist), called “Oso y el Madroño”. Another important sight is the “Real Casa de Correros”, headquarters of Madrid´s president with a famous clock-tower, where the locals love to count down the old year at New Years Eve. Right in front of it is a stone slab on the pavement marking kilometre zero, the starting point for Spain´s six main roads, running across the whole country. A real must-see!
3.) Las Ventas
This famous bullfighting arena has been in the crossfire of animal-rights discussions for ages, but in my opinion it´s an incredible piece of spanish cultural heritage. If you are, like me, not on the tough side of life, I´d recommend you visiting it when there´s no fight. But anyway, it´s really worth it, because you learn about a long history, and hear and see on video-walls how the life of the “Matador” (Bullfighter) is like.
4.) Plaza Mayor
Right in the middle, there´s the imposing statue of the riding King Philip III, under whom´s reign this plaza was built. Under the picturesque arcades around it, you´ll find lovely cafés and shops. Perfect for a nice afternoon-stroll 🙂
5.) Cathedral de la Almudena
Built in the eighteen hundreds in the gothic revival style, the cathedral dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena is a majestic example of european church architecture, and really worth competiting with it´s larger rival, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You can enter the cathedral for free, but you´ll have to pay for the museum, which is really worth the entry, as that way you can enter the balcony which offers an astonishing view of the city.
6.) Palacio Real
After visiting the cathedral, our entry budget has shrunken quite a bit, so we decidet to simply wander around the palace and marvel the glorious baroque palace.
7.) Templo de Debod
The ancient fourth-century egypt temple, given to Spain by Egypt out of gratitude in the eighteenth century. Since then, tourists can admire this piece of long, fascinating history, and we loved to find out about the journey it took coming to Madrid. Best to see at sunset, just sit down there and listen to one of the musicians while enjoying a piece of art of incredible historical value.
8.) Plaza de Cibeles
The Cibeles square is a rea must-see in Madrid, as there is the amazing Cibeles-fountain with statues of a spanish goddess and the Palacio de Cibeles, which, newly renovated, serves as a place for temporary galleries and cultural events. If you purchase tickets outside, just right beside the entrance, you can go all the way up to the viewing platform, which will give you a mind- blowing view of Madrids skyline.
9.) Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
The Stadium of Real Madrid is on the bucket list of nearly every soccer fan, but even for simply curious travellers like me, it was fun to visit and explore, as well as seing the shop with all the fan-stuff.
10.) Pub crawl
The best thing in Spain: You can simply start going from café to café in the evening and have a Sangria, a Tinto de Veran (kind of like a sparkling red wine) or a beer and get tapas with it! Tapas are little snacks of traditional spanish food.In my opinion best way to have dinner that you can get, especially in a group, as you get tapas plate with every round of beer 😉
I hope I inspired you to go visiting and exploring Madrid with my travel tips, if you´ve already been to Madrid and know other great places, please let me know in the comments below.