Mike and I had the opportunity to go to Madrid for him to attend a conference, so the day after landing in London, we repacked small suitcases and set off to Madrid for the weekend. It was our second time visiting and we were quite excited to have another chance to explore the city. Our previous time there was the first stop on a two week vacation through Spain. We often find that the first city we visit on an extended holiday seems to fall to the bottom of our list of favorite cities. Maybe because we haven’t quite got in the groove of traveling or haven’t started to relax yet, but we agree we haven’t enjoyed them as much as the rest of the trip. The same thing happened when we went to Italy and had our first 4 days in Rome. We found the city hard to navigate, didn’t find any culinary gems and were ready to move on. We were hoping that we would have a different experience in Madrid this time around.
We stayed a bit off the beaten path in Las Ventas so that it was convenient to get to central areas as well as for Mike to get to the conference centre.
While exploring the central tourist areas, it’s inevitable to come across Puerta del Sol, which is the heart of the historic centre, and one of Madrid’s liveliest squares.
Madrid’s main square, Plaza Mayor is another central tourist destination. Next to Plaza Mayor is one of Madrid’s most popular markets, Mercado San Miguel. The market is a bit of a food heaven as it has numerous stalls serving fresh produce, meats, cheese and prepared food. It’s a great place to grab a bite as it offers ready to eat tapas, drinks and other delicacies. We stopped for lunch but it’s also very busy in the late evening when tourist and locals alike enjoy tapas.
We explored some new areas this time and fell in love with the Chueca district. It’s a fun and fashionable area with a lot of atmosphere. We saw young, hip people enjoying themselves at outside restaurants and cafes. We explored the Mercado San Anton, which is like the Whole Foods of Madrid food markets. The market is a sleek and modernly designed five story building with a welcoming rooftop terrace overlooking the city.
We met one of Mike’s Canadian colleagues for dinner in the vibrant Plaza de Santa Ana in the Huertas district. This area has many winding streets filled with tapas bars, terrace cafes and restaurants.
Our best dining experience was when we found calle de Cava Baja which is a dark but busy street lined with tapas bars. We ate at the well known El Tempranillo and had some amazing tapas.
This trip certainly dispelled our ambivalence about Madrid and we came away with a fresh take on the city. Maybe we need to go to Rome again to rediscover what it has to offer!