Long-term readers of this blog may recall I lived in Madrid for six months of last year – six glorious summer months of wandering around in shorts and sandals, eating ridiculous amounts of cheese and exploring new and beautiful places on my bike or with my trainers (click on “Spain” in the “Running and cycling around the world” menu to see all the places I went to!).
I loved the city, I love the country, I loved my life while living there. I’ve been desperate for a trip back ever since I got home, and so on Friday afternoon I packed my sunglasses and sandals and headed to the airport.
I couldn’t stop my grin as I got off the metro into a busy square bustling with Madrileños having pre-dinner drinks (Plaza Santa Barbara) and headed to our hotel – Urso Hotel & Spa. For no real reason I’d decided to treat James and I to a little luxury and so booked a hotel much more expensive than I usually would. We didn’t even use the spa but the room was brilliant with a ginormous comfy bed and huge pillows!
I headed out for dinner, a short walk from Urso down the narrow street to Chueca. I was back at my old haunts, a simple, bustling cocktail bar in the square at La Chueca serving good, reasonably priced tapas with a great atmosphere. I have to admit I got slightly carried away with the menu, ordering tortilla, a plate of manchego cheese AND pork and brie. This was all just for me as James was joining later that night after a conference in Barcelona. A lot of food!
Breakfast was at Crusto, my favourite place for breakfast due to the freshly squeezed juices and choice of having a proper brunch, something from the bakery, or the traditional Madrid breakfast of “tostada con tomate” – toasted bread covered with tomato, with olive oil and salt liberally drizzled over. That’s what I went for on this occasion, mindful that I had a big lunch planned, while James had a coconut muffin from the bakery, and we watched the bakers hard at work kneading dough in the open kitchen.
From there, we walked along quiet residential streets with brightly coloured buildings to the Park Oeste, to visit the Temple Debod.
This Egyptian temple was given to the Spanish in 1968 for helping to save other important temples from as destruction a result of the building of the Aswan Dam. I’ve never been to Egypt and so I found it pretty incredible to touch the hieroglyphics – it’s a really beautiful building.
And then it was back to Malasaña for lunch. This area of Madrid, with its small squares and cobbled streets, has become known as hipster-central and the streets are lined with bars selling craft beers, coffee shops, and small, independent design stores. We went to La Ardosa, famed for its tortilla. Its an incredible bar, the walls lined with brightly coloured tiles and bottles, a menu written on a chalkboard hanging high above the bar.
It was absolutely full of people and we pushed our way to a spot against one wall, shouting to the waiter to order tortilla, croquetas, salmorejo, beers and wine. We nibbled and chatted and drank and enjoyed the atmosphere. The tortilla especially was amazing.
After this we moved along to another bar in Malasaña as James had noticed it sold a good range of craft beers. Another drink and slice of tortilla later and we were slightly tipsy and completely stuffed!
For dinner we went out to Taberna de los Gallos where we continued to eat and drink a lot! James then fancied some whiskey so we jumped in a 5 minute cab back to Malasaña, to a very cool bar called 1862 Dry Bar. The ground floor had wide doors open to the street, exposed brick walls and naked bulbs. Two strong cocktails later, we swayed our way home through the busy streets of Madrid.
A slight hangover meant we were slow to checkout, enjoying the comfort of our huge bed! We grabbed smoothies from the bagel & smoothie shop at Alonso Martinez metro and then hopped on the metro down to the Reina Sofia. Entry is free on Sunday afternoons but some of the collections are closed, so this time we paid to go in (€8) and explored the art we hadn’t seen on our last visit.
Then there was just time for a tapas lunch in the sun at Lateral in the bustling Plaza Santa Ana, before walking back through the narrow streets to our hotel, changing our clothes to prepare for returning to an English “summer”, and getting a quick 20 minute taxi to the airport.
From London, Madrid is the perfect place for a weekend break – a little bit of culture, a lot of food and drink and general relaxing in the sun!
Need to know:
Hotel: I booked my stay at Urso Hotel & Spa from Mr and Mrs Smith for £170 a night. The service was impeccable, the room simply decorated and elegant, the shower great and the bed huge. A few little niggles (only because it was an expensive hotel) were no sound system in the bedroom, and no little bottle of conditioner in the bathroom (although they did provide shampoo)! The location was also perfect for what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go.
Eat: I’ll update my “What to eat in Madrid” post shortly with more details – click here for all my favourite restaurants in Madrid!
Transport: there’s no Uber in Madrid but taxis are plentiful and cheap. The metro also goes all over town and is really cheap, from €1.50 for a single journey, to €12.20 for 10 trips. Its also a very walkable city, it’s quite small and it’s lovely to just wander around the narrow streets.
Have a look at this post for more ideas of what to do in Madrid!