It was one of those crazy last minute spontaneous trips that come to you at the best possible moment, one of those that you'll remember your whole life. If you resist all sangria and stay sober, of course. I was spending an educational month in Barcelona and my friend had suggested meeting in Madrid before all of it started.
At first, it sounded crazy and almost impossible since I've already booked a ticket to Barcelona and it's just too far away. And hot. And far. But it was Madrid at stakes! Royal city! Aristocratic, impressive metropolis that makes your heart skip a beat only by looking at the photos of it. It took a few days, but I said yes!
We booked an Airbnb, surprisingly cheap! Only twenty-something euros for two persons, at the heart of Madrid! Pretty fair room, only a few minutes from Plaza Major, we found out later. Since my friend flew to Madrid I had to catch a bus from Barcelona to Madrid and I only had 1,5 hours to teleport myself from El Prat to Barcelona Nord, a station all across the city. Of course. I didn't choose wise and safe, I chose cheap. My heart stopped a couple of times that day but I managed to be there on time. Spanish fast speaker showed me the right bus and Jacky was on the road again! Eight hours and three movies for improving my Spanish, I was there!
In spectacular Madrid! A golden Spanish capital, home to the royalty of every kind! It seemed so enormous but I constantly kept counting 7th floor as the last one in every building. Its architecture has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets, even though Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure. You can walk for days just staring at its buildings, admiring the beauty they radiate.
Since our budget was short, we planned to spend our three days in Madrid mostly by walking around and it is enough! Believe me.
To our pure luck, Madrid loves students! Your student ID can get you a really amazing discount while exploring around. We decided to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid, Park Retiro, Prado museum and of course, amazing El Rastro flea market, the biggest one I've been until now.
Getting in front of the iron gate of presumably the biggest royal palace in Europe was good enough to sweep us off our feet! The palace has 135,000 square metres (1,450,000 sq ft) of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms. King Felipe VI and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palace of Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.
The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency. The palace is located on Calle de Bailén ("Bailén Street") in the western part of downtown Madrid, east of the Manzanares River, and is accessible from the Ópera metro station. Several rooms in the palace are regularly open to the public except during state functions. We used our discount and paid only 5 instead of regular 11 euros for entrance for a 1,5 h tour. The inside of the building was something most magnificent that I've seen in my life! Rooms are preserved beautifully. Rich golden decorations were so overwhelming, telling the story about the life of royalty in Spain. The tour is beautifully organized and it takes you to all the important rooms of the building. Getting out, to the garden gives you the most amazing look to Amuldina Cathedral, the biggest one in Madrid and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid. The cathedral seems to have been built on the site of a medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid. I could have spent hours looking at these two buildings and not get tired. If only the sun in Madrid wasn't so strong...
Which takes me to our decision to visit Park Retiro since it has a small lake where you can rent small boats and cruise around. Again, not so great idea on Madrid sun that is hot and dry... You are not aware of the temperature at all. You just feel so thirsty! Water in Madrid is really expensive and you need it a lot.
However, the park is huge and beautiful. You can enjoy all sorts of activities there including the Museum of Modern Art and Cristal palace of Madrid. There's a beautiful pond in front of the palace that is a home for numerous turtles that stroll around, begging you to feed them, which you are not allowed to.
To relax at nights, after we get exhausted during the day we chose to explore the city lights and drink sangria in local bars many of which were really memorable especially those on Plaza Major.
Another important square to visit is Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest locations in the city, gathering point to all of the street performers and those who love them! There's a statue of El Oso, Madrid's bear that according to legend you have to touch in exchange for good luck on your trip.
One place that left me speechless was El Rastro flea market, the one place in this city where you can buy basically anything you can think of no matter what ages it's coming from! It is huge! Like a gigantic gallery, covering almost whole neighborhood, it offers you a magical trip to anywhere you are willing to go! New, old, only shiny or gold, anything! I bought a perfect handmade leather bag made in Mexico for only 1 euro. Now that's a souvenir! Definitely, something to experience!
Madrid is vibrant, alive and not so poisoned by tourists during summer. It's a perfect location to stop by before taking a real vacation somewhere in the south. Go!