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Madrid is big, bustling and full of personality. As with most big cities, you could spend a month and just scratch the surface. This time around we only had a few days, but we approached it knowing we’d be back which always takes the pressure off of having to see everything in one go. Instead, we got to wander, eat some great food, drink wine, wander some more and enjoy warm sun in the middle of winter.

 

WHERE TO STAY

If you only have a few days and you’re looking to be central to most things, Centro is a great neighborhood to be in. It can feel a little touristy in certain sections but it is truly at the heart of the city with easy access to restaurants, The Royal Palace, Museo del Prado, and most of the the high level attractions you may want to hit up. It’s also an easy to walk to neighborhoods such as Chueca & Malasaña. 

Thompson Madrid: Located in Playa del Carmen, the location provided easy access to everything. The rooms were well designed and appointed. The property also has an impressive rooftop pool if you’re there during warmer months. The service was great as was the onsite restaurant, but the real star was its proximity to everything in Madrid. 

Next time we want to check out TOTEM in Salamanca spearheaded by hotelier Pablo Carrington in his follow up from Urso Hotel & Spa. It exudes the feeling that you’re staying at someone’s private apartment rather than a big 100+ room property. 

 

WHERE TO EAT

Our best food experiences when traveling are always the places we happen upon while walking around. We got lucky on our first night when we stumbled into MATADOR - a cozy restaurant & bar, the type that you go to with old friends to catch up over Tapas & Wine. The menu was small but perfect with pricing that made you think you went back in time. 

Ten Con Ten: Located in Salamanca, this place was recommended by multiple people not to mention featured in Goop… so all the rage, right? The food was excellent but the experience left a little to be desired. If you go, nab a reservation on the bar side of the restaurant. The Salon portion of the dining rooms felt like an overflow conference space and everyone seated there, felt a little snubbed. The truffle risotto however, INCREDIBLE. 

You will not be disappointed by Madrid’s food hall scene. 

Mercado San Miguel is one of the busier ones with plenty of dining options. Mercado de la Paz in Salamanca is more on the traditional side as people not only eat but shop for produce, fish, meat and well curated pantry items. 

Plan on stopping by one of these for some midday nourishment or for an afternoon coffee and great people watching. 

 

WHAT TO DO

We like to plan at most one thing each day, that way we have time to wander and see where the day takes us. And again, without the pressure to do everything, this is a good list to work off to get a taste of what the city has to offer:

Royal Palace: Despite being the official residence of the royal family, they don’t actually live here which means much of the palace is open to the public. We booked a tour of the royal kitchens which we’d highly recommend. Although the tour is only offered in Spanish, don’t fret if you’re Spanish rusty as you’ll still get a great feel for how it operated and just how robust of an operation it was. Following the tour, we meandered through the palace upstairs and wow… there is a reason they limit photography, it’s breathtaking in person and deserves the experience. 

 

Museo del Prado: This museum sits in the same category as the Louvre. It’s an obligatory stop for it’s extensive art collection, but don’t feel the need to tackle it all at once: go explore a single wing or exhibit at a time so it’s more digestible.

Retiro Park: For lack of a better comparison, this is often called the Central Park of Madrid. It's personality changes with the season and you can easily spend an afternoon wandering through. Bring your own lunch and spread out overlooking the lake, enjoy summer concerts, see the Crystal Palace or just relax on a park bench. Close by are the Botanical Gardens if you haven’t met your park quota. 

Afternoon Siesta: If you’re going to want some afternoon rest before dinner at 9 and drinks after 11, plan on carving out an hour or so and enjoy the snooze because it’s worth it. 

Anywhere you think we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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