For those of you who follow my social channels, you’ll have seen (multiple times by now) that I was in sunny Spain last week on a short city break to Madrid! One of my best friends has been to Madrid twice and told me I had to go! So my sister and I booked a short 3 night getaway to see for ourselves. Below is lots more information on what we did, things to do and where to see in Madrid, but in short – I would highly recommend a city break to Madrid! It’s a beautiful city, with great weather and many things to do, it’s very affordable and flights to Madrid are often on sale on Ryanair!
Things to do in Madrid..
Enjoy panoramic views of the city from Círculo de Bellas Artes
This was one of two big highlights of the trip for me and the first thing I’d planned once I’d booked the trip. I’m on of those people who love heights and always make an effort to visit a building or tower with panoramic views of the city wherever I visit. You can visit the Círculo de Bellas Artes rooftop bar for only €4 and a short wait in queue. We had heard queue’s can take unto 45 minutes (I’d image this is weekends during peak season – see when I recommend to visit below), however we were only waiting between 5-10 minutes and around another 15 minutes for a table at the top. Drinks here are a little expensive for Madrid but standard if you’re used to Irish / Dublin prices and no matter where you go in Madrid, the wine is always very affordable! We enjoyed the views before laying back on a lounger with drinks while the sun set – it was a blissful final evening in the city!
Rent Row Boats in Buen Retiro Park
Buen Retiro Park is the largest of the cities many parks and a must-visit if you’re in Madrid. Located just off the Gran Via in the city centre and across from a Metro station, it’s easily accessibly and a great free activity while you’re in the city. The park itself is beautiful. We grabbed coffees and croissants in a nearby café and had a little picnic before strolling the park. You can also rent bikes and cycle the park if you wish but we decided to rent row boats instead and it was probably the best thing we did while there! You can rent row boats in the park for just €6 (per boat). We had such a laugh and really enjoyed the picturesque surrounding.
Stroll & Shop on the Gran Via
The Gran Via is one of the best streets for shopping in Madrid however I will admit I didn’t research shopping all that much as we had really planned for it to be a shopping trip as such. We visit Primark (which is the biggest and best Primark I’ve ever seen), Zara (again – huge), Mango and NYX – which was fab! We were also very excited to visit Sephora, which was not on the Gran Via but I quick Metro ride away, but I have to say I’m not sure it was worth the visit. It was nothing like the Sephora you’d expect in the US and most of the products were easily available in other stores in Europe.
Catch a show on the Gran Via
We stayed in what was once known as the “Broadway of Madrid” – the theatre district of Gran Via. Although we considered it for a few days we didn’t catch a show as they were all in Spanish and we weren’t sure it would be worth it. There’s a a great atmosphere around in the evenings and if you’re into shows and have even a little Spanish (we had none whatsoever), I think this would be a great evening activity in the city.
Visit the Turkish Baths
Another recommendation we had was to visit the Turkish Baths. We didn’t actually visit them in the end but rather visited a spa with Turkish baths, sauna’s, etc. that was next door to the our hotel. This was my sisters idea and not something I would generally do while away but it was such a lovely way to spend an hour of the afternoon, especially when you’re doing lots of walking. I would definitely love to visit the Hamman Al Andalusia Turkish Baths if I return.
Stroll the Plaza Mayor..
Plaza Mayor is essentially a very touristy courtyard dotted with Al Fresco restaurants. We ended up having beautiful tapas and wine in one of the very pretty side streets just off the courtyard itself. I loved all the little streets around this area so I would definitely recommend taking a little stroll outside to Plaza Mayor.
Have cocktails in..
We visited Habanera upon a recommendation – it’s a very popular (and Instagram worthy) brunch spot for brunch. However, we weren’t too impressed with the menu to be honest. They only had a couple of items translated to English on the menu which is a disappointment, so instead we got cocktails (as you do) and later went to a beautiful al fresco restaurant across the street for Pizza. It is however very popular and a very cool spot (and we’re quite fussy eaters to be honest) so I would recommend checking out the menu beforehand. Other popular recommendations included Amazonico and Frida.
When to visit..
Obviously I’m biased because I visited in Spring but I really do think it was such a lovely time to visit. I love city breaks but I much prefer them when it’s warm and sunny rather than sweltering in July heat! It was also relatively quiet in Madrid which I loved! We were very lucky with the weather while we there but I do know it wasn’t quite as hot and sunny the weekends before and after so I would think April-May or September would also be great times to visit the city.
Where to stay..
We stayed in Dear Hotel – a large and quite luxe hotel at the end of the Gran Via, next to Plaza De Espana. The location of the hotel was pretty great in terms of being on the Gran Via however is was at the very end so it was still a little trek from a lot of places. However, there was a Metro station literally underneath the hotel which of course is a huge advantage (although it’s not a direct line from the airport and requires one stop FYI). The hotel itself was really nice with a beautiful rooftop bar and (albeit tiny) pool, with beautiful views of the of the city. We didn’t eat in the hotel and the drinks were quite expensive (with the exception of wine, which is fine by me!)
Our hotel on the left
Who to fly with..
We flew with Ryanair and didn’t book too far in advance so we didn’t get a great deal but they often have Madrid in the their sale selection so I recommend booking ahead when it’s on sale.
Until next time,