Tuesday 8 May 2018

For those of you who don't know much about me, I'm from the tiny British country of Gibraltar that sits on the southern tip of Europe, bordering Spain. Now that you have that information, I can say that tapas are part of my weekly life because we have a lot of typical 'Andalusian' restaurants in Gibraltar, nestled between fish and chip shops and Gibraltarian favourites. Nevertheless, whenever I travel somewhere in Spain there are always new surprising things on the menu aside from your standard 'Patatas Bravas' and 'Tortilla de Patata' and every city has it's own charm. Ok so enough about food for now, the main reason(s) I went to Madrid was to reunite with my best friend Zoe who I met at University because it was a lot cheaper than flying to Gibraltar or London respectively AND it has been months since I last saw her, which was on our NYE trip to Barcelona. ALSO Lana Del Rey finally made her come back to Europe after 4 years, so of course we were not missing out. I'd been to Madrid twice in the past but this was the first time I actually did all the 'touristy' things. If you're planning on expanding your Spain bucket list, then here's my guide on where to get the best churros in Madrid, where to stay and what to do! 

plaza mayor

Where to stay in Madrid

No matter where you stay in Madrid, the chances are you'll be within 400m of a metro stop. Since we were pretty much just looking for a clean private room, we opted for Hostel Yolanda which only set us back £50 each for 3 nights. The room was basic but catered for our needs - clean bedsheets, a vanity table with a mirror, a full length mirror and a cute balcony to take pictures out of whilst we were getting ready for a night out (obvs). Another hotel that I've stayed at in the past is Petit Palace (Petit Palace Tres Cruces)- which is a chain you'll find in several locations around Madrid and Spain. The outside of this particular hotel looks very fairytale like and quirky, but you'll find that their rooms are very modern and the showers have more than your normal amount of nozzles so it makes for fun washing!

hostal yolanda

Where to eat in Madrid

I'm going to break this up into the four main meals of the day, if like me you like to fill your stomach to the brim when on holiday then you'll be spoilt for choice in Madrid. So on our first morning we had breakfast at La Rollerie, which is a cosy chain breakfast cafe with several of them scattered around the city. Their prices are good and their portions are large. They have everything from traditional 'bread with tomato', english breakfasts, vegan choices and a large array of pastries on offer. Me and Zoe both opted for a 'Espanol' which featured rustic bread, a slice of Spanish tortillla de patatas/omelette, a coffee and a glass of fresh orange juice - all for 6 euros. 

If your palette is ok with having sweet things in the morning, then a trip to Chocolateria San Gines is a must. They've been around since 1894 and serve your standard churros and thick hot chocolate, and also 'porras' which are of the thicker variety. Zoe had never actually tried Spanish churros and thought they all tasted sweet, as in many places they're made with cinnamon and for me personally, don't taste as nice. Be warned, the queues to get a place to sit here are usually out the door, so arrive early so you're not standing outside with your stomach rumbling for half an hour. However this place is open until the early hours of the morning, so you can head there whenever you fancy them.

chocolateria san gines

For lunch....whenever I travel anywhere I do my research to find the tasty, quirky and recommended places a destination has to offer. After watching one too many episodes of Riverdale I was on the hunt for a diner where I could get a burger and shake. Luckily Tommy Nels was right off the Puerta Del Sol and served exactly that. Their burgers were delicious although my shake could have done with some more flavourin, or a cherry on top at least! We had lunch at around 2pm and could have probably been satisfied up until 9pm, but of course I always have to make room for tea and cake when away. If it's innovative tapas you're after then Juana La Loca offers some interesting plates and is a nice cosy place too. Musa Malasaña also creates fusion type tapas and at very good prices - for 30 euros (between two people) you get a varied selection of tapas.

If you fancy hopping somewhere else for some tea and cake, then Lolina Vintage Cafe is great for either breakfast, brunch or tea time. If you're looking to start the night early then they also offer a cocktail and cake offer for 10 euros. Toma Cafe is another good option that offers a range of sweet and savoury options at affordable prices.

tommy nels

For dinner, I'd definately recommend paying a visit to the Mercado De San Miguel, which is a sort of indoor market that has over 15+ bars and 'restaurants' to choose from. The atmosphere in these kind of places is always great but it does get busy so it's not always easy to find a place to sit. If you've been walking around all morning then it might not be the ideal pit stop for lunch, but for dinner it's the perfect place to grab a couple of plates and drinks and gather around a table. 

What to do in Madrid

Madrid is home to a lot of gardens, most notable the 'Parque de Retiro' where you can also have a go at rowing a boat along the...lake?) for 6 EUROS per boat, each boat holds 4 people so essentially you're paying 2 euros each for an hour, which is pretty decent. If you like to get to know your royals, you can also pay a visit to the Royal Palace. An interesting fact we learnt about this place was that if you had a baby and made it sleep in a different room every night, it wouldn't have slept in every room until it was 7, or was it 8?

parque de retiro

As always, we did a 'free' walking tour with Sandemans and our guide was pretty entertaining, he told us all about why Plaza Mayor used to smell so bad including the fact that the statue in the centre used to have its mouth open, and birds used to fly inside get trapped and die, so yeah picture that. We also learnt why 'tapas' are in fact called tapas, but I won't disclose that so you can hear the story for yourself if you go! (or a simple Google will do the trick).

There are plenty of museums in Madrid and a lot of them are free at certain times or to EU nationals (lol you better go quick). Some notable ones are el Prado which is free from 6pm-8pm on weekdays, the Reina Sofia which is free from 7pm-9pm and the very romantic 'Museo del Romanticismo' which is free on Saturday's after 2pm. For a more extensive list you can see TripAdvisor's list of free museum entries in Madrid. We also paid 4 euros (2 with a student card) to get in to the Madrid botanical gardens, which was a pleasant walk around and obviously got us some good shots for Instagram. 

la latina

If you're travelling with kids, or in a group of friends and fancy something a bit of exhilarating, then you can find Warner Bros and Parque de Atracciones in Madrid. The latter has more 'thrill' rides as such whereas WB is home to Bugs Bunny, Batman and all that stuff. So if you prefer more themed theme parks then that might be more entertaining for everyone. 

Some of the more trendy areas in Madrid are La Latina and Malasaña, if you're looking for an area to go out. Me and Zoe did a pub crawl with Madride* which I was kindly invited along to, and hands down it was probably one of the most enjoyable pub crawls I've done. FIRSTLY, because pub crawls always say there's going to be drinking games (everyone knows I love a good drinking game) and they never happen, whereas we actually had a go at a couple in the first bar which worked as a great ice breaker for the group. The drink deals were awesome, we paid 5 euros in the first bar for 1 hour of unlimited Sangria, and in the next paid 10 euros for 1 hour of spirit mixers. You can imagine what we ended up like by the end of the night, or when we had to wake up at 8am to go catch our flight home ha ha ha. 

Last but not least, it's always good to see what's actually happening in Madrid when you're there! Whether it's a football game at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, a concert at the Palacio Vista Alegre, a Whitney Houston musical or a flamenco show - there's always something going on in this buzzing city. I'm also going to leave this lovely photo of Lana here I took, despite having queued for just an hour (and the queue being 800m long) we managed to get a pretty good spot.

lana del rey madrid

parque de retiro

Have you ever been to Madrid? What tapas are your favourites? I think 'aubergine fries with honey' have to be my current ones!



for more to do in Madrid head to my Spain Pinterest board

madrid travel guide

Want to explore more of Spain? You might want to take a look at my Barcelona travel guide or Ibiza travel guide

*items marked were given to me on a complimentary basis for the purpose of this blog post

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