A Travel Guide for your City Trip to Madrid, Spain

A Travel Guide for your City Trip to Madrid, Spain

The 10 best highlights and to do’s in Madrid

1. Get to know vibrant Madrid in the different neighborhoods

You will find fewer tourists in Madrid than in other major cities in Spain. So you find yourself completely with the Madrilenians here. The best way to experience local life and meet locals is by exploring the lively and hip neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own atmosphere and character. Let’s explore our favorite ones!

💛 La Malasaña is the trendiest neighborhood among young people. It is full of vintage shops, live music and you will find nice bars and restaurants on every corner of the street.

💛 Chueca is known as the LGBTI+ neighborhood and is the most vibrant. Here you come for the best nightlife and you can order a lot of tapas at almost every restaurant.

💛 La Latina is one of the oldest and local neighborhoods in Madrid. On Sundays from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, the gigantic El Rastro flea market fills the winding streets of La Latina.

💛 Lavapiés is one of the most multicultural neighborhoods in Madrid. You will find bars and restaurants with cuisines from different parts of the world. It is also the best place to spot colorful street art and decorated streets.

💛 In the district of Jeronimos (Retiro) you will find a lot of greenery in the city park El Retiro, but you will also be amazed by all the impressive buildings.

💛 The Sol district is located just outside the city center. Highlights are the beautiful squares and the street Gran Vía, with all the museums, shops, theaters and striking architecture.

The best local experiences in Madrid

2. Discover the beautiful architecture of Madrid

As you wander through the streets of Madrid, you will be surprised again and again by beautiful architecture. We think the most striking buildings and palaces are Palacio Real de Madrid, Edificio Metrópolis, Palacio de Cibeles, cathedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena, Palacio de Cristal, casa Gallardo and the Egyptian temple ‘Templo de Debod’.

3. Relax until sunset in the gigantic city park El Retiro

After all the sightseeing, it is great to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The best way to do this is to relax in the huge El Retiro city park.

El Retiro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was previously privately owned by the Spanish Royal Family. El Retiro has been open to the public since 1868. The park is the green heart of Madrid and many locals find their way here. For running, walking the dog, for a cozy picnic or to cool off in the shade of the many trees.

Tips for your visit to El Retiro

The park is open daily and free to visit. From April to September, the park is open from 6:00 AM to midnight and from October to March from 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM. The park is centrally located so is easy to reach on foot from many other highlights. Are you traveling by metro? Then get on line 2 and get off at the Retiro metro stop.

Things to do in El Retiro

In addition to relaxation, there is also plenty to do in El Retiro. Stroll through the gardens full of fountains and statues, visit the Crystal Palace, enjoy the music of buskers or rent a boat and row across the Estanque Grande del Retiro lake.

Rent a boat at the lake Estanque Grande del Retiro

A fun activity is to row a boat across the Estanque Grande del Retiro lake. On the lake you will enjoy the sun, the water and the impressive architecture around the lake, such as the large columned monument of King Alfonso XII.

You can rent a boat from Monday to Sunday from 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM and from 3:30 PM – 8:00 PM (these times may differ in winter). Make a reservation in advance via telephone number: (+34) 91 574 40 24. With a reservation you skip the line at the cash desk. It is also possible to rent a boat on site. You rent a boat for 45 minutes. During the week you pay €6 per boat, during the weekend and on holidays a boat costs €8.

Visit Palacio de Cristal

The most beautiful sight in El Retiro is Palacio de Cristal. This crystal palace was built in 1887 and its purpose was to exhibit tropical (mainly Filipino) plants. Today, the beautiful location is used for changing exhibitions. The entrance to Palacio de Cristal is free. From April to September the palace is open from 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM and from October to March from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Palacio de Cristal is closed on holidays.

It is definitely worth it to walk around Palacio de Cristal. The palace is surrounded by greenery and a pond, where turtles live. A beautiful reflection of the palace can often be seen in the water of the pond.

4. Pay a (free) visit to Palacio Real, the royal palace

After the Moorish Alcázar (fortress) was destroyed by fire in 1734, the royal palace was built in order by Felipe V. Palacio Real is one of the most important and impressive sights in Madrid. The huge Baroque palace has 3,418 rooms full of ceiling paintings, tapestries and frescoes. Stroll through the galleries of the palace and see the Royal Library, armory and throne room. Today, Palacio Real is only the working palace of the king and the royal family lives in another palace Zarzuela in the north of Madrid.

Tips for your visit to Palacio Real

The palace is open daily from October to March from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM (with different opening hours on Sundays from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM). From April to September, the palace is open daily from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM (with different opening hours on Sundays from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM).
From Monday to Thursday you can visit the palace for free for the last two hours. Are you not there on these days or times? Buy your tickets here to avoid queues at the ticket office.

5. Drink a cocktail at a special hidden gem!

Hidden under a regular shop, in the busy shopping street of Gran Vía, is bar Salvador Bachiller. Walk down the spiral staircase and arrive at a hidden lush jungle with cozy lights, a detailed interior and lots of plants. You don’t just go here for the exclusive cocktails. It is a whole experience.

6. Stroll through the indoor botanical garden of Atocha train station

The Atocha train station is not just any train station. In the middle of the station you will find a large botanical garden with more than 260 different tropical plant species. Here you certainly do not have to worry about missing your train, because this is not a bad place at all to wait for the next train. Even if you do not have to catch a train, it is worth visiting the train station. Tip: Walk upstairs for a nice view of the indoor garden and spot the impressive details of the station building.

7. Taste local specialties at the indoor market hall Mercado San Miguel

You can taste delicious tapas and drinks from all over Spain at the Mercado San Miguel. This market hall is located in a beautiful building from 1916. There are 31 stalls, each with their own specialty. Order a fresh empanada at La Hora Del Vermut, get a smooth red wine at Pinkleton & Wine or buy the tastiest fruit at Felixia.

The market hall is open from Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 10.00 AM to midnight and on Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays the market hall is open from 10.00 AM – 01.00 AM.

8. Stroll across Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is an imposing square from the 17th century. The square is surrounded by colorful buildings. In the center of the square is a bronze equestrian statue of King Filips III. Plaza Mayor used to be mainly used for markets, bullfights and public executions. Today, the square is regularly used for events and concerts.

A total of 9 streets lead to Plaza Mayor, which is why the square is a central point in Madrid. On the square you will find many restaurants and terraces, know that the prices can be higher if you want to eat and drink something here. From the terrace you can enjoy the artists and street performers who can often be seen on this square.

9. Watch the city from above at Sky Bar 360°

Sky Bar 360° is located on the 27th floor of the hotel Riu. Walk across the glass bridge and float above the city. Because of the height you have the best view over Madrid from here. Would you dare?!

10. Admire the Vertical Garden next to the Caixa Forum Museum

The Caixa Forum Museum is located in an old power station, that has been transformed into a cultural center. On the outside you will find a 27 meter high wall, covered with 15,000 – 17,000 plants. Due to the changing climate of Madrid (hot summers, cold winters), plant species had to be planted that can cope with these seasonal changes. Eventually you can find 300 (!) different plant species on the wall. The different structures of the plants and leaves and the different colors of green give a very special sight.

Traveling to Madrid

You can get to Madrid in many different ways. We took a ride via the BlaBlaCar platform from Málaga to Madrid. It’s a cheap and fun way to get from A to B. This way you can easily get in touch with locals and Carlos told us everything about his beloved Spain and the culture and history during the 6-hour ride. Super cool and educational too!

Another option is to travel by high-speed train from other Spanish cities such as Málaga, Valencia and Seville.

Madrid airport is one of the largest in Spain. So flying is definitely an option. From the Netherlands you fly to Madrid in just over 2 hours. From the airport you can take the metro to the city center for around €5.

Find the best flights

How to explore Madrid

Madrid is a big city, but still walking is the best way to explore the city. Walking allows you to take in more of the city and you get to places that you would otherwise not be able to reach by public transport or a taxi. You do need a good condition to walk everything. Madrid is hilly and you can easily walk several kilometers in a day.

To cover longer distances, you can also choose to travel by public transport. The metro is a quick and cheap option. You can buy a metro ticket for €1.50 and there are plenty of stops throughout the city where you can get on.

More ways to get around in Madrid

Are you in Madrid for a short time and do you still want to get a good impression of the city? Then these tours are something for you.

Our favorite places to eat and drink in Madrid

Throughout the blog you will find some nice and tasty spots to eat or drink. We list these and more for you below.

🥐 At Maison Kayser you can enjoy a delicious fresh breakfast.
🥯 Brunch Club Café is a cozy place for breakfast or brunch. The food is of good quality and the dishes on the menu are diverse.
🍹 Salvador Bachiller is a hidden bar under an ordinary shop in busy shopping street Gran Vía. Drinking a drink in this underground jungle is quite an experience.
🥟 In the beautiful covered market hall San Miguel you can choose from many tasty snacks or drinks.
🍔 For tasty vegan burgers, go to Mad Mad Vegan. We also recommend the Supreme YAYA fries.
🥑 Distrito Vegano is nicely decorated, there is a great atmosphere and the food is surprisingly tasty.
🍳 Plenti Café is a great place for breakfast or lunch. Choose a spot on the terrace, or go for a table in the cozy café. The fried egg dishes are unique and delicious, highly recommended!
🥞 Crêperie La Rue is located in the lively area of ​​La Malasaña. They serve savory and sweet crepes and various small bites.
☕️ At Nomade Café you can order delicious smoothies, salads, toasts, pancakes or granola.
💚 La Huerta de Almería is a great concept! It is a small vegetarian supermarket, but you can also take a seat in the restaurant and choose from various healthy vegetarian/vegan dishes from the menu.

8 Best things to do in diverse & lively Valencia

1. Explore the best neighborhoods

Valencia has different neighborhoods with their own charms and sights. We want to show you all the cute neighborhoods.

The city center

In the historic city center you can stroll through the decorated streets and spot impressive buildings. Eat tapas or paella at one of the cozy restaurants. Visit the most beautiful squares such as; Plaza de la Reina to see the extraordinary cathedral, stroll towards Plaza de la Virgen to admire the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and walk a little further to Plaza Ayuntamiento, where you will find the town hall, a large fountain and beautiful architecture. And imagine yourself among the locals in the large indoor Mercado Central. This is the place where you can buy the tastiest and freshest food.

El carmen

El Carmen is the oldest district of Valencia and here you will find street art everywhere. The talented street artists are often paid for their colorful creations. It is great to wander through the narrow and beautiful streets and to be surprised by all the creativity. Sometimes even entire buildings / houses have been transformed into works of art.

Camins Al Grau

Be sure to visit the modern district of Valencia; Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, also known as the City of Arts and Sciences. The buildings have a white futuristic look. And they all have a different function, such as an opera house, museum, indoor garden with palm trees, an oceanarium and a cinema. You can also paddle and canoe on the clear blue water.

El Cabanyal

El Cabanyal is an old fishing village, located directly at the beach. Get lost through the authentic streets and spot the nicest artworks on the facades of the small fishermen’s houses. You will experience the authentic lifestyle of the fishermen here. It is a bit impoverished, but the neighborhood is increasingly popular by the Valencians and more and more entrepreneurs are establishing hip and trendy businesses here.

Ruzafa

We stayed in an Airbnb in the neighborhood of Ruzafa. It is an upcoming neighborhood just outside the center. You will find many hip and trendy cafes and restaurants and vintage shops. Many cultural and creative events are organized here where you really enjoy the local life.

2. Picnic in the Turia Park

Turia Park used to be the Turia River. After the river was flooded several times, it was drained and turned into a park. Locals sport here, walk their dogs or unwind with yoga. There is such a great atmosphere and it is the perfect place for a nice picnic. We bought a sparkling bottle of bubbly and some tasty snacks. We enjoyed the beautiful green environment between the orange trees and the locals. Have you scheduled a rest day? Then this is the perfect activity.

3. See the city from above

Climb (one of) the two city gates Torres de Serranos and Torres de Quart to see the city from a different perspective. Until the 19th century, Valencia had a city wall. The city gates were built in the 15th century and only two of the original twelve city gates remain. The gates served as a guard, prison and gunpowder storage. For €2.- per person, we climbed Torres de Serranos. From here you look out over Turía park, the long atmospheric streets and the orange roofs.

4. Discover Valencia by bike

A very nice way to discover Valencia is by cycling. You can see a lot in a short time. We rented bicycles for 2 days at Verrassend Valencia. They also organize various bike tours. We took a lovely bike ride through the Turía park towards the modern part of the city and then we cycled through the neighborhoods close to the beach and along the boulevard. The second day we visited several parks, including the botanical garden Jardín Botánica de Valencia.

5. Stroll through botanical garden Jardín Botánica de Valencia

Are you a plant lover? Then be surprised by the plant collection of the ancient botanical garden Jardín Botánico de Valencia, which is part of the University of Valencia. This garden – just outside the center – is rich in 4.500 tropical, rare and exotic plants, flowers and trees. Medicinal plants are cultivated and nowadays the garden is used for researches and experiments. For a small entrance fee you can walk around, take a look at the greenhouses and for the cat lovers among us; there are a lot of cute kittens around here!

6. Alternate the city with a lovely day at the beach

We really like the diversity of Valencia the most. This way, after a lot of strolling through the city, we could do something completely different; we had a wonderfully relaxed day at the beach. There are plenty of nice restaurants along the boulevard. Our favorite was La Mas Bonita. The menu includes fresh salads, sandwiches, hot meals and the tastiest smoothies. You have a direct view of the beach from the terrace! Enjoy the Spanish sun rays on your face, the tropical palm trees and the white sandy beaches and experience the ultimate holiday feeling.

7. Taste Agua de Valencia

Cocktail time!! In Valencia you can order Agua de Valencia at almost any restaurant or bar. This delicious fresh drink is a mix of orange juice, cava, sugar and a kind of gin and vodka. It is such a signature drink because most of the oranges produced in Spain come from Valencia. In Valencia you will find many orange trees and you can even smell them in many places.

8. Spot the most beautiful animals in Bioparc Valencia

Are you in Valencia for several days? Then a visit to the Bioparc Valencia is a must! This beautiful zoo has about 4.000 different animal species. The zoo is divided into 4 ecosystems: Madagascar, the wetlands, equatorial forests and the African savanna. Here you come face to face with ring-tailed lemurs, which are free to roam. You see how the animals are fed and how elephants cool down under their waterfall on a hot summer day. During the spectacular bird show, eagles fly right above your head. And the king of the jungle likes to show off for you on his high rocks. Definitely go for a lunch here, from the restaurant you van look out over the savannah, where giraffes, zebras, rhinoceroses and ostriches live together in harmony. Buy the tickets of Bioparc Valencia here in advance.

Delicious food spots in Valencia

💛 Dulce de Leche is a small bakery in the upcoming district Ruzafa. There is plenty of choice for a great breakfast or lunch. Before you enter the bakery you can already smell the warm croissants, fresh sandwiches, bagels and chocolate pies. We highly recommend the bagel with egg and smashed avocado. Dulce de Leche is the best spot to start your day right.

💛 At the boulevard of beach Las Arenas you have many options to enjoy a lunch or dinner with sea view from the terrace. The great atmosphere and cozy appearance of beach bar La Más Bonita attracted us. Find a nice spot on the terrace, or walk to the charmingly decorated courtyard where you can relax. The menu includes fresh salads, sandwiches, hot meals and the most delicious smoothies. Please note, it can be quite busy as this is a well-known lunchroom among locals and tourists.

💛 La Rollerie is a restaurant right in the center of Valencia. We came here to get our guilty pleasure; a warm chocolate lava cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The interior of La Rollerie is cute and green, the walls are covered with plants.

💛 Who doesn’t love Italian food?! We are true lovers of Italian cuisine and you can order the tastiest pizzas at Le Favole. We ordered bruschettas and a caprese & truffle pizza; it was a real taste explosion. You can also order various pastas and salads here. The restaurant is located just outside the city center, near the central market hall. If you decide to eat on the terrace, you can hear the vibrant city in the background.

10 Best things to do & see on the Canary Island Lanzarote, Spain

1. Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National Park is a beautiful volcanic area on Lanzarote, home to over 25 volcanic craters. A guide led us to all the breathtaking places in the park. It really looks like a moonscape!

Lanzarote Nature

2. Cueva de los Verdes

Lanzarote is beautiful above and below the ground. A mysterious 7 kilometer long cave system is located deep under the island. It was created a few thousand years ago by lava flows and cooled seawater. Today you can explore the first kilometer of the caves with a guide. You discover all the secrets and you end up in a completely different world. Admire the walls of congealed lava in different colors and be amazed by the lava drops hanging from the ceiling. In the lowest parts of the cave – 45 meters below the earth’s surface – you will encounter something very special; a concert hall, how cool! The music sounds extra special, because of the enormous reverberation through the caves.

Lanzarote cave

3. Mirador del Río

Let’s go from the caves to the highest point of Lanzarote. Mirador del Río is one of the most beautiful viewpoints on Lanzarote. The viewpoint was designed by César Manrique and is located in the north of the island at an altitude of 485 meters. There is a café with a large balcony that gives you panoramic views of the island La Graciosa and some uninhabited islands. From this point you can also admire the cliff Risco de Famara.

Lanzarote view

4. Fundacíon César Manrique

César Manrique meant a lot for the charisma on Lanzarote. His masterpieces can be found all over the island. He worked by the concept ‘art in nature’ and with his architectural style, he respects the natural environment. Also, the white houses with green, blue and brown details, the low-rise buildings and the billboard free roads were all his idea.

César Manrique’s house, built in the lava soil, has been turned into a museum and is definitely worth a visit. Through tunnels and stairs you walk through the unique spaces that he has created. In his house you will find large trees, art and a swimming pool.

5. Jameos del Agua

Jameos del Agua is a natural underground lake, where you can have a romantic dinner and spot blind albino lobsters – they normally live in deep waters, so it is unique that you can admire them up close! When you walk out of the cave you arrive at a tropical swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. It is very tempting to take a dip in this clear blue water, but unfortunately this is prohibited.

6. Jardín de Cactus

Jardín de Cactus is a botanical garden full of 6,000 cacti, with 2,000 different species from various countries. As a cactus lover you should definitely visit this place. The garden is also designed by César Manrique, one of the features of his architectural style is that he respects the natural environment. The garden has been laid out in an old quarry, so that all cacti are protected against the strong wind that blows over the island. For an overview of the entire garden, you can climb up to the mill. From here you have a beautiful panoramic view of all cacti.

7. Los Hervideros

When nature creates its own beauty…. This wild rocky area – Los Hervideros – is located in the extreme western part of Lanzarote. The coves are created by the waves splashing against the shore.

Los Hervidoris

8. Lago Verde

Just be sure to stop at Lago Verde. It is a short walk to the crater where you will find a green lake in the crater rim. This color is caused by algae. The contrast of the black sand, red rocks, blue water and the green lake gives a special view.

Lanzarote green lake

9. La Geria

La Geria is a wine region in Lanzarote. The wine grapes grow in pits filled with lava stones. The pit protects the grapes from wind and the stones retain water, which allows the wine to be successfully grown and given a unique taste.

Lanzarote La Geria

10. Casa museo del Campesino

In the middle of Lanzarote stands the huge 15 meter high monument “al Campesino” on a crossing. This statue was designed by César Manrique and pays tribute to the traditions and professions that the inhabitants of the island performed. The museum next to the monument explains the traditions and working methods of the farmers.

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