I’ll be honest, Spain was never on my “must see” list. It’s not that I didn’t want to visit the country itself, but I felt like Spain was a ‘typical’ Europe trip. Most people that I know that have traveled internationally have been to Spain, France, and/or Italy. I just want to go places that most people are not going to, but I’m so happy that I decided to give Madrid a shot!
After our trip to Morocco, we had a 21 hour layover in Spain. The first thing that caught my eye was all the beautiful architecture Madrid had to offer. I mean OMG, it was absolutely stunning! It was then that I had wished I had more time in the city to explore! However, I still covered as much ground as I could with it being winter in Europe. It was pretty cold walking to each location. Although, one of the benefits of visiting Madrid in December is all the Christmas lights! There are lights EVERYWHERE and it really made my experience there unforgettable.
Where To Stay:
If you want to walk to all the popular sights and don’t mind the noise and busy streets, you’ll want to stay in Centro. This is basically the center of Madrid and also the oldest part of the city! We stayed at Hotel Catalonia Gran Vía.
I would definitely recommend staying at this hotel! It’s right on the main street of “Calle Gran Vía” and the views are remarkable from the two top floors! We upgraded our room to have a balcony with a view and it was honestly worth it. Even though it was cold, it was still satisfying to open the doors and enjoy the view. I would suggest getting this room in the spring or summer time too! Could you image having the breeze come through the open doors while it’s nice outside? Ugh, therapeutic!
Where To Eat:
Before arriving to Madrid, we tried to plan what restaurant to grab dinner at and if we should make any reservations. We decided to play it by ear since there were many eateries near our hotel. I’m one to plan things, so it’s kind of hard for me to just go with the flow at times, but in this scenario, it’s best that we did! The lady who helped us check in (her name was Cristina) gave us an outstanding recommendation right up the street.
We had dinner at El Rincón de Esteban. I’m so glad we listened to Cristina because the food was amazing and the service was excellent! It was also authentic as fuck! I would suggest the seafood paella! It’s big enough for two people to share and there’s a whole lobster included. So, so, so good!
What To See:
After dinner, we started to venture off to the locations I wanted to check out. The two top places we had to go to were Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. These are both iconic spots in Madrid and Plaza Mayor offers a Christmas Market until the end of December! Some of the places I would recommend are the following:
- Puerta del Sol
- Plaza Mayor
- El Retiro Park
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
- Casino de Madrid
- Royal Palace of Madrid
- Círculo de Bellas Artes
Like I mentioned prior, it was really cold out, so I didn’t get to see everything like El Retiro Park. This was literally right by our hotel, but it was just so cold that we couldn’t make it unfortunately. This is supposed to be one of the largest parks in Madrid with a nice pond, many gorgeous sculptures, and breathtaking architecture throughout!
Casino de Madrid is a location I reallllllyyy wanted to go inside of, but I think you can only go for private events and if you have reservations at their restaurant? Please correct me if I’m wrong! The inside of this place looks so dreamy! I wanted a picture on their staircase so badly! If I go back to Madrid, I’m definitely making this my number one priority! LOL
I think Círculo de Bellas Artes is another place to check out. I was intrigued by their rooftop restaurant/bar and Cristina even recommended we make a stop here so we could see the view. As much as I hate to say we didn’t make it here neither, I think their rooftop is worth a visit!
Truthfully, Madrid was a blast! I would have loved to have an extra day or two, but even with my short visit, I enjoyed it! This was my first stop in Europe and I cannot wait to see where I end up next!