WAYS TO MAKE A METROPOLIS LIKE MADRID MANAGEABLE
When my family first met Madrid – the capital of Spain – we were overwhelmed. Sometimes you just don’t click on the first date. Yes, Madrid was nice enough. Attractive enough. But the chemistry just wasn’t there. Do you know what I mean? It definitely wasn’t the worst date ever and we have fond memories of foods tasted and experiences shared, but we were definitely not interested in a repeat. No second dates required. Thanks, but no gracias.
So when my husband had an opportunity to travel back to Madrid for work, at first I didn’t get very excited. Too many other places to see. But maybe it wasn’t about Madrid. Maybe it was about me. Maybe Madrid needed a second look. A second date of sorts. I am SO GLAD I said yes. Two years later. This September.
But how to make it mine this time. How to avoid a bad first date syndrome again. Madrid is big. You have to be ready for it. I want you to make Madrid yours. It is so worth trying.
So how do you make a huge city like Madrid feel less intimidating? More like yours? I will be happy to show you how I made Madrid mine. More intimate. More accessible. More approachable.
WAYS TO MAKE MADRID YOURS
- FIND AN APARTMENT HOME BASE
If you read along with our travels at Oregon Girl you know that I am a big fan of apartment rentals when it comes to travel. We have five in our family and hotels rarely fit us. But even when I’m not traveling with all my not-so-littles in tow, I look to apartments to create a home base in a new town. I appreciate being able to get some essentials to keep in the fridge, have a little more space to stretch out and make some coffee in the morning. I found an amazing apartment via Airbnb that gave us access to popular Plaza Mayor. Literally overlooking this central square on the city. Somehow being part of the action, but in my own space made it mine. I could enjoy the view from my balcony, but not feel the pull and sway of the crowds and masses. It was perfection.
28012 Madrid, Spain
- MUNCH AT A MERCADO
When first in a city, it nice to know what the local landscape offers in edible options. A market – or mercado in Spanish – is a perfect way to assess and sample. When in Madrid – don’t miss the wonderful Mercado San Miguel. Tapas and tastes from the many vendors here is a great place to start your taste tour of Madrid. Grab a glass and pick a plate. Pointing and gesturing welcomed and allowed here.
Mercado San Miguel
Plaza de San Miguel, 28005 Madrid, Spain
- TAKE COFFEE WITH THE LOCALS
What better way to immerse yourself in a place as major as Madrid than share your breakfast shoulder to shoulder with Madrileños. Make your way to La Mallorquina. Meet the pretty pink señora of pastries waiting for you at the corner of Puerta del Sol. Ogle the baked goods and peruse the wares from the windows. Then step inside. It is bustling and busy and charming in here. Somehow standing downstairs at the counter made me feel connected. Entrenched. Part of it. Something about La Mallorquina feels sacred and delicious. So different from the pushy buskers in the Puerta next door.
Calle Mayor 2, 28013 Madrid, Spain
- PICK OUT ONE MUSEUM FOR ART
Madrid is made for museum lovers. And if you love art – then you are in luck. But don’t get overwhelmed when it comes to the options. For true lovers of art – the grand Museo Nacional del Prado is king. But for many, its massive halls can make minds numb to masters. It may have my kids.
Are you a fan of Picasso? Then the Reina Sofia is for you. Just to wind through and see Guernica alone. It’s impressive in size. But so are the masses that march through to see it. May I recommend an alternative. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is an accessible tour through well known art history. With just one of each master, each room offers something for everyone.
Museo Thyssen Bornemisza
Paseo del Prado 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain
- FIND A NEIGHBORHOOD FOR TAPAS
While Madrid may be walkable, knowing where you are headed helps this metropolis become manageable. Making an effort to move just a little way past the main tourist drags gives many options for menus that can prove memorable. We found delicious and authentic meals in tiny tapas tidbits as we moved from stop to stop. Here’s where I recommend for trying some tapas.
Truck your toes towards Calle Cava Baja and Calle de la Cava Alta. So many options up and down these quaint little streets. We tried a wine bar called Temperanillo with excellent and affordable wine by the glass and tasty simple tapas.
Calle Cava Baja 38, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Just through Retiro Park, up past the Puerta de Alcalá you will find another neighborhood street of tapas bars to treasure. All along Calle Dr. Castelo are tasty stops to tempt you. Try a cold Mahou with any of their house plates. Try one at each stop. Try your Spanish. Or not. There are few tourists here.
Taberna El Capricho
Calle Dr. Castelo 14, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Atlántico Casa de Petiscos
Av. de Menéndez Pelayo 11, 28009 Madrid, Spain
No time to meander so far from the center? Don’t worry – the Huertas neighborhood will be perfect for you. Cruise cozy Calle de la Huertas to Plaza Santa Ana. Here there are several tabernas to try. Find one that suits you and pick a spot on the square. I can highly recommend Zahara. Try the tuna tartare and the crispy shrimp cake.
Plaza Sta. Ana 17, 28012 Madrid, Spain
- SLOW DOWN, SOAK IT IN
Madrid is made for people watching. Roll through Retiro. Pick a bench or a café. Listen to live music. Watch the performers perform. Enjoy the parade. Drop a coin in the box. See what happens. Connect with the people. Make it yours.
How do you make a place feel manageable? Especially in a town as magical and major as Madrid? I’d love to hear.
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