Blog Itineraries Reflections Spain

Madrid: A Four Day Itinerary Celebrating Food And Culture

What do you do when you turn fifty years old? You collect as many of your closest girlfriends as you can and head to Madrid, of course! At least, that is what I did and for four days, we laughed and laughed and laughed. In between laughing, we ate at some amazing restaurants, drank a phenomenal amount of white wine and explored Madrid.In this blog, I am going to provide our itinerary and recommendations.  This itinerary created the perfect balance of structured tours with free time to wander, shop and explore different areas. We combined advanced reservations at recommended and acclaimed restaurants with drop in lunches whenever and wherever it suited us. It was a fantastic trip that satisfied the wishes and needs of, dare I say, six high maintenance and demanding women!

Day One

Accommodation and Location

We arrived late in the evening. Five of us came in from the West Coast of North America and one arrived from Dubai. We booked an Airbnb with four bedrooms (eight beds), a large living room, full kitchen and a penthouse deck next to Bilbao subway station, a very central and cool part of town. The accommodation was excellent! The large living space allowed us to comfortably hang out with each other. We were just steps away from terrific shopping that offered everything that we needed: from baked goods and coffee, to wine and cheese, and a few hip clothing shops in between.

Our view from our deck near Bilbao train station in Madrid

Madrid from our rooftop deck.

 

Tapas and wine on our deck in Madrid

Appetizers and wine on our rooftop deck

We regularly used the subway during the day and found it easy and inexpensive to use. Taxis were everywhere. We found them safe and reliable, and were a dependable means of transportation in the evening. We were always a short subway or taxi ride away from major tourist destinations or amazing restaurants.

Dinner

We made 11:30 pm dinner reservations at Rameses Suria, only minutes away by taxi. We ate dinner upstairs and it was excellent. This was a refined and luxurious restaurant in terms of menu, service and price. It was a fabulous way to start our trip.

However, what was cool and unexpected was this restaurant was one of three offerings by the same company in the same space. So, there was an entirely different scene on the first floor of the restaurant. It was filled with gorgeous men and women drinking and mingling to music – more of a club scene. On either side of us, there were another couple of restaurants offering different atmospheres and menus. Outside, there were multiple patios with spectacular views of the Puerta de Alcala. These were packed with a younger crowd.

After dinner, we found our way to one of these patios, tried a few delicious cocktails and of course, people watched. We left at closing time, invigorated and ready to find the next amazing place.

Ramses Suria in Madrid near the Puerta De Alcala

Drinks and good times on the outdoor patio of Ramses Suria.

 

Day Two

Segway Tour of Madrid

We slept late and started our day with coffee, sandwiches, and baked goods from the coffee shop below us. Then, we headed out on our Segway Tour.  This tour was 90 minutes and focused on the City centre.  It was offered by Madrid Segway.  

The view of the palace on our Segway tour by Madrid Segway in Madrid

View from one of our vistas on our Segway Tour

 

City Hall in Madrid

The Plaza around City Hall that we visited on our Segway Tour

This was a total guilty pleasure on my part. When I thought about my incredibly well coifed girlfriends in their stylish outfits, I couldn’t help book this tour. And, they didn’t disappoint! From the moment they had to sport a hair net underneath their helmet, I knew that I had booked a winner. Some hopped on the Segway with abandon ready to knock over locals who were not quick enough to get out of their way.  Others clung white knuckled to their Segways with such focus that I almost felt bad.  Only one fell off (ass over tea kettle is the saying that comes to mind), but at a virtual stop so injury was avoided. I must admit that I have a crazy smile plastered on my face as I remember and write this.  It was fantastic.

Hairnets and helmets are on in preparation of our Segway tour by Madrid Segway in Madrid

Hairnets and helmets! The new must-have fashion accessories!

 

In front of City Hall on our Segway tour with Madrid Segway in Madrid

In front of City Hall

Lunch

After our Segway tour, we stumbled up a restaurant called the Taste Gallery, right next to San Miguel Market. This restaurant was an absolute treat.  We had an amazing tapas meal with a ridiculous amount of food, sangria and wine. It was inexpensive and filled with locals. I would return again without hesitation.

The menu at the Taste Gallery in Madrid. Excellent wine, sangria and tapas.

Menu at the Taste Gallery

 

Exceptional tapas, wine and Sangria at the Taste Gallery in Madrid

Tapas at the Taste Gallery

Dinner

We headed to the Literary Quarter to a restaurant called Vi Cool.  The food was spectacular. The menu was primarily tapas but not traditional tapas. The menu was filled with items with new and edgy flavours that were exciting and fun to eat. Again, the prices were very reasonable. The restaurant was in a cool area with lots of bars and dining options.  The only criticism would be that the atmosphere and decor in the restaurant were not of the same quality as the food (our table was in the basement). Regardless, I would recommend this restaurant without hesitation.

Day Three

Private Tour of the Prado Museum

Another late start with coffee, sandwiches and croissants, and we headed to the Prado Museum for a 2 1/2 hour private art tour.  I booked “The Bit of All”  tour with Madrid Museum Tours and it was superb. Nobody in our group were art aficionados… and no one was in the mood for a long boring lecture on Spanish art. Thankfully, our guide quickly grabbed our attention with stories about palace intrigue, the personal lives of the artists and their inspirations for their paintings, and hidden messages lurking within the paintings.  We all thoroughly enjoyed this tour.

Lunch

After the Prado, we were starving. Nearby, we found a restaurant called Maura Wines and Food which had a lovely covered outdoor patio. The food was a bizarre mixture of Vietnamese, Mexican, French and Spanish tastes. It was a little hit or miss… some of us had delicious food while others had bland or unusual pairings. However, the setting was beautiful and it was overall a nice place to relax after our tour.

Beautiful architecture in Madrid

There always seemed to be beautiful views most everywhere we looked.

Late Afternoon

After lunch, we walked up to Retiro Park or El Parque Del Buen Retiro. This is the most famous park in Madrid. It was packed with locals enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was another great spot to people watch. From there, we walked a few blocks and spent a couple of hours shopping.

Retiro Park in Madird on a beautiful Saturday afternoon

Enjoying the sun and people watching at Retiro Park

Dinner

We headed back to the Literary Quarter to the restaurant El Barril de las Letras. We had a more upscale refined meal that was excellent, in a space that was beautiful.

Day Four

We went to Rastro Flea Market which is Madrid’s and quite possibly, Europe’s largest open air flea market. It is only open on Sundays, and some public holidays.

This market was a lot of fun. There were dozens and dozens of stalls filled with unique crafts and artisans’ works. There were edgy and cool fashion items offered for adults and kids alike. The deals were amazing. You could have also spent your entire time eating your way through the market. We ended up getting lots of great gifts for friends and family while we were there.  I am not a huge fan of craft markets or fairs, but I would definitely go back to this one.

Tour and Dinner

For our last night, we treated ourselves to a Flamenco show.  We went to Corral de la Moreria which is considered one of the best to see.  We had to purchase tickets that were for the dinner and show as the tickets for the show alone were sold out.

Madrid at night.

On our way to the Flamenco show.

The flamenco dancing, singing and music were incredible. It was unquestionable how talented the dancers and musicians were. The food was pretty good… I would have preferred to have eaten elsewhere but as far as a dinner and show goes, the food was reasonably good.  The food prices were a little expensive for the quality, but again, nothing surprising in light of the context.

The one negative comment that I do have is that the show was extremely short. It was just over an hour long and for the cost of the tickets and the dinner, it was unreasonably short, in my opinion. For that reason, I have mixed feelings about recommending this show. I think seeing a Flamenco show of the same quality as the one we saw is an absolute must while in Madrid. However, it would be ideal if you could find one that is much longer or a lot less expensive for the same amount of time.

Conclusion

Madrid was a lovely surprise. I loved it. Spain is one of my favourite countries in the world. I have spent many weeks over a couple of decades exploring different cities, small towns, and coastal beaches and have rarely gone somewhere that I did not like. But, I was cautious about going to Madrid. I knew it was a large city and from what I heard, it seemed to lack the charm of many parts of Spain.  However, my caution was misplaced.

For sure, Madrid is different from most of Spain. It is a large city with many diverse areas to explore and visit. There is a sizeable local population and an economy that isn’t driven by tourism.

However, Madrid welcomes tourists easily. It was effortless to explore the City and its unique Spanish history and culture. And it did so, without making me feel like a tourist. I felt that I experienced restaurants, parks and museums as a local. Not once did we find ourselves behind a group of tourists being led around by a guide or in a restaurant that only offered food from photos. I don’t even think we saw any of those.

Madrid was a large, welcoming and cosmopolitan city that I would return without hesitation. During our four day stay, we only scratched the surface of what this city can offer anyone, tourist or local alike. If you love Spain or adore the energy of cities, you definitely need to add Madrid to your list of must see places!

 

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Madrid is an sophisticated city filled with excellent food, wine, shopping and culture.



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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Allison
    June 9, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    I must admit, you put a smile on my face with your description of your friends on those segways. Madrid sounds like it is a fascinating city. I love flamenco dancing so I would love to see it in Spain but that’s too bad that you were underwhelmed. #weekendwanderlust
    Allison recently posted…Family Friendly Things to Do Around Chicago This SummerMy Profile

    • Reply
      nlhunter
      June 9, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks Allison!

  • Reply
    Kate and Kris
    June 11, 2017 at 7:46 am

    We used to live in Madrid and think it’s got some amazing culture and architecture, not to mention food! Sounds like you had an amazing birthday trip

    • Reply
      nlhunter
      June 11, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      I would love to live in Madrid. Lucky you! You must have some pretty good insights into where to go and where to eat!

  • Reply
    Ruth | Tanama Tales
    June 11, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    I can’t think of a better place to celebrate a birthday than Madrid. But, I might be biased since I love the city. I would go only for the good but I know there is way more to see. Next time, I have to visit El Rastro (it was raining the only Sunday we were in the city). and attend a flamenco show. #WeekendWanderlust
    Ruth | Tanama Tales recently posted…A “Must-See” Guide to Cape Town, South AfricaMy Profile

    • Reply
      nlhunter
      June 12, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      It is a fantastic city. I’d love to hear what your favourite thing to do in Madrid is? I know there is so much more to see and experience in that city!

  • Reply
    Scarlett Begonias
    June 14, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Love the segways, and the food looked delightful! We would love to visit Madrid one day 🙂 Great post! #weekendwanderlust

    • Reply
      nlhunter
      June 14, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      Thanks! I hope you get there soon too!

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