A city is a city, right? Wrong. The fascinating thing about cities in my humble opinion is that they absorb the nuances, flavours, attitudes, values and personalities of the people that pass through, much like a soggy piece of bread holds onto a tantalizing soup mix.
When I arrived in Madrid for a week-long adventure, I was told that this was a long time. Too long, you should go elsewhere. Although I understand the argument that a lot can be seen in a shorter span of time, a week gives you time to truly unfurl a city without needing to demand it get naked in front of you immediately. The process of coming to know Madrid became slower. I wasn’t in a rush to understand it.
The stew that is Madrid is sultry, social, colourful and somewhat eclectic with lots of big, beautiful croutons. The symbol of the city is a bear and a strawberry tree (El Oso y el Madroño), which should give you a hint as to the city’s randomness.
A big part of any trip to Spain is undoubtedly the food, and I’ve written more in depth about the deliciousness you can partake in here. Beyond the sense of taste, Madrid is a true indulgence for the eyes. There’s plenty of whimsy here, a trip to the El Rastro Market, open every Sunday, with its maps, Tintin prints and mannequins presents a treasure trove of oddities. But even just walking down the street you’ll see striking aesthetics that truly give the city character. As someone who does not speak the language, I found that shops and restaurants presented themselves like storybooks, revealing what lay inside with the use of beautiful imagery.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is well worth a visit. Do check the schedule for free admission options and be sure to bring your passport and arrive earlier as naturally there will be more queues during these times. Different ticket options enable you to explore different parts of the palace, including the ginormous kitchens.
Madrid Telerifico and the Temple of Dubod can be conquered in one fell swoop. The Telerifico blesses you with bountiful views over Madrid as it reaches its conclusion in Casa de Campo. Meanwhile the Temple of Dubod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, giving the area a surprising Middle Eastern flair.
When I visited the Temple was closed to the public but when the attraction opens, a visit inside may sate (or intensify) your desire to see Egypt. This is a wonderful place to see the sunset.
The Prado Museum is an exciting collection of artwork incorporating Saints, royalty, religion, mythological gods and deities everyday life/social realism. I whittled away hours here taking away truly breath-taking art. This is another attraction where free admission is an option so check the website.
If walking around Madrid tires out your feet, the Hammam Baths are a truly glorious way to relax. Lit by candles, wandering down into the baths feels like slinking down into the depths of an Egyptian pyramid. The combination of the steam and candles creates a sensual, ethereal experience and no talking is allowed. There are several baths to choose between, some hotter and some colder, and you can also add on a treatment or massage. I left feeling like a limp noodle.
If you need further proof of Madrid’s marvelousness, see below:
All my love