Warning: you might be on a flight after reading this
Diverging from a divine, geotagged Instagram image assortment of Portuguese towns and the classic Balearic Islands that are having their usual, seasonal moment. I’d like to suggest an alternative dream holiday destination...cue castanets...the capital of Spain, Madrid.
As a languages and culture junkie with a particular soft spot for European cities, I unsurprisingly fell madly in love with Madrid upon my first visit last year. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to feed my obsession moreover with another short visit a couple of days ago. Albeit, my trip was hugely successful and equally incredible, here I stand, back home in Dublin, with a little travel void left to fill and incurable itch to return back to one of my favourite cities (the Spanish life chose me).
In hopes of spreading the Madrid amor, I have created a multipurpose travel diary which also acts as a trusty companion to guide you around the city at any time of the year. As the capital, the city’s charm, vibrancy and events calendar never ceases, in turn making it the ideal location for anybody in need of a change of scenery at a moment’s notice.
Where To Stay
Although Madrid is vast, the city’s main pulse is quite central. With amenities in close proximity, you don’t need to venture very far to make the most of your trip. The airport is roughly a twenty-minute drive from the centre, but should you wish to practice frugality and save your money for the sangria fund (same!) there is a convenient metro service that can take you to the city quickly for a fraction of the price.
When travelling, planning and organising are key in order to avoid costly stings. Whether you are an Airbnb advocate or prefer hotels the luxury of time will save you money and unnecessary stress.
A good starting point for your accommodation search and one I can personally vouch for would be Gran Vía. The main street and epicentre of Madrid where all the action and an immense variety of hotels, hostels and apartments circulate, so you can take your pick.
Retreating away from city madness and carefully manoeuvring around pedestrians on loaded streets, Retiro poses as a more tranquil, yet still central location for those who’d rather have the best of both worlds.
Travel tip: A pool, air-conditioning, SPF and plenty of agua will be your summertime saviours in Madrid at this time of year.
What To Do:
Amazing news, Madrid is quite the free pass for shopping. A stroll down Gran Vía surrounds you with a dreamy, city aesthetic and leads you into Spanish favourites such as Zara, Mango or El Corte Inglés. The neighbouring Malasaña area offers a more niche and local ambience with a selection of vintage shops, cafes and tapas bars providing a more cultural experience. It's ok, your bank account will forgive you for enjoying yourself, plus, aren’t foreign personal gifts cooler than regular ones?
El Retiro Park is a must-see slice of natural heaven in the city centre. Previously owned by the Spanish monarchy, this green oasis is the ideal relaxation spot for when you need to catch a breath from the Madrid rush. Whether you decide to rent a boat across the park’s lake, gaze at The Glass Palace or simply enjoy a picnic, have your phone on standby because you are going to want to remember El Retiro.
What To Eat & Drink:
Swap your latte for a cafe con leche. Trust me. This Spanish style mixture of espresso coffee with milk is a local favourite and readily available. If you wish to expose your boujee side on holiday (the time is now) and enjoy a cafe con leche in a picturesque setting, I would recommend visiting Liana at La Plaza Mayor, the previous heart of Madrid. Liana provides a beautiful view of the square, perfect for some shade and people watching whilst enjoying a foreign caffeine fix.
Patatas bravas is a cheap and cheerful traditional Spanish dish, often served at tapas. Consisting of chopped, cooked potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce, this delicious plate combines a taste of home with a sprinkle of Spanish goodness.
Also, be sure to ask for some aioli dip, and well, chef’s kiss.