Madrid was a city that really surprised me. I’d already been to Barcelona, and didn’t think anything could top the amazing weekend I had there. I was wrong!
I saw Madrid in the best way possible–living with locals. My childhood friend had been living there for years, and it was she and her Auberge-Espanol-type roommates who showed me around. I stayed for 2 weeks in October and by the end I did not want to leave.
There are the world-class museums. There were some amazing collections at The Prado, El Reina Sofia, and El Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. The Prado even has these beautiful botanical gardens outside of it. All of it well worth a visit.
In general, Madrid is so green, in that there are so many parks. There’s El Caso de Campo, El Campo del Moro and the Sabatini Gardens, and of course, El Retiro Park (above). El Retiro is one of my favorite urban parks of all time. In this warm city, I can’t imagine a day without this park being full of people (but not too full), locals and tourists alike, sitting near the water or on one of the gorgeous monuments, just relaxing in the sunshine.
The Royal Palace was also well-worth the paid tour, as was the Palacio de Cibeles. Madrid’s also a great jumping-off point for daytrips. Toledo is nearby (think Don Quixote) as is the less popular but in my opinion more beautiful and less touristy Segovia.
But the best thing to do in Madrid is just walk around. Stroll down the Paseo del Prado, wander around one of the many town squares, sit down and have a cerveza and a tortilla. Sit in the town square on Sunday evenings with the entire city, smoking and drinking and enjoying life at a leisurely pace.
Oh, and one more thing if you ever go to Madrid: BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper–there’s often a shortage 🙂