Madrid, the Capital City of Spain, the first city Edwin and I experienced in Europe. When we arrived, we only knew a little of what we were getting ourselves into. Once you get past the obvious language difference and the sense of being in a foreign country, it’s a city full of colour, culture and history.
My first impression of Madrid is that it is a colourful, vibrant and lively city that looks as if it is always ready to party and knows how to live. The city is constantly covered in blue sky and sunshine, and after a chilly morning wind you will be greeted by a hot, sweaty afternoon. The narrow streets are laid with cobblestone and pavements, so much so that there is no grass and only a few scattered gardens for children and dog walkers.
The locals enjoy breakfast around midday, a long lunch and siesta between 2-4pm, and dinner around 9pm. They love to graze on tapas food and drink all day, rather than big meals. After nightfall you will not find an empty bar or cafe.
City Bike Tour
Unsure of what to do and see in Madrid, but feel compelled to visit this ancient Capital City? So were we, so on our first morning waking up here, we booked a bicycle tour. It was a great way to explore what the city had to offer, cure our sense of curiosity and give us a sense of direction.
Included in the 3.5 hour bike tour were a few English tour guides, who not only took us to the local attractions but also to told us about Madrid’s hidden treasures. They were professional in having our bikes all adjusted and ready to go upon arrival, a drink bottle and a little bag attached to the handle bars for your personal belongings and helmets were optional. They were flexible to adjust to the group’s riding abilities, and we stopped for a coffee break and actually went overtime so our tour was not cut short.
We booked with Bravo Bike Tours and do not hesitate to recommend them. Afterwards we felt much more equipped to tackle the city sights and have an idea of where we would like to go back and visit during our next few days in Madrid.
Tips and Advice
If you are not sure how much time to spend in Madrid, we had four nights and think it was perfect. It gave us three full days to explore the city centre at our own leisure. It helps that dinner is late in the evenings, allowing you more time to sight see before settling in for the night.
We stayed in an inner part of town called Tirso de Molina. It was a great place to stay because it was with in 25min walking distance of most of the main attractions in town and only 10mins from the Royal Palace of Madrid. Tirso de Molina wasn’t too noisy with clubs and pubs after dark and was only one suburb away from La Latina which is known for the best Tapas in the city. Do consider staying at the Inn THC Tirso Molina Hostel where we stayed. It was a quaint little place just around the corner from the metro station. The staff were very friendly, the room very clean when we arrived and a small little balcony to soak up the sun and atmosphere from. We recommend you stay up a couple floors to gain a view.
Some of these may be obvious but i believe they are worth a mention. Firstly language, it has been so helpful having a small pocket sized phrase book in Spanish to carry around with us. (ours is by Lonely Planet) Just by attempting to speak Spanish, the locals have been helpful and considerate. Although hand actions have not gone astray at times.
Pick pocketers are around but only in crowded tourist areas. Just be aware and cautious and you should be fine. Stick together if you are with someone, watch each others backpacks and keep your wallet in your front pockets.
From the airport, if you are not in a hurry, a great way to force you out of your comfort zone, is by tackling the public transport from the get go. We found Madrids ‘Metro’ very easy to navigate with no hiccups. The metro is a small underground train system, the fares seem cheap and the stops very close together. We plan to use the metro to do more sight seeing. Do check out Edwins list of top three sights to see in Madrid here.