During the past two summers between my college courses, I traveled to Madrid with friends and family and have fallen in love with travel to Spain: So much so that I am now planning to study abroad in Madrid for a semester! There is so much to do in Spain’s capital city, so here is a short list of where and how I had some of my most memorable moments.
Parque de El Retiro
Parque de El Retiro is a visit you have to make in Madrid. One of my favorite parts of the park, which I am excited to visit again when I study in Madrid, is the pond. You can grab an ice cream or coffee and hang out by the water or take out a paddle boat if the lines aren’t too long! There are also ducklings and medium-sized fish that are fun to watch. There are plenty of trees and shady benches if you get caught in the warm Spanish sun. Bike rentals are nearby as well. Pro-tip: Biking is a popular activity in the city, and it is a great way to cover more ground in the park.
Going to street markets is one of my favorite things to do in any city, but I especially enjoyed the ones in Madrid. You never know what you will find, and even if you leave with nothing, the experience of going is still worth it! During my first visit to Madrid, I went to El Rastro flea market, which is open most Sundays. I found a fun sundress in a pile of second-hand clothes for only 1 euro. It’s one of my most worn dresses, and I even wore it at my sister’s college graduation! Street markets are a great place to find unique souvenirs and authentic items.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Madrid offers many beautiful places to see art such as the popular Prado Museum, but one of my favorites in the city is the Reina Sofía. Here, you can see Picasso’s incredible Guernica, one of his most famous paintings. This is one of my favorite pieces of art I have seen in person. Besides Guernica, there are other Picassos you can see as well as an impressive collection of Salvador Dalí’s surrealist work, among many other artists’ work. You can spend as little or as much time here as you would like learning about many different artists, styles, and eras of art. The museum has a beautiful courtyard you can visit and is located near many quaint cafes and restaurants.
Spanish food is something I learned I loved during my visits to Spain, and I even sought out authentic Spanish restaurants near my hometown when I missed the food. Trying Spanish food is definitely a great way to experience the culture. Some of my favorite dishes, typically served as tapas (smaller, shareable plates), are patatas bravas, croquetas de jamón, empanadas, and churros y chocolate. Iberian ham and beef is some of the best meat I have ever had, so if you eat meat, you should try a ham or beef dish. Ham appetizers are sometimes served charcuterie-style with cheeses and other bites and is a great shareable snack for a group.
Real Jardín Botánico
While the bustle of the city is exciting, it’s also nice to relax surrounded by some greenery. The Real Jardín Botánico is a beautiful place to take in some nature and enjoy a stroll through the gardens. The entry fee is inexpensive (around 4 euro) and the location is very close to the Prado Museum and Retiro Park if you happen to be in that area. The botanical gardens have multiple outdoor sections and greenhouses with thousands of different types of flowers, trees, and other plant species. Enjoy the shade and take some photos during a serene visit to the Real Jardín Botánico.
Palacio Real de Madrid
Another must-see in the city is el Palacio Real. It was once the residence of the Spanish royal family, but it is now open to the public with admission. You can learn more about Spanish history as you tour the palace and take in the beautiful art and design showcased throughout. The Royal Palace is a spectacular (and air-conditioned, if you visit in the summer) place to visit and check off your Madrid bucket list. I enjoyed wearing a dress and sandals to feel a little more royal during my visit! But don’t worry, there is no dress code, so wear whatever you are comfortable in.
There are so many other exciting attractions in Madrid, but these are just a few cultural and educational highlights of my trips that you will also love!