Loved Madrid! First of all, Madrid is a direct 9 hour flight from Chicago. You fall asleep at O’Hare you wake up in Madrid. Not a bad way to use your time. And it is a distinctly different European city than Barcelona and Seville with amazing food, shopping, and one of the world’s largest art museums: El Prado. It is a GREAT destination. We saved it for the end of our trip but it could just as easily make a great start city to the trip! It does not have the relaxing and laid back coastal vibe of Barcelona. Instead, it is very much a center of commerce and has a seriousness and an edge to it that I really liked. Strolling along the streets leading to El Prado you see a long looming promenade of beautiful trees that is reminiscent of Paris and the Champs-Elysees. The Gran Via shopping street is an uphill hike and filled with shops and places to eat. Recoleta area is more trendy upscale boutiques and much quieter (Thought this area was beautiful!!). The center of Madrid the Plaza Mayor is a bit underwhelming and not necessary to put on your list. It is a town square sure but that’s it. What you don’t want to miss is the Mercado De San Miguel right outside of it which is a chance to eat and drink to your heart’s content. Long communal tables allow you to plop yourself down and go explore what kind of tapas seems appealing. It is basically what I wish the Taste of Chicago was: REALLY delicious food options at a really good price. A glass of wine is 3 euros. A sample of paella is 4 euros. A mini ice cream cone is 1.50 euros. And of course the point is to share with your friends. I would highly recommend the Mercado De San Miguel.
As for eating out, get ready for a culture adjustment. If you head to dinner at 8 or 9, you will be the only person in the restaurant as most places don’t get going until 10. Lunch is served from 2-4. So if you are hungry between 4-10…you better duck into a hotel bar. That’s when most Madrillenos are taking a nap or preparing the restaurant for nighttime meal so you just have to adjust and go with the flow. Our first afternoon we made a late lunch our meal of the day and went to bed early so we would be well rested for day two. Dinner at 10 with a baby is kinda impossible! So we made the most of lunch! And so we had to start lunch with what else but….Sangria!? Cheers!! (Tomorrow”s post…THE perfect place to stay in Madrid.)