Spain: Madrid

Spain has been a place I have been wanting to visit for some time. It was more interesting than I imagined; its got rich history, good food and some absolutely beautiful vistas that inspire me to want to come back. I must admit, however, that I didn’t find the general Spaniard customer service in Madrid impressive at all – it was quite terrible actually. I had several interactions with customer service reps throughout my stay to leave me dissatisfied and just plain annoyed.

Despite some of these negative experiences I had a wonderful time touring a bit of Madrid and a little of the surrounding areas. This is a very diverse country that deserves being visited multiple times to experience all Madrid has to offer. I’ve seen some of the Madrid highlights -but next time, I would love to visit Barcelona in the future.

Much like in Lisbon – Madrid has a lot of character. It’s brimming with color, texture and architecture that will brighten anyone’s day. I loved walking the streets to just gaze at the architecture, people watch and take in what life in Madrid is like – it’s slow, charming and inviting. The city makes up for some of the rude and annoying behavior you may encounter – I said some.

As with most other major city tours the best way to get a feel for the city and main attractions is by taking the Hop on/Hop off bus tour for at least a one-day €22 ($25), or a two-day pass €25 ($29); but don’t expect excellent customer service, as I mentioned before, service in Madrid is not great. There were a lot of delays due to construction work and some of the queue lines to board a bus can get long, which is pretty frustrating if it affects your sightseeing itinerary.

The Metro system is quite reliable and intuitive to navigate – plus you can buy the Tourist Travel Pass and get a free map right from the airport. Depending on your itinerary you have several options: Passes are valid for 1 to 7 days and for zone A or T. Zone A covers the inner city while zone T covers the outskirts. Since I had planned a couple of one-day tours to Segovia and Toledo, I opted for just zone A, and bought separate train tickets for these day tours. Prices start at €8.40 ($9.50) for one-day passes and work their way up to €35.40 ($40.15) for zone A. For zone T expect to pay double the price as it covers a broader area.

I’m a budget traveler so these kinds of options have become important to me as I work out my itinerary. I don’t like feeling like I wasted money or overpaid, plus this helps me to maximize my time and money on more important things during these excursions.

I visited several monuments and attractions found around the city. I only spent a couple of days doing this as it honestly wasn’t all that fascinating to travel from site to site, snap a few pictures and move on to the next – it gets quite taxing, but I had to do some of the highlights for the memories!

The architecture is quite beautiful. There are hundreds of monuments and statues peppered around the city – it would take me many days to capture every single one of these intriguing monuments. The monuments and attractions I did see were: Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Cibeles, Puerta de Alcala, Monumento Cervantes, Monumento Filippo lV, Monumento Alfonso Xll, Monumento del Angel Caido, Templo de Debod; the areas I saw some of these monuments were in Parque del Retiro, Gran Via, Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor. I covered a lot of ground in these two-days of Madrid touring.

An area I spent a few evenings was in was Gran Via. Much like New York’s Time Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus, Gran Via is Madrid’s happening spot. There was always something going on here – from street performances to side hustle sidewalk vendors selling futbol jerseys or souvenirs. The street performers were pretty good, there were usually several large groups gathered around music talent, breakdancers or magicians.

Madrid has the bad reputation for pickpockets, so I was always vigilant and weary of big crowds. I preserved the same caution each time I boarded the metro and i’m happy to say that to date I have had no incidents of theft or loss throughout my many trips.

One of the last places I went to before departing for my Amsterdam trip was to Parque del Retiro after doing the Real Madrid Stadium tour that same morning. This park is huge and I had a really nice time strolling through and snapping some pictures of some of the highlights here: Monumento Alfonso Xll and Monumento del Angel Caido. The fallen angel statue was quite creepy but I couldn’t help not snap some pictures of it. The garden towards the south side was a really nice area to spend an afternoon walking around or to just sit and relax.

My visit here eventually wrapped up by watching the sunset overlooking the boat lake. Aside from paying for public transportation all of these attractions are free! The days did feel long as I did a lot of walking and mostly packed a lunch or only stopped somewhere for a quick bite. Overall I had a nice time – I would have liked another day or maybe two to visit a couple of the museums, but alas my trip had ended on a high note and I was good with that.

As I said before this park was a nice surprise and a great way to end my trip here in Madrid. I highly recommend it for anyone visiting Madrid and wanting take a break from the hustle and bustle. Parque del Retiro is definitely in my top ten best parks i’ve been to in the world. If you are visiting I would recommend at least a two-three hour visit, more if you want to have a picnic and or take a boat ride.

My time here in Madrid was pretty great. I liked it overall – I don’t see myself coming back here since I feel I experienced a fair amount. A part of me expected Madrid and Lisbon to feel or look similar but they didn’t – at all. And that’s a good thing. Happy Travels!

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