While I’m sitting here in Berlin at around minus 4 degrees, I think back of the warm and sunny days I spent in the amazing city of Madrid last weekend. I won a voucher for some flying time in one of the three wind tunnels there during Christmas Boogie and so I decided to take a little time out during cold February and catch some sunny vibes.
But even if you are not into indoor skydiving, you should take the capital of Spain into consideration when you want to enjoy some easy going citytrip days. Most people concentrate on Barcelona, but I must say, Madrid really won my heart fast. I flew in from Vienna with the last flight and left rather late. Ok I returned to my flat very late on Sunday, but these flight times gave me four full days with just taking off two. The flights were cheap, including luggage I paid around 120 Euros, so if you travel light, it gets even cheaper (but yeah, I had my helmet and all the stuff with me you know).
I stayed in an airbnb right in the center of the city. As you know, I travel a lot for business and stay in fancy hotels most of the times. So whenever I travel privately and don’t stay with friends, I love using more relaxed accomodations. It cost about 40 Euros per night, and concerning the location, this was a very good price. Airbnb is always a little adventure and you meet new people – so yes, since the Madrilenos are super relaxed, go for it! Lots of the most well known sights were just around the corner and in walking distance and the quarter was very lively and busy.
While there is always people that run around with their tourist guide, I prefer getting lost in a city. I had a little city map and took a short look on it – and then started walking. I had a rough idea where the things were located which I wanted so see, and so I strolled around in the small and big streets without a real plan. Plaza Mayor was impressive, with all the old houses surrounding it. I was there during the day, where there were not so many people, and as well at night to catch up with friends, when it seems like everybody was there to meet people and watch the light installation. I’m not sure what I liked more, but the pink lights with the people running around like little ants were amazing.
Puerta del Sol reminded me of Piccadilly Circus but as Spanish version of it. From this huge place lots of large streets run through the city like fingers. Lots of shops, lots of people, lots of noise. I must admit after a long day, I was a bit overwhelmed when I walked around there at night, so I was really happy when I could go back to my flat. But if you are looking for some nice clothes (deartee!!!) or jewellery this is the place to go.
From there you can also walk to Plaza del Rey or Calle Mayor, the parks or simple take “the wrong direction” to stroll around the old little streets and find the one or another gem.
Definitely visit El Rasto on Sunday. This is a huge fleamarket stretched out in a whole quarter, and from trashy clothes to really old cool stuff you can find everything there. People enjoy chats and the sun, there are musicians around each corner and if you take your cam with you, you will definitely will make some nice pics.
You might have noticed that I love eating. In Spain, as long as you are a carnivore, you will get what you wish for. Enjoy tapas, beer, sweets and fruits wherever you are. For coffee lovers, the daily dose of caffeine is easy to get, since there are Spanish and international coffee shops at every corner. Just remember that in Spain, everything starts a bit later, so don’t be surprised that a cafe will open at 10 and dinner might be served at 10:30 pm.
My personal highlights were the bocadillos de calamares (sandwiches with deep fried squid) or bocadillos con jamon (same with amazing Spanish raw ham) around Plaza Mayor or at El Rasto. You probably need to wait a while to get yours in the tiny shops, but believe me, it’s worth it (and a good base to go out for drinks afterwards). If you want to visit a street food market, you could stop by at Mercado San Miguel, a renovated old market close to Plaza Mayor, where you will find delicacies at a higher price than on the street, but in a wonderful and crowded atmosphere. Mostly in tapas sizes, so you can try more than one dish (and this is another thing I love about Spain so much). Ah and tapas… I don’t have to mention that you will find restaurants serving these everywhere?
For Middle Europeans used to “real” Winter temperatures, winter in Spain is always warm (except from the higher mountain area). But shortly before I was there they even had snow (which, as far as my friends in Spain could remember, never happened before). During my stay, it was a bit fresh in the morning (around 8 degrees), but throughout the day the temperatures rose up to 20 degrees with a lot of sun. So decide if this is cold for you or not. I was wearing a thin shirt and a jacket and felt lovely, while a Portuguese friend was already wearing his super warm clothes and still was shaking at 12 degrees ;-)
Ah and for those of us that love a bit of wind to fly. Madrid is the only European city with three wind tunnels. They are a bit far out, but each of them fun to fly. Which one I liked best? Uhm hard to say. Windobona felt like home, since it is exactly the same machine as in Vienna and also due to the fact that I was still working there when they opened Madrid. But from the building, the atmosphere and the fun factor, Madridfly in Las Rozas was at least as good, if not better. But just like as with Tapas, I would suggest to take some minutes in each and decide which one you like best ;-)