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Monday, 25 November 2019

City Guide: Madrid

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It's taken me a few months to get this guide written, partly because I've been very busy and partly because I wanted to do Madrid, and our time there, justice. So if you're heading to the Spanish capital, here's my edit of what to do, eat and drink.


Getting around 
Madrid has a vast underground network running all the way from the airport and around the centre and neighbouring areas. It's frequent, cheap and clean and the fastest way to see everything you want. It also runs late at night so you can save money on a taxi if you need to.


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Kickstart your trip with a €1 mimosa
It's hard to not start your holiday with a beverage when they cost €1. This cute little cafe serves no frills food but amazingly cheap drinks, so much so we upgraded our mimosas from regular to XXL. But before you think that set us back, it actually cost us just €3. Check this out at Carmencita Bar.


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See the oldest restaurant in the world
Or so the internet tells me. Dating back to 1725, Restaurante Botin is tipped as the oldest, and attracts quite the queue outside. You can actually dine in here although we just snapped a quick photo.


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Have dinner with an atmosphere
I'll be honest, the places we tried were a bit hit and miss for food in Madrid. We had some good tapas and paella and an amazing steak I'll get onto later but I really liked the atmosphere of Habanera. It had stunning interior, friendly staff and a trio of musicians who would play local music at your table.



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Hire rowing boats in the park
This is one of the best parts of the trip for me, and one I whole-heartedly recommend. We didn't have to queue for longer than 10 minutes and it's between €6 and €8 for 45 minutes so amazing value for money. You get a huge lake to row around with pretty vantage points of El Retiro Park.


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Visit the Temple of Debod
For some reason when we visited the water we'd seen in photos was no longer there, but still, it doesn't detract from the beauty of this landmark. The Temple of Debod is ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, so if you're into your history - check it out!


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Check out local pop ups
Like any city, there's always something new happening. Luckily whilst we were there Corona had a summer pop up with drinks, food, live music and activities. We went mid-week during the day so apart from a few other groups, we had the place to ourselves under 30 degree heat.


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Stroll the city's bustling streets
Part of the fun of travelling is getting lost amongst the hustle and bustle of the streets. And Madrid has a pretty street around every corner.


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Have rooftop drinks as the sun sets
One of the reasons we chose our hotel was the rooftop bar and it being exclusive to hotel guests until 9pm - perfect for getting a seat and glass in hand ready for the sun to set. Madrid has lots of rooftop bars so you really are spoilt for choice - we tried the Radio ME bar too, but with that you have to pay to go up, it's hard to get a seat and drinks aren't cheap, so I'd definitely recommend the 'Nice to meet you' rooftop bar instead.



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Be in awe of the Palacio de Cristal
And yes it looks as fancy as it sounds. It's completely free to go in and sits within the park (mentioned earlier) so you can tick off a few must-sees in one go.



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Visit Real Madrid's stadium
If you're into football that is. I don't actively support any team or watch it but my boyfriend fancied it and it was pretty impressive so I can't complain. There's a metro/tram stop right outside and takes less than 30 minutes to get from the city centre.



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Grab a bite at a market
Madrid is full of markets with both savoury and sweet treats. They do get really busy so I'd recommend visiting where you can at a quieter time.


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See Plaza Mayor
It's dotted with cute eateries and places to grab a coffee to people watch.


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Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
You can pay to go in, or simply wander around the grounds whilst soaking up the beauty of the building.


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Marvel at the city's breathtaking architecture
The Basilica Pontificia de San Miguel for an example is a hidden gem worth checking out, and I think these photos more than show why. It's really atmospheric to come here and gather your thoughts for five minutes.


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Hire scooters
And I can not stress this enough. Hands down my favourite part of the trip. Partly because I used to have a scooter like this as a child, and partly because it was the most fun way to see the city. I frequently said to my boyfriend that it was a good job that we didn't hire them when we first got there as I would never have wanted to walk anywhere the following three days. They're super simple to hire and CHEAP! You find them by using the Uber app and you can see how much of a charge they have to before paying for it. You get charged a base rate and then it costs per minute. We were on for around about an hour and it came to about €13 each. I would have happily have paid two or three times that because I had so much fun on them.


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Have a steak here
So this is a pretty shoddy photo, and the reason for that is because our initial reservation fell through and this restaurant was opposite. It seemed like a family run place and the service was some of the best I've ever had. I didn't expect much of the meal, hence why I have no other photos to go along with this glowing review, but it was the best steak I've ever had in my life. It was beautifully tender and flavoursome and I was at that level where I was sad it came to an end. And if I'm ever back in Madrid, I'd come back to Cafe Varela straight away.


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Finish with some of the best views of Madrid
As I mentioned, Madrid has lots of rooftop vantage points of the city. The Circulo de Bellas Artes  had come up a lot when I was doing my research, so we headed here one afternoon. It has a vast rooftop and plenty of seats from bar tables to comfy lounge sofa beds with almost 360 degree views as far as the eye can see (especially over the city's bustling Gran Via). Drinks are a reasonable price and you need cash to get a ticket up here - from memory it was no more than €10 each, and in summer it's such a good place to work on your tan.



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