Madrid is one of the most popular destinations in Spain, and rightfully so–this major metropolis boasts rich history, stunning architecture, delicious food and countless sights worth seeing. There is certainly no shortage of things to do in Madrid, and like many major European cities, it’s simply too big to see in one weekend. So when I had the chance to take a spur-of-the-moment trip to Madrid for a few days, I jumped at the opportunity, even though I knew I would be hard-pressed to see everything I wanted to see in the city.
While temporarily living in Paris, I had numerous opportunities to jet off to other European cities thanks to cheap airfare. And whenever I discovered cheap flights, I immediately pulled up HotelTonight to search for hotels. So as soon as I decided to visit Madrid, I checked HotelTonight’s selection of hotels in this Spanish city, and within minutes I had booked a great last-minute hotel in Madrid. So I packed my bags, headed to the airport and started dreaming of refreshing sangria and delicious tapas as I boarded my plane.
As soon as I arrive in a new city, I like to go for a long walk to get a sense of the layout and the vibe of a town. Since I was staying near the Gran Vía, a wide promenade known for its selection of shops and restaurants, I decided to stroll down this street and soak in the energy. While some people may say that Gran Vía is a tourist street (just as many would say the Champs Elysees is a tourist street in Paris), I passed countless locals on their way to work, lunch or one of the many shops that line the street. It would be hard to visit Madrid without ending up on this main street at some point, and I was glad that I made it my first stop on my trip, as it gave me an immediate sense of the city.
Madrid is a paradise for art lovers, as this city seems to display art everywhere you look, from its many museums to its stunning architecture to its shop windows. If you’re an art lover (like me), you’ll definitely want to check out Madrid’s Art Triangle, which consists of three major museums, the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Not only is this area home to some world-renowned museums, but it’s also a beautiful district filled with charming streets, markets and shops.
Even though Madrid is a huge city, you’re never far from a beautiful green space. This city is home to a number of public parks, where locals love to take afternoon walks, meet up with friends, and just relax on the green grass or a park bench. One of the most popular parks in Madrid is the Parque del Buen Retiro. This 300-acre park once was part of the palace gardens, but now it’s a space where anybody can enjoy manicured gardens, small man-made lakes and even playgrounds. It’s easy to see why Retiro Park is such a beloved spot among locals, because it offers a sense of peace and serenity that can be hard to find in the bustle of the city.
The Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña is one of the city’s hippest ‘hoods. So if you want to see where Madrid’s trendiest residents (aka Spanish “hipsters”) hang out, you’ll want to head to Malasaña. This area is flooded with cool bars, restaurants, shops and urban art, so it’s the perfect spot to be when the sun goes down. Thanks to some advice from some friendly locals, I ended up in Malasaña after dark, and I did like the locals do and enjoyed some great food, great drinks and great atmosphere in one of Madrid’s coolest areas.
As the largest flea market in Spain – and one of the largest in all of Europe – El Rastro is a dream destination for antique lovers. In a sense, taking a stroll through El Rastro is like embarking on a treasure hunt, because you never know just what you may find in one of the stalls. The street may be crowded with shoppers and cluttered with goods, but all of the chaos just adds to the experience, which is why visiting El Rastro was one of my favorite parts of my stay in Madrid.
I went into my Madrid vacation knowing that there was no way I’d be able to see as much of the city as I wanted to–Madrid is simply too big. That being said, I did feel like I got a great sense of the city and for its culture, and I will definitely be back in the future. And when I have the craving for another spontaneous Madrid getaway, I’ll be sure to book my last-minute hotel on HotelTonight.