Madrid was the perfect city for a weekend getaway in early October. Great food, a buzzing atmosphere and a warm, sunny welcome from the gloomy mid-autumn weather back in London.
We headed there with our good friends B&B choosing an Airbnb right in the heart of the Madrid, less than a 5-minute walk from Plaza Mayor. On our first morning, we welcomed the warm weather and set out to explore the expansive El Retiro Park to the east of the city. This famous park is popular with locals and tourists alike and you could spend a good few hours exploring here. We headed to the Palacio de Cristal which is one of the most iconic buildings in Madrid. Originally a glasshouse this beautiful building now hosts regular art exhibitions – and it’s free! We had to wear silly shoe covers but the art installation here blew my mind – and my name was written on the floor!
At the start of October there were numerous protests being held in Barcelona surrounding Catalonia wanting their independence. And coming to Madrid I didn’t really think anything of it as we weren’t in the centre of the action. However, on the Saturday we started to notice a lot of people out on the streets carrying flags as well as flags hanging from numerous apartment buildings. It wasn’t until we found a tapas place for lunch that our waitress confirmed that there was a political rally where thousands had gathered calling for Spanish unity. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits – “Viva España”!
Back to the lunch… because of the rally many of the tapas restaurants were packed and the tables reserved but we were lucky enough to nab a standing table at La Catapa. We embraced the atmosphere and enjoyed some sangria and delicious authentic tapas.
Our weekend basically revolved around eating and drinking – which is my favourite kind of holiday! After a bit more exploring we wound up at the basement bar of Ojalá in the Malsana area. Malasana is known for its “trendy, hipster” vibe and we could have easily explored a bit more. However Ojalá has a white sand covered floor, so we got comfortable here, kicked off our shoes and enjoyed a few jugs of sangria. We could’ve easily stayed here for more but decided to head back home for a bit of downtime before venturing out for dinner (yes we’re getting old!). Luckily for us our Airbnb was a quick stumble from Calle Cava Baja. This infamous street is where many of the best traditional and popular tapas bars and restaurants are located and we ended our night here with more red wine and tapas.
On Sunday morning we checked out the bustling El Rastro – Madrid’s Sunday flea market – and found a nice cafe for brunch where we enjoyed pastries and empanadas. Getting away from the crowds we next made our way west of the city to check out the Palacio Real (the Royal Palace of Madrid) and the surrounding gardens. Madrid is a very walkable city but after a lot of walking we decided we would take an uber and check out the bullfighting ring at Las Ventas.
Unfortunately for us there was a bullfight scheduled for that evening which meant we couldn’t buy tickets to enter the bullring for a look around. We opted for the free museum instead and were able to get a glimpse of a couple of bulls through the bathroom window. We didn’t have time to stick around to watch the bullfight and in all honesty, I don’t think I would have wanted to experience it. We watched a video in the museum and that was enough brutality for me.
With only a couple of hours left until we needed to be at the airport we rushed to fit in a few last minute stops to get our Madrid foodie fix. We elbowed our way through the packed San Miguel Market to grab an assortment of delicious croquettes (I could seriously eat them everyday). We then headed to grab a famous calamari sandwich just off the main square and lastly found our way to San Ginés Chocolatería for some well-rated churros.
Back at our Airbnb feeling full and satisfied we reflected on our awesome weekend in Madrid. We agreed we could’ve possibly done with an extra day but were content with what we had managed to fit in in our time. We loved the vibe here and all agreed we would love to visit again sometime.