First & Foremost: when in Spain order a glass of Vermouth/Vermut or Tinto de Verano – Sangria is not a local Spanish drink.
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour: for first timers Yes! book a half day and it would take you around the city and a full day would give you more time to hop off and visit the sites.
Tapas Bars: hit the local tapas bars and avoid the Plaza San Miguel. Right around the corner – the alleys behind Plaza Mayor, you will find the local and authentic tapas bars.
My 2 fave spots:
Casa Revuelta (best Bacalao): 2 minutes walk from Plaza Mayor
Casa Abuelo (traditional tapas): seafood tapas were muy bien!
Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid):
I recommend to book your tickets online (via Viator) to avoid the wait-although I still waited 20 mins in line to get in. So just imagine if you still have to get in line for tix. Also, I suggest to book the earliest 10 am slot.
The home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. Take plenty of photos outside and in the main entryway because no se permiten fotos en el interior. 3,418 rooms in the palace.
Across the palace is La Almudena Catedral: Madrid’s grandest church
Museo Nacional del Prado:
Houses the world’s richest and comprehensive collection of Spanish paintings. If you are an art and history enthusiast , you will spend at least 3-4 hours exploring the museum. Featured artists: Francisco Goya, Rembrandt, El Greco, Velazquez just to name a few. Book your advance tickets online (via Viator) for the same reason–you will save time!
The essence of Madrid that I would say. This plaza hosted executions in history as well as bullfights and soccer games, but now the main event is the annual Christmas market. A few blocks away is Plaza del Sol where you will find the local scenes of tapas bars and restaurantes.
**try to avoid the restaurants in the plaza- and get lost in the alleys & discover local tapas bars
My List of Plaza Mayor Restaurantes:
Chocolateria San Gines: hidden away near the Opera Metro stop. Keep in mind- churros & chocolate is a breakfast staple in Spain.Though this place is open until 12-1 am
Meson del Champiñón: famous for its garlic stuffed mushrooms, grilled chorizo, fried green pepper. Thanks to Devours tours site for the reccomendation.
Sobrino de Botin: world’s oldest restaurant and known for its roast suckling pig mentioned in a Hemingway novel. They have a set menu for 49 euros which includes 1/2 bottle of vino. Dessert – for an extra euro I suggest for you to order the Basque Burnt Cheesecake – crustless Spanish Cheesecake that is light & creamy. It was so good I was back after a few days and ordered a to go cheesecake.
My Madrid Highlight: the people I met along the way.
Hipster artsy barrio (district):Calles filled with cafes, vintage shops, bakeries. Please do not get overwhelmed by the graffitis and character of this district. It’s a safe area to stroll and discover local and university scenes. But of course always be mindful of pickpockets which applies anywhere you go.
On My List:
Madrid 1883: Madrid’s oldest Churreria: in my opinion, the best churros/chocolate I’ve had in Spain.
Casa Macareno: cosy & cheap local tapas bar.
Luxury shopping district where you will also find Mercado de la Paz.
*Note: the Global Blue office is located at the Corte Ingles building. I would suggest to do all your shopping tax credit at this location rather than getting in the long endless line at the airport.
- Mercado de la Paz: The oldest standing market in Madrid (1882) where you can buy fresh fruits, local cheese and meat vendors from jams iberico to T-bone steak. This is where I had the best tortilla!
Recommended Eats on my list: so many tapas bars not much time
La Catapa: stingray escabeche,potato truffle
La Montería game meats
Kulto: deconstructed andalusian prawns, fritters, red tuna satay, spicy frijoles
La Castela:bulls tail stew
Taberna Laredo:Scallops ponzu, artichoke confit
La Giferia: chorizo
Taberna Numancia: pork belly tapa
Cervecería La Lastra : clams
Bodega Rosell: croquetas & Bacalao
Casa Toni : traditional tapas Sweetbread
La Mallorquina: Napolitana de crema Desserts