I spent a lovely 48 hours in Madrid with a good friend back in December. Of course Madrid being the capital city of Spain, I knew I would get there at some point this year. On my first trip to Spain (in June 2015. The one where I decided moving here sounded great), I barely spent any time in Madrid because I met my group a few days late. So I simply landed, went to my hostel and took a bus out to meet my friends in La Rioja the next morning. So I was excited to actually explore Madrid. I also read that Madrid had some awesome Christmas markets, so it seemed perfect!
How we got there
I live in Granada and went with my friend who lives in Jaen. We found a BlaBlaCar leaving Friday night from Jaen. It was perfect and way faster/cheaper than the bus or train. What is BlaBlaCar? BlaBlaCar is a ride sharing app that you can use to go all over the place. People that are already driving from point A to point B will post their journey. Then you go on and search where you want to go and choose who you want to ride with. Between larger cities such as Granada to Malaga, there’s normally at least 15 a day. I’ve used it a lot and have always been pleased.
Where we stayed
I’m a hostel girl as I love the social atmosphere and the low-cost. We found a nice hostel called Barbieri Sol Hostel, which is located right in the center of everything. In fact, we rarely had to take public transport because of how close it was to everything. Our double private room costed under 100 euros total, for the two of us.
Overall, I would give this hostel maybe a 7 or 8 out of 10. It was clean and comfortable. The staff was friendly. However we didn’t really meet too many new people and there was nothing super extraordinary about it. However for us, that was fine! We spent our days exploring!
The Christmas Market
After waking up Saturday morning and having breakfast, we made our way down to Plaza Mayor to explore the Christmas market. Plaza Mayor seems to be the big, central square of Madrid. The name literally translates to “old plaza.” I found a pair of ridiculous Christmas glasses there.
I was sad I didn’t really get a good photo of my ridiculous glasses. Here you can see them. This photo was originally much larger and I cropped it down a bit here.
The free walking tour
I always suggest the free walking tours. They are the best if you’ve just arrived and want a feel for the city. We found a free walking tour in English that left from Plaza Mayor through New Europe Tours. Our tour guide was a nice American named Jovan who had been living in Spain for four years. He was very enthusiastic and entertaining. He definitely kept our attention the entire time. You can read more about him here. They also have tours available in Spanish (of course). This company also gives tours in 17 other cities including New York, Tel Aviv, Prague, Edinburgh and Amsterdam. Check out all the cities they are in here.
Here are a few shots from the tour:
The suicide bridge
This bridge is apparently famous because many people have committed suicide off of it. It’s formal name is the Segovia Viaduct. In the 1990’s the number of suicides spiked to 4 a month. Very crazy to think about.
The Madrid Cathedral
After stopping at the viaduct, we headed over to the Madrid Cathedral. Yes, I do love my cathedrals. If I could sum up the Madrid Cathedral in one sentence it out be “ugly on the outside and stunning as soon as you walk in.” Like things don’t really match on the outside, but it gives it some quirk.
I loved all the tall ceilings and the general architecture. It was definitely a bit more crowded that other cathedrals I had been to. That’s probably a mix of it being Spain and the capitol.
Plaza de Oriente
The tour concluded at the beautiful Plaza de Oriente and Jardines de Sabatini. It was here that our lovely tour guide gave us some interesting information about Spain. In the time period after World War II they went through something called the Spanish Miracle. It was roughly between the years 1959 to 1975 that the country went through a ridiculous economic boom. They went from 1 in every 100,000 people owning their own car to 1 in every 100. That just blows my mind.
He also told us that in the 70’s and 80’s, the crime rate went up. Thus when walking around Spain, you’ll see that most doors are barred and made of iron. Windows often have bars (pretty ones, though) on them. This is due to the crime rate. A few months later I went to Toulouse, France and noticed that all of their doors are made of wood. Then I remembered what I learned on my tour and it made sense. Oh, and by the way, Spain is totally safe now.
Here are a few shots from bumming around the park. I was loving my dress that day.
Our final day
After some much-needed rest, we decided to just spend Sunday roaming around the city. We ended up in the Parque de El Retiro just roaming, shooting photos and enjoying the sunlight. It’s a really nice spot.
Have you spent some time in Madrid or Spain? Do you enjoy a good, free walking tour?