For the foreseeable future I’d like you to refer to me as ‘The Walking Croquette’, because in the last week I have inhaled so many that my body has become one. Madrid, the first stop in my Spanish getaway, filled with sunshine, great food, beautiful sites and Instagram worthy side roads helped me fall in love with Spain all over again.
Madrid is so picturesque you almost find it hard to believe you’re in a capital metropolitan city in the middle of Spain. Architecture and exterior design runs through this city like a part of its bloodline, the city isn’t suffocated by skyscrapers like London, the city breathes and moves in a way that is so welcoming you cannot help but fall in love with it. With only three days to see the city my friend and I set out to scour the best of what Madrid had to offer, and by far the structure of the city itself is in my opinion it’s best quality. The streets are lined with beautiful street lamps, framed by colourful buildings, and the neo-gothic infrastructure of Madrid is to die for!
But let’s talk about the real reason I visited Madrid, Food! And lots of it! Basque, Galician, Asturian, Valencian you name it we tried it! (and for good measure Japanese, we needed a Tapas break and Miyama served up the best uramaki I’ve had in years!)
The best part of any holiday is scouting out the local cuisine, and since London has yet to offer up a solid Spanish restaurant that doesn’t cost a fortune, we had to get the most out of our time here.
A trip to Madrid would be incomplete without a visit to the iconic Chocolateria San Gines, where the walls are covered in photographs of visiting celebrities and stars. The Churros here are so incredibly in demand that the store is open 24/7 all year round and with good reason! The hot chocolate is smooth and flavourful and the churros are light and tasty, with just the right amount of crunch! A steamy cup of melted chocolate and a plate of Churros, simple, highly indulgent and worth the trip alone!
Our first dinner treat in Madrid was at the impeccable La Barraca, where we indulged in grilled octopus, and a creamy mixed seafood paella. This restuarant is tucked away in a quiet little side street and upon entering you feel as though you’ve been invited into your Spanish aunts house, she’s been cooking all day for you, and boy, she did not disappoint!
I was only one day into my holiday and I was already posing like a recently divorced housewife who’s gone travelling to ‘find herself’. Eating out in Madrid is surprisingly cheap and being used to the small portion sizes we’re served in London, there may have been a couple evenings we over ordered because Madrid does not skimp out on it’s food! There was never an evening where I felt unsatisfied or hungry, so bring your appetite to meal time here!
The following day kicked off and I was excited for my first breakfast in Spain! I recently discovered that Brunch is a very new thing in Spain, and eggs in particular are not as commonly served for breakfast throughout Spain as most European cities, and being the huge egg slut that I am I feared that I wouldn’t get my morning fix, but alas, with the world being Brunch crazy right now, I could count on the cute little boutique cafes to sort us out, and Federal Cafe did exactly that!
I opted for the Spanish infused Huevos Championes, poached eggs, chestnut mushrooms, gruyere cheese, sauteed spinach and hazelnut creme fraiche. Savoury dishes for breakfast are a must, and with Madrid falling into it’s siesta around our usual lunchtime period, a big hearty breakfast was key to surviving day!
And the day took us to one of the most important sites in Madrid, El Retiro Park. Greenery and outdoor sculptures fill the beautiful city park in the heart of Madrid, it’s a wonderful place to stroll around and unwind in, and the best thing about this place is the little lake found in it’s centre. Please act as casual as I did in the rowboat. Also, to everyone out there that rows, I commend you, because my arms were shattered after 45 minutes of trying to get into the right position across the lake. Exercise isn’t cute kids!
Lake aside, a visit to the Palacio de Crystal was in store for us too, it’s a magnificent construct just a short walk away from the El Retiro lake, it houses a selection of glass sculptures that crawl in and out the building, long finger like structures framing the foundations. One thing to note, don’t visit an enclosed glass building in thirty eight degree heat, the greenhouse effect is real, I walked out of there sweatier than I have ever been in my life, but at least my cheesy side profile picture came out cute!
Our time in Madrid was dwindling fast, the city has so much to see, so much to do that 3 days was nowhere near enough, and we had only just started shopping, shoutout to Zara for being so cheap too. One thing that surprised me about our trip here was how casual the city is when it comes to dressing up and going out, by which I mean no ones does and we always looked super extra trying to get to our bar for the evening.
I’m so used to strict dress codes in London that I was completely thrown off by shorts and vests in bars, and then even more thrown off by the children in them too! Madrid feels like a very relaxed city, there is an ease to the way everyone operates and it feels incredibly foreign to how London does, but that’s exactly what made it so enticing and so welcoming in the first place! London wants top tier everything, Madrid prefers you to be comfortable and have a good time. London wants you overdressed, Madrid wants you overfed. Even by holiday standards, I felt like I couldn’t match the level of ‘laid back’ Madrid had on offer, it was almost a little mesmerising to see. Anyway I wore a kimono and people stared at me.
Our final day we decided to embrace the laidback lifestyle and strolled through the quiter neighbourhoods and stumbled upon an adorable cafe for breakfast called Plenti. We quickly discovered the one place in Madrid where every piece of furniture in there had been imported from the UK. Luckily, the food was homegrown in Madrid.
That night, we headed into town for a meal at a highly recommended restaurant called Habanera, a Cuban twist on Tapas in a beautifully decked out space, and evening nightcap at Azotea Rooftop Bar overlooking the infamous Metropolis building, I was almost disappointed when the Daily Planet globe wasn’t perched on top of it’s roof but the washed out sunset in the distance was more than enough to make up for it.
Not since my trip to Berlin have I felt so comfortable in a new city, a city that I could one day call home. Leaving Madrid was not a bittersweet experience, as our journey continues on to Barcelona…
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