From the offset this was going to be a very special holiday for myself and Kyle as it’s the last time we will be away in a foreign country with our close group of friends, something we have done plenty of in the last few years; travelling to Dublin(twice), Tenerife, Turkey and Las Vegas.
That being said, our friends and family will no doubt be visiting us along the way of our world tour – bringing supplies of Yorkshire Tea and Custard Creams with them!
The first thing to strike me about Madrid was how relaxed and quiet the city was, I thought it would be similar to London in terms of traffic and people. We had arranged a private transfer from the airport to our apartment and we barely saw any traffic – I see more cars on my daily commute from Eastbourne to Lewes!
This theme carried forward to wondering the city, perhaps this was due to the fact we visited during February as opposed to the summer months – but the whole city felt like it had a very relaxed and positive atmosphere – perfect for exploring and bar hopping.
The apartment we had booked (through air bnb) was perfectly located right in the city centre, very well equipped and decorated, and served as a good base for the visit. I would always choose an apartment over a hotel, it usually works out cheaper, it’s far more relaxed, and works out better for groups, giving you a space where you can relax and party together in privacy, something you never get in a hotel. With your own kitchen you can even try cooking some local dishes with local ingredients, you can immerse yourself in the culture far more. One thing to note is that the apartment building itself was undergoing huge refurbishment, the stairwell and hall was a construction site, complete with bare wires, pipes and power cuts, but a 25% discount was agreed, it’s always worth complaining if something isn’t right, but it also pays to be polite at the same time.
A typical Madrid Street view
The second thing I noticed about the city was how pretty it was, especially when you get into the old town/city centre the architecture is beautiful, and the general upkeep is very high. Around every corner there seems to be another plaza, lined with small bars and cafes, a perfect setting for a cerveza or two.
Madrid definitely competes and may even surpass London in terms of green spaces and parks. The most popular being El Retiro Park, only a short walk, or even shorter Metro ride away from the city centre, this huge open space contains the usual gardens, it also contains a lake where you can hire a row boat for 6 euros per 45 mins. Even in February the park was bustling, I can image in the height of summer this is a hub for summer drinking and fun.
Cerveza, Vino & Tapas
By far my favourite activity we did in Madrid was bar hopping, the drinking culture is very different compared to the UK, this all stems from the bars having table service, which chills out the whole the affair from the start. Whenever you order a drink you get a bowl of crisps, sometimes with fish or sauce, this helps soak up the wine/beer, eating and drinking appear to go hand in hand, with every bar serving quality food into the early hours of the morning.
It must be said that you very much get what you pay for, there are many places that offer a beer for 1 euro… and the beer quality reflects the price.
Madrid Metro – Good enough to nap on
One thing that Madrid needs praise for is the Metro system, you can get pretty much anywhere in the city for under 2 euros, I would recommend buying a ticket with multiple journeys on, this will save you time and money buying subsequent tickets, it should be noted that you need to buy a special ticket to travel to the airport which is outside the city centre, this wasn’t expensive, it cost us 5 euros from the city centre and took 3 changes and around 40 mins. The trains are very regular and the system is very easy to grasp and the ticket machines offer a variety of languages.
Our view of the Madrid derby
The highlight of the trip is very easy to pick out… we managed to score tickets to the Madrid derby! (Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, a very big and important match for those who don’t follow football) We attempted to buy tickets before we left, but were unable, the best we could find were £240 through a third party website… After doing the Bernabéu Stadium
tour we thought we would try our luck at the ticket office… it paid off! 4 tickets at 70 euros each got us in the highest seats possible, right next to the away fans, this meant the atmosphere was incredible, and despite the distance from the pitch the view wasn’t bad either, especially as the only goal scored was in the goal right in front of us. We got to the game extra early and had a few beers with the hardcore ‘ultras’ fans outside the stadium, there was no violence or nastiness, despite there being a protest against the club president, the vibe was relaxed and happy.
Madrid is a beautiful, relaxed and fun city – grab a few beers and tapas – this a perfect city break location.