Last year I’ve visited Barcelona and like most people I loved it. So this year I decided to go and explore the capital of Spain, Madrid. Who would ever think that Europe and in fact the whole World will be hit by the Corona-virus pandemic and many countries be on Lockdown? I’m glad that I was not affected by the COVID-19 disease.
January is one of my favourite months for city breaks and I’ve been doing it for a number of years now, there is less tourist, the hotels are cheaper and so are the flights. A no-brainer for me. Mind you the weather might not be as good as one would wish, but what the heck. What could possibly go wrong? Well, this January Spain was hit by one of the worst winter storms in decades, with snow and 45-foot waves battered the coast. Fortunately, Madrid was spared from the worst weather and I only had one cloudy day with a bit of rain.
Madrid is an amazing city with wide boulevards, tall buildings and busy traffic. I like the hustle and bustle of a big city. There is always something to do, photograph or admire.
The capital of Spain, Madrid is home to almost 3.3 million inhabitants and a metro population of a whopping 6.5 million people. The second-largest city in the EU and has the third-largest GDP in the European Union and has an influence on politics, culture, education etc.
I only had a limited time to explore the city. Just four days and so much to see and do. If you only have a limited time to explore the city, here are a few tips on how to spend 4 days in Madrid and enjoy yourself.
Places to Visit in Madrid in 4 Days
Explore the city, the streets, shops, restaurants. The best way to explore Madrid’s restaurants, cafes etc, is on foot. Free walking tours are very popular in Madrid as well. Once you check-in, get out and explore. Visiting one of many tradition tapas bars is a must when in Madrid. Dig into meatballs, seafood, ham, beef, patatas, the list goes on and on. A couple of beers or wine and you set to go on exploring. Or perhaps take a food tour, another great way to get to know Madrid. After all day eating, chill out in a cosy cafe on Gran Via and watch the World go by.
Puerta de Alcala – a monument in the Plaza de la Independencia is regarded as the first modern post-Roman arch in Europe. It is located near the city centre and also close to the Retiro park. One of the largest parks in Madrid and great for a nice walk.
Mercado de San Miguel – opened back in 1916 you can find this big indoor market close to Plaza Mayor and is very popular with foodies from all over the World. Serving local food and delicacies. For around 12 Euros you can have your fill for the day. The market gets very busy in the evenings when all the local descend here for their favourite grab. For opening times and more about the market visit mercadodesanmiguel.es
Visit to the ancient city of Toledo. The city is perched on a hill in central Spain and offers many things to see and do. From medieval Arab monuments, old city walls, picturesque streets to well-maintained parks. Toledo is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers something for everyone. One can guess by the architecture influenced by the Muslims, Jewish and Arab settlers that the city has been here since the middle ages. Hence the nickname “City of Three Cultures”.
Only a short train ride from Madrid, about 30 minutes from the Atocha train station, you will find yourselves as you travelled back in time. There are many tourist sites in Toledo. One of my favourites was Puente de San Martin – San Martin’s Bridge (picture above). Come down here and relax by the river as you take in the stunning landscape.
If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie, you can even cross the bridge and admire Toledo’s landmarks from the air. Yes, that’s right. The longest urban zip-line in Europe spans across the bridge. Check the prices and opening hours here.
Come to Mirador de La Granja – observation deck and take in the scenery and far-reaching views of the city, where old houses mix with new ones.
A few other things worth visiting in Toledo. The Gothic Cathedral and its over 200 years of history. Alcazar of Toledo a stone fortification that dates back to the Roman times and houses the Museum of the Army. Puerta del Sol and city wall of Toledo, an amazing medieval city gate.
Or just sit back and relax in one of many nice little cafes. Makes a nice end to a busy day exploring Toledo.
Exploring more of Madrid at Plaza Mayor. You will find the main square in the heard of old Madrid not too far from Puerta del Sol. The foundations of Plaza Mayor were laid, when Philip II’s court moved to Madrid, on the site of the former Plaza del Arrabal, where the town’s most popular market was located towards the end of the 15th century.
Nowadays the plaza is filled with restaurants, shops, bars and cafes and is a very popular place visited by many tourists and travel vloggers, bloggers and Instagrammers.
Torres de Colon or Columbus Towers are an office building which was built from top to bottom and were once named the ugliest building ever and have a suspended structure. The building looks like an electrical plug and many locals refer to it as the Plug. Located on one of the major commercial centres in Madrid, Plaza de Colon. The Towers stand 116 metres tall, comprise Madrid’s eleventh highest building.
Temple of Debod. If you love history and archaeology then you must visit the Temple. An ancient Egyptian temple built in the 2nd century in Egypt and was dedicated to the goddess Isis.
In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan in Egypt and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archaeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. The Temple was donated to Spain in 1968.
The temple was rebuild in one of Madrid’s nicest parks, the Parque del Oeste near the Royal Palaces of Madrid and opened to the public in 1972.
Deals on Flights and Hotels in Madrid
Last day in Madrid I visited: Plaza Matadero. Formerly a slaughterhouse and livestock market, now converted to an art centre. It hosts markets, festival, workshops and performances. Makes for a nice day out not only for artsy people.
Las Ventas Bullring. One of my most favourite places in Madrid must be the Las Ventas bullring. I’ve been to a few bullrings in Spain Before, but Las Ventas is the most famous and one of the largest, working bullrings in the World with a capacity of over 23.000 seats.
As I said the bullring still hold annual bullfights and is very popular with locals and tourists alike. Mind if you do not fancy watching the bullfight, you can just take a tour of the place and admire the history and architecture here. For the latest tour itinerary and prices go here.
I have always wanted to watch the bullfight, but unfortunately, the fights only run from March to October, so I will have to come back some other time. For bullfighting season information and tickets go here.
I know that bullfights are not everyone’s cup of tea and there are certainly some controversies on that topic, but it is a quintessential Spanish tradition and many people enjoy to come and spend a day out here.
Puente de Toledo Bridge. This amazing piece of architecture was built between 1718 and 1732 in Baroque style and spans the Manzanares river. For pedestrian use only and rebuilt on a site of a former bridge, the Toledo bridge is one the lesser-known places to visit in Madrid.
Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Probably everybody, even non-football fans heard of Real Madrid. Right? With a seating capacity of over 81.000 people the stadium has been the home of Real Madrid since its completion in 1947. The stadium hosted European cup/ UEFA champions league many times before.
You can take a tour of the stadium, the museum, the locker rooms and much more and feel like the many football stars walking and playing here.
Renovations of the stadium began in 2019 and set to last until 2023. The capacity will remain at 81,000 seats, but the height will be increased by ten metres and a roof will be added. You can still visit the stadium regardless. There are good transport links to and from central Madrid, so getting here is not a problem.
After your tour of the stadium pop into El AlmacenArgentino, a very nice Argentinian restaurant just across the road from Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Great staff, rich menu and good prices.
Public Transport in Madrid. Getting Around Madrid
Using public transport in Madrid is the best way to move around in Madrid. You can choose from Bus or Metro. I preferred using the Metro system as it is the fastest way of transport in Madrid.
Metro – to use the Metro in Madrid you will need a prepaid travel card called Public Transport Card. The Metro trains are modern and clean so there is almost no hassle to use them. There are 13 Metro lines and more than 300 stations with frequent trains, every 3 or 4 minutes.
There are also numerous Bus routes called EMT. The blue buses serve the whole of Madrid’s neighbourhoods. Again nice, clean and modern buses with wheelchair access and air-conditioning make you journeys pleasurable.
Commuter trains called Cercanias serve Madrid and its metropolitan areas and are another good way to travel in Madrid and beyond. If you want to go and explore outside Madrid, then I recommend taking the commuter train. I used it to get to Toledo. Which only about 30 minutes away and makes for a nice day trip.
How to get to and from the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport? The second-largest airport in Europe and a very busy place too. There are many options on how to get to the centre of Madrid which is about 12 km away. You can take the Metro from Terminal 2 or 3 to Nuevo Ministerios station in the centre, using Line 8. From there take your desired line to your destination. The Metro system is very easy to use so one should have no problems using it.
Use a Bus – The Airport Express– Expres Aeropuerto- the bus calls at Terminals 1, 2 and 4 and a single journey cost 5 Euro.
Taxi – the easiest, but not the cheapest way to get to and from the airport is getting a Taxi. The journey will cost you between 25 and 30 Euros. I used the Cabify app for Taxi. Similar to Uber, but a bit better prices on it. It’s a great app so good to have it on your phone.
Hire a Car in Madrid and save up to 35%
Madrid has a Mediterranean weather with hot summers and mild winters. From October to April Madrid experiences a lot of rainy days, but from May to November it hardly rains. As I said the summer is very hot in Madrid so the best time to visit the city is in the spring months, where the temperatures more pleasant. The average temperatures from June to September are anywhere between 25 – 35 degrees Celsius.
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