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Palacio de Cristal del Retiro

People say that Madrid is a marmite town; you either love it or you hate it.

Here are 7 ideas to help you form your opinion.

1. Eat flame-cooked steak at Casa Julian de Tolosa

Steak at Casa Julian de Tolosa
Our enormous steak being cooked at Casa Julian de Tolosa

Categorically the best steak I’ve ever eaten. 

The chef cooks it over an open fire and you can see the sparks flying around it.

There’s a choice between national and foreign breeds, both priced per kilo.

When I asked the waitress how much our steaks would weigh, she told me it would be between 1.2-1.5kg.  “Each?!  Can we have smaller ones?” I asked.  Turns out they cook one between you and cut it at the table for you. 

2. See the royal Palace guarded by horses

The Sun beats down at the front of the palace, but there’s a small park to the side with standard hedges and (most importantly) shade!  

Royal Palace in Madrid
Royal Palace in Madrid

This has by far and away the best view of it.  

The Palace is a bit of a walk past Puerta del Sol but it’s worth it. There were ‘living statue’ artists outside, including one who was covered in mud, posing on a dirt bike!

3. See a gig at the Metropolitano stadium

What can I say?  Nothing beats live music and the crowd here was excellent.  

The facilities were great, the bars weren’t too crowded and there were people walking around with large backpacks serving beer and gin & tonic (with ice!). 

Muse in Madrid
Mett Bellamy being a rockstar at the Stadium Metropolitano

Here is Muse, one of the best live bands in the world.

4. Walk the Barrio del las Letras

Both Lope de la Vega and Cervantes lived in this area.  

One of the many pictures of Cervantes dotted around the Barrio de las Letras

There are literary quotes written on the road and the whole area has a really relaxed vibe.

The area changes depending on the time of day.  There’s bookshops and independent businesses early on, then it livens up a bit for lunch time with tables on the street and lunch being enjoyed.  

Then, bars open by night, including laser karaoke(?), an Irish bar and plenty of cocktail places.

5. Instagram yourself with the Bear & Strawberry Tree statue

Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue
Bear and Strawberry Tree Statue in the Puerta del Sol

Legend has it that all roads in Spain lead to the Puerta del Sol and it certainly feels like it whilst you’re scrambling through city tour groups. 

The bear and strawberry tree come from Madrid’s coat of arms.  It’s a bit bizarre, because who knew strawberries grew on trees?

This is also the commercial centre of the city, so if you’re after a souvenir or fancy wandering to find your own top attraction, this is the place to start.

6. Escape in boats in the Parque del Retiro

Parque del Retiro
The lake in Parque del Retiro

The Parque del Retiro is a world away from the rest of Madrid.  An easy walk from the Barrio de las Letras, it’s a quiet retreat from the busy city.  

The Bosque del Recuerdo is shady and cool, and a place where locals and tourists come to chill out for an afternoon.

In the centre is a lake where you can rent rowing boats in front of a huge monument to Alfonso II.

7. Enjoy a drink in Plaza del Angel

Cleaner, tidier and quieter than the Puerta del Sol, Plaza del Angel is perfect for sipping sangria and people watching.  The cafes have shaded tables outside and serve food as well as drinks. 

One of the main reasons people visit Spain is for the food and the relaxed atmosphere, and this square offers both.

Love it or hate it?  All I know is that two days isn’t long enough to spend in Madrid.Not convinced by Madrid? Have a look at my 4 Alternative City Break options.

Pinterest 7 things to do in Madrid

Beth Seager

Travel blogger

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