After returning from Granada, Eric joined Chris and I for five fabulous days in Madrid. Here are my favorite things that we did!
1. Eating ham & tortilla
Because Eric has been studying in a Muslim country and has therefore been suffering from lack of pork-products (specifically bacon), I took him to the Museo del Jamón for his first meal. It seems to be some sort of chain restaurant in Madrid, but they have walls covered in ham legs and a euro menu of bocadillos (simple Spanish sandwiches consisting of one topping on a baguette) so we ended up frequenting it during our time in Madrid.
As much as I loved the Spanish ham and chorizo, my favorite was a bocadillo with Spanish tortilla on it. Unlike the flatbread Latin American tortilla, Spanish tortilla is a meal in itself. It’s an egg-based dish and is kind of like the birth-child of an omelet and a quiche with a lot of potatoes and onions thrown in. It’s hearty yet tender, and especially delicious when paired with some flakey bread. I’m getting hungry just writing about it…
2. The Almudena Cathedral
I’ve seen so many churches during my time in Europe that I probably wouldn’t have gone in this one if Eric hadn’t wanted to check it out, and boy am I glad he did. The Almudena Cathedral, located adjacent to the Royal Palace in Madrid, is the most eclectic cathedral I’ve ever been to. It was kind of like a contemporary art museum inside–traditional religious works were up next to very modern stained glass and sculptures, the ceiling was covered in the vibrant patchwork of geometric shapes, and the prayer room was decorated with floor to ceiling sparkling mosaic depictions of religious scenes. Rather than feeling religiously imposing and gaudy, it was more interesting and inviting. I highly recommend stopping by if you’re in Madrid.
3. Spending time in public places
Because people in Madrid socialize in the streets rather than in the home, the city is full of excellent public places to spend time in. Plenty of my time in Madrid was spent doing just that: sitting in a park or a plaza, catching up with my good friends from back home, and watching Spanish life pass by. There are also plenty of street performers around for added entertainment. One morning in Retiro park we were even lucky enough to get an hour-long sax performance from across the lake!
Another great space to check out if you’re going to Madrid is the Atocha train station. Not only is it pretty amazing architecturally, there’s a giant palm tree forest inside that’s pretty cool to walk around. When we were there, there was an exhibit of photographs related to the Russian railroad. Random, yes, but also interesting.
4. Hitting the museums
Madrid is also full of museums. We went to the two main attractions: the Prado and the Reina Sofia. The Prado is more traditional and renaissance art, which isn’t my favorite. The most interesting thing there was Goya’s black paintings, which were the pieces he originally did on the walls of his home while he was going crazy and nearing death. They’re pretty gruesome but very interesting.
The Reina Sofia is full of contemporary art and much more down my alley. This included several works by the crazy Dalí and Picasso’s Guernica. As part of the Guernica exhibit, the museum also has a bunch of his sketches and studies done in preparation for painting this major work. I love seeing the process of great artists almost as much as I like seeing the final product, so I thought this was a very well done exhibit.
A quick tip if you’re planning on visiting museums in Madrid: if you plan it right, you really shouldn’t have to pay admission. If you’re a student you can get in free to almost all of the museums with your ID, but for the rest of you most of the museums have free hours or days. Check the schedules before you go and plan accordingly to save a lot of euros!
5. Enjoying the nightlife
Madrid has an incredibly varied and lively nightlife that is known for starting late and ending later. We really enjoyed a spectrum–from our first crazy night at the seven story club El Kapital to dancing at a jazz/funk bar to a quiet night sipping wine at a cafe until they closed at 2–and I had a great time every night. Whatever your nightlife style, Madrid probably has it and it’s bound to be a good time.
Up next? Our spontaneous trip to Sevilla!