At the end of May I got to travel to Madrid for the first time, with my brother and two sisters.
It was just us, without our partners or kids, and it was a fun, funny, unifying and extremely delicious trip. Madrid is a great destination for a cool, light and not too expensive trip. Apart from the fact that there aren’t any low cost flights to Madrid, so the flights are a bit pricey (From Israel), living there is actually quite cheap.
General information about Madrid
We bought an Orange sim card in the city itself, 10 euros for 5 GB of data. We bought it at a local store. At the first store we visited the price was 15 euros, but the next had the same card for 10 euros – So be aware that you needn’t pay more than 10 euros.
Arrival from the airport to the apartment
Upon arriving at the airport, we ordered an uber for the four of us. The price turned out to be 36 euros to the city center, at 11AM.
Since we were four adults, we decided it would be best for us to rent a luxurious apartment close to the city center. My brother found a large, well accessorized apartment at a great location (Link to the apartment).
It was a 3 bedroom apartment (One room had a king sized bed, and two had double beds), two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and a dinning area. The apartment was on the second floor, without an elevator.
The owners hired a manager for the apartment, who greeted us. She was very nice and explained everything we needed to know about the apartment and the surrounding area. She also prepared a local guide book with all of her recommendations for restaurants, cafés, places to visit and more. The apartment itself was well taken care of, with attention to all the little details. The location is central and touristic.
Electric scooter for handicapped
Before the trip, my sister began having problems with her leg and could barely walk. We were a bit nervous it could ruin the trip, since we won’t be able to walk around town a lot, and since she would be in pain from walking all day. After looking for solutions online, I found accessible Madrid, a company renting little scooters for people with disabilities.
It seemed a perfect solution to our situation. I called the company and they advised pre-ordering the scooter online, since May is the beginning of the touristic season and demand might be high. We ordered the smallest scooter at the price of 66 euros, from Wednesday through Sunday, and picked it up ourselves from the store near Retiro park.
The scooter is electric and needs to be recharged at night. A full battery is enough for 15Km. It’s important to note the scooter is very heavy, so when renting it – make sure your apartment has an elevator or a way to charge it downstairs (As we did, luckily, since we had no idea how heavy it would be). If you’re staying at a hotel, check with them what could be done about the scooter and where you may be able to charge it.
I have to say renting the scooter was great and saved our trip. My sister could even join us on tours. We walked a lot during the trip, and she drove by our side the whole time, that way neither of us was limited in our chance to explore Madrid.
Arriving at the apartment
We took an uber from the airport and arrived at our apartment. We spoke to the manager and got our things in order.
We took an uber to the scooter renting store and picked up the little scooter.
We went for a walk in Retiro park (Map). The park is gorgeous and huge. During the weekend it’s quite crowded, so I’d recommend visiting it on weekdays. It was a book fair, a nice lake with pedal boats for rent, amusement parks and the stunning Crystal palace. I’ve never seen such a palace before, and even the area surrounding it is very impressive. It’s definitely worth visiting.
From the park, we headed for lunch at a local restaurant called Vinoteca garcia de la navarra. It’s an authentic, not touristy, Spanish restaurant. We started with a cherry tomato salad with tuna, a dish of Chinese peas and ratatouille with egg. The starters were amazing, each dish was seasoned well and the ingredients were fresh and delicious. For mains, we ordered ox tail stew and fish.
The meat was tender and delicious (A bit too fatty for my taste, but I knew that going in). The fish was slightly less good, since it came with the bones and was difficult to eat. Overall, the experience was very positive, and if you visit the restaurant I’d recommend just ordering many starters, as they are a real success story.
Stroll around town
After lunch, we continued to walk around town
At one point, we decided we could all use some coffee and went to Zero Point café. A small, homey café with a good coffee maker. We ordered coffee, which was excellent. In fact, all through out the trip we only visited high quality cafés (Me and my brother did our research when it comes to the best cafés), so I definitely recommend the ones we visited – as they were all amazing.
Rest at the apartment
After a night of flights and almost no sleep, we went back to the apartment to rest and regain our energy.
Local Tapas dinner
We looked for a good Tapas place for dinner. We found Rosi la loca restaurant, which had received great reviews. However, when we arrived at the restaurant we realized it was full of tourists, and while the place offers good food, it’s touristic and not authentic local cuisine.
We ordered two dishes just in case we were wrong, but quickly realized the food was nice but nothing more and moved on to another restaurant. We went to the La Latina neighbourhood, a charming neighbourhood with many local Tapas restaurants and bars. We visited Taberna Sanlucar, where we ordered a dish of potatoes with egg, a cheese sandwich and wine. Our experience there felt very local, with barely any tourists. The food was good but nothing special, however, we had a very pleasant time. Either way, the neighbourhood offers such a variety of good local restaurants, it’s worth visiting.
Breakfast at Ruda café
About a 5 minute walk from the apartment we found Ruda café, which quickly became our home base – we visited it 4 times over the duration of the trip. It’s an modern, intimate café with really pleasant employees, a good coffee maker, delicious cakes and great bread.
For breakfast we ordered toast with tomato sauce on the side and olive oil (A common local dish in Madrid – It’s a good, toasted bread served with tomato sauce on the side and high quality olive oil). We also ordered banana bread for the four of us and coffee. Everything was really good and we crowned Ruda as our favourite café.
One of my favourite things to do while traveling new cities is join a free tour, where I get to learn of the city’s history and see it’s famous locations.
We chose the tour by Sandemans, a company on who’s tours we had previously gone in Dublin, Berlin, Jerusalem and more, and they were always a success. The tour started out at Mayor plaza. Our guide was Sebastian, who was super charming and interesting.
He conveyed information about Madrid’s history in a light and funny manner, and was very patient when it came to my sister, who was confined to the scooter, and tried his best to accommodate her. It’s important for me to note that a person in a wheelchair may not be able to go on this tour, as there are places only accessible by stairs – When we got to those, my sister simply got off the scooter and took the stairs, while the guys on our tour had to pitch in and lift the scooter (Luckily there were a lot of guys on the tour with us).
The tour is approximately three hours, with a coffee, food and bathroom break in the middle for those who wanted. There was also the option to sign up for other tours the company had to offer, or ask Sebastian for recommendations.
Light salad lunch
Since we knew we had a Tapas tour ahead of us at 18:30, we decided to have a light lunch. We found a make-your-own-salad place and had a light lunch there.
Evening Tapas tour
My brother found the Tapas tour on the Airbnb website, apparently, they had begun offering local experiences in different destinations around the world, as well as lodging. It’s essentially a platform for locals to offer tours, workshops and such to tourists. My brother found a three-and-a-half-hour Tapas tour on it, which included many Tapas dishes and alcohol along the entire tour (Tour’s Link).
The tour cost 60 euros a person, and was at a local, non-touristic neighbourhood. Our guide was Maria, who was very lovely. We were a group, along with a gal from New York (Who now lives in Scotland), a couple from Tennessee and a Chinese guy (Who now lives in New York). They were really funny guys and we had a great time with them on the tour. The tour itself was well planned and had a ton of food and drinks. We tried different local dishes at each restaurant and in fact got the full culinary Madrid experience.
The return on investment was highly worth it. The tour offers high quality food and great wine (One place also had beer from the tap). Maria usually gives the tour with another guy named Raul, but that time Raul was on a different tour at the same time and couldn’t join us. If you’re looking for a full local experience with tasty food, wine and laughter – This tour comes highly recommended.
Breakfast at Hanso café
I’ll start off by saying this café was our winner in terms of food. If you’re looking for the perfect café for breakfast, this is the place for you –Hanso Cafe. Take into account that this place is full all of the time, and even having arrived 10 minutes before opening times, we saw people lined up outside.
Either way, on the menu you’ll find Benedict pears, bagel sandwiches, croissants, toasts with many different toppings and Belgian waffles. A ton of options, and all of them really good. We had toast with avocado and salmon, avocado and egg, a Belgian waffle with fruit and a great dessert of toast with Ricotta cheese and strawberries.
Visiting Plaza de Espana (Map), at the center of the plaza is a monument to Spanish writer and playwright Miguel de Cervantes and a statue of Don Kichot.
Then, we went to the beautiful Sabatini gardens (Map), Debod Temple, a copy of an ancient Egyptian temple built in Madrid (Map) – Behind the temple was a wonderful vantage point over the city. From there, we went to the Rosaleda del Parque del Oeste rose garden, a beautiful garden with 600 different varieties of roses (Very impressive) (Map)
Light lunch of some Tapas
One of my favourite Tapas places this trip was Origen Taberna Madrid, I highly recommend it. We had tomato stuffed with incredible cheese, Croquet (A fried potato dish) stuffed with mushrooms, which was excellent (although I’m not personally a fan of fried food), and a mini cuttlefish hamburger which was fantastic. We were also served a tasty starter and a shot of Caramel vodka on the house.
From there we continued to Masters Speciality coffee, a café with really nice lemonade, and sat in the yard. (Map).
We browsed a few nice stores, such as a cactus shop (Map) and a few nice (And expensive) designer stores.
We went on to a good ice-cream place by café Ruda (Where of course we had some more coffee), Mamá Elba Heladería. (Map)
We went back to the apartment to rest
We decided to take a break from Spanish cuisine and go for an Indian restaurant (We all like Indian food a lot). We went to the Taj Mahal restaurant (Map), which we’ve read good reviews about – and we were not disappointed. We ordered Palak Paneer, Malai Kofta, Chicken Tika Masala and Kuruma shrimps. On the side we ordered two dishes of Basmati rice and one of garlic Naan. The food was so good, we ended up cleaning off our plates. If you like Indian food, I’m sure you’ll love this restaurant.
Breakfast at Hola café
This time, we started the morning off at a café by the train station (Since we wanted to take a train to Toledo). Hola café is a chic café with high quality coffee and good food. We ordered toast with tomatoes and cheese and a sweet dish of toast with butter and cinnamon (The amount of butter and cinnamon was huge, so we scraped most of it off with a knife and spread it on other, clean pieces of bread).
We arrived at Atocha train station (Map) and wanted to buy tickets for the 11:20 train, but it turned out to have been sold out. So, we bought tickets for the 12:20 train and return tickets for 19:20. I recommend pre-ordering tickets a day early, to avoid the same situation. The train station itself is beautiful from both inside and out. The ride to Toledo was really quick and lasted about 25 minutes.
Tour of Toledo
We planned on taking a free tour of Toledo, and I saw online that it’s available at 11:00, 13:00 and 17:00 – But it turned out only the 11:00 tour is in English, and the others are in Spanish. So unfortunately, we didn’t get to do the tour (Take that into account when planning a tour in Toledo).
Cathedral and two Synagogues
Toledo is really small, but full of ups and downs. You could spend hours just walking around it. The main landmarks are the cathedral (Map) and two synagogues, The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca (Map) and the Synagogue of El Transito (Map).
Since Toledo is really pretty and has a beautiful view, we decided to go for a fancy picnic for lunch. In Madrid we bought fresh bread from a bakery and in Toledo we found a local family run store selling cheeses, sausages, olive oil, beers and more. Ohh, and the place’s speciality is marzipan. While I’m not a fan of marzipan, I still thought it was very tasty. In short, it’s highly recommended to visit Productos típicos La Alacena Manchega and buy some great local products (Map).
After our great picnic, we went to the San Martin’s Bridge, which is simply incredible. There’s also the possibility of going on a zip-line at the bridge, which we were planning to do, but a sudden storm had picked up and it was raining heavily. We had not choice but to quickly get off the bridge, and to be honest, my sister’s scooter barely survived the climbs in the rain.
Warming up with tea
We decided to sit at Teteria Dar Al Chai, which offers a huge selection of teas and food, and considering the weather, tea seemed like a great idea. It was very nice. (Map)
From there, we took a large cab, due to the rain (Plus the scooter’s battery was running out) and rode it to the train station. We took the train back to Madrid.
Light Tapas dinner
We had a light Tapas dinner at San Miguel market, then went to a Flamenco show
Corral de la Moreria flamenco show
We got the recommendation for Coral De la Moreria show from Maria, the Tapas tour guide. She said it’s considered one of the best in the world. While it’s a bit expensive, we decided it was worth a try after such high praise. We booked the tickets a day in advance, and it turned out the sitting arrangement is based on the date of booking.
Meaning, the earlier you book your seats, the better they will be. As you can understand, our seats weren’t the greatest, but the show being as incredible as it is – we still had a wonderful time. You can book a ticket with dinner included, or with only a drink. We chose the drink, so I couldn’t comment on the food.
The show itself is very recommended, and I’d recommend booking tickets as early as possible. The thing I didn’t like as much was that there are columns blocking proper view of the stage, as well as people and waiters passing among the tables during the meal.
My sisters went on a few hours of shopping in the city and were very pleased with the variety of stores and the prices, so Madrid is also a good, cheap shopping destination