After trying and failing the previous year, I finally convinced my husband to go to Spain last April. Of course I had to throw in a soccer match (and he bargained for a trip to Whistler, BC), but who doesn’t want to see Cristiano Ronaldo?
We only had one week, so we decided to spend the majority of our limited time in Madrid. We used rewards points from a previous credit card promotion to split our trip at Hotel Emperador and an amazing Airbnb nearby. Like always when traveling overseas, we chose a very central location with a convenient metro stop. We did accidentally get off at the wrong stop and have to walk a bit farther than intended upon arrival, but such is traveling in a country with a different language. We had the same trouble during our first trip to Paris, although this went much smoother than there.
We did not have any complaints during our stay at the Hotel Emperador. It is located right on the Grand Via and made for easy walking most places we wished to see. Spain is very lively late into the wee hours, therefore, safety was never an issue. Our Airbnb was within a 10 minute walk of the hotel, so also very central and convenient.
Our first night in Madrid I could not pass up on a tapas tour. I booked our tour through Viator, and decided to go with their Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour. This is an excellent way to see the city during your first night, and also helps to familiarize yourself with the different cuisines available. It’s such a small group that you get plenty of tastings as well as the opportunity to interact with other tourists.
Without a doubt, Spanish cuisine is phenomenal. I usually don’t care that much for red wine, but could not stop drinking their Sangria. I’m sure it has something to do with all the sugar and rum they put in it, but here’s a recipe in case you want to get an idea here at home. Jamón ibérico is unlike any ham you have ever eaten. I think after enjoying it during our tapas tour we probably had jamón and sangria almost every day in some form (my feet were also swollen from all the salt, but worth every tasty bite). As a side note, do not try to check it in your luggage and bring it home, regardless of what the tour guide tells you. The US Department of Agriculture has very strict rules regarding the introduction of foreign meats into our country, and it will be confiscated upon reentry into the United States.
Mark every single day of your itinerary with a stop at Chocolateria San Ginés for churros. You will not be sorry. They have been a staple in Madrid since 1894 making them one of the oldest chocolatiers in the capital. I think we went at least 3 times during our visit, and were sad we could not eat there again. We did try churros and chocolate at one other place but were severely disappointed and did not make that mistake again. I could drink that tasty chocolate sauce straight from the cup if I wasn’t so in love with those hot and fresh churros. Stand in line, wait your turn (the line moves quickly), and thank me later. They are open 24 hours a day, so keep that in mind when planning your excursions.
There is no better place in Madrid to try a variety of foods all at once than the Market of San Miguel. The booths are fascinating, the prices are low (many just a few euros or less), and you can get so many different foods! Seriously though….meat, cheese, wine, olives, tapas, seafood, etc.. It’s a foodie paradise. If you rented an apartment or Airbnb, use this as an opportunity to stock up and enjoy the food at a reasonable price. Just don’t forget dessert!