A couple of weekends ago we escaped to Madrid sans enfants for an early anniversary celebration. We had a great time and more importantly ate, drank, and slept A LOT. It was wonderful! Madrid is a paradise for foodies and we made a pretty valiant attempt at fitting in all the dishes and restaurants we wanted to try while we were there.
As a sidenote, I think Madrid (like most anywhere) is definitely “do-able” with kids. There are plenty of playgrounds; Retiro park is huge and a fun place to spend half a day; football (soccer) is extremely popular here and it would be fun to catch a Real Madrid match…BUT the restaurant scene might be an issue. Lunch is a later affair with locals eating around 3 pm, but restaurants do open between 12 and 1. For dinner many restaurants don’t open until 9 pm so if you’re kids are on a North American schedule like ours, it might be tough. There are certainly places to eat, they are just more fast food or touristy types of places. This is mostly why we decided to come here for a quick grown up getaway and we were happy we did!
We stayed at the hotel ME Madrid Reina Victoria and it was super fun and hip. We loved the welcome glass of cava upon arrival, the surprise anniversary gift of cava and fruit along with a sweet quote written on the mirror, the in-room sound system, views of the Santa Ana Plaza, the helpful concierge service, and the rooftop bar. Didn’t love that breakfast wasn’t included and was 5o Euros per person for the buffet (definitely didn’t seem worth it!) or the long wait and poor service in the rooftop bar on weekend nights but overall it was a great experience and we would definitely recommend the hotel.
We arrived at our hotel around 9 pm, perfect timing for a Madrid dinner! We checked in and then made our way to our 10 pm reservation at Casa Lucas, a tapas bar on Cava Baja serving traditional tapas as well as some more imaginative dishes. The place was tiny and we were so glad the hotel had made a reservation for us at one of their few tables. The food and wine were amazing and it was a great intro to the delicious Spanish cuisine we would enjoy over the next couple of days.
On Saturday we spent some time walking through Retiro Park, which was really beautiful with all the changing leaves. The weather was absolutely perfect while we were there-warm and sunny, but not hot. Fall is a great time of year to visit! The park is huge and there are lots of places to stop for a drink or snack.
We enjoyed a late lunch at Inclan Brutal Bar which was just around the corner from our hotel on a little side street and had a fun atmosphere and great food. And of course we couldn’t come to Spain without having some sangria!
We walked off lunch wandering around the city through the Puerta del Sol and meandering through the vibrant streets. It’s a good thing that we walked an average of around 16 km a day since pretty much all we did on this trip was eat!
For dinner Saturday night we wanted something a bit fancier for a proper celebration dinner and a friend had recommended the restaurant Ultramarinos Quintin. We loved the food and atmosphere in the trendy Salamanca neighborhood. The only thing we didn’t like was feeling a bit rushed as we could only get in for an 8 pm seating and there was a 10 pm seating reserved after us. Despite the fact that we had two hours, the food came out extremely rapidly (which we used to appreciate when we lived in the U.S., but now we like to have long, lingering European style meals!). Overall, it was a lovely evening and instead of dessert we enjoyed some fab gin and tonics as the restaurant had an extensive menu of gins.
After dinner more walking and drinks at the hotel’s rooftop bar!
I could totally adjust to the Spanish lifestyle-staying up late, sleeping late-perfect for this night owl! On Sunday morning (and by morning I mean noon ;)) we headed to the famous flea market, El Rastro. This flea market is huge and draws hordes of tourists and locals alike. There are lots of cheap wares, likely from China, but if you escape to some of the side streets there are some more unique goods and antique shops to browse. We bought a couple of traditional fans for gifts and mostly just enjoyed the bustling atmosphere.
A laaaate morning desayuno.
A market on the way to El Rastro
After the market we set out to check another thing off our foodie list…bocadillos de calameres, fried calamari sandwiches! The best are supposedly around Plaza Mayor, so that’s where we went.
La Campana got great reviews, and since the line was out the door we decided to give them a try. We loved the sandwiches, but thought they could have used some sauce (which is apparently a hotly debated topic among locals).
More afternoon wanderings plus a walk out to see the palace. Had to walk lots to make room for all that food of course! Next on the foodie agenda was churros and chocolate and the historic Chocolateria San Gines is known as being the best. We agreed-they were delicious!
After more walking we enjoyed a short siesta because we had big evening plans-more food!!! We signed up for a tapas and wine tour with Devour Madrid and it was a great way to sample lots of things that we wouldn’t necessarily normally try in places we might not know about. It was also nice to get some history and stories about Madrid throughout the tour. Some of the tiny, historic tapas places can be a bit intimidating as novices since they can be crowded, you pay for food and drinks at different bars, and eat standing up or at the counter. It was nice to have someone to show us the ropes! The tours are small-ours was 3 couples and a perfect size.
We tried some great food and wine and really enjoyed it!
Monday morning we explored the Prado museum-it was so nice to explore at a leisurely pace and not have to either skip it or race through with antsy kids! Loved seeing the art in real life that I learned about in high school Spanish class.
For lunch we went to a couple of tapas bars on the famous Cava Baja, which is a long street loaded with tapas bars. Our friends who lived in Madrid for a few years told us we had to try huevos rotos-fries with literally “broken eggs” on top. We did and man were they good! Perfect after a night with one too many glasses of wine. A woman who worked at one of the restaurants we went to on the food tour had recommended Casa Lucio so that’s where we went and I’m still dreaming of them! We also stopped in to this tiny, historic tapas bar to try their anchovies and it felt like we had stepped back in time. I imagine that not much has changed in this place over the last 50 years. So cool!
Before heading home on our evening flight, we made our way to the rooftop bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes for some tinto de verano (red wine with lemon-lime soda) and stunning views.
Madrid has a fantastic food culture that we really loved exploring! We didn’t have a single bad or even merely average meal on this trip, which I think might be a first-but to be fair I also researched quite a bit before we came to ensure we tried the best of what was on offer! It was lots of food and lots of fun!