When I think of Madrid, I think of food glorious food! We went there 2 weeks ago for our 1 year wedding anniversary, and ever since then, I’ve been craving tapas and all things Spanish.
During our weekend in Madrid, there was some sight-seeing to be had, but I wanted to start this post with pictures of the most amazing Spanish dishes I’ve ever eaten in my life!
After a long day of sight-seeing, we decided that we would reward ourselves with a delicious dinner. For us, dinner usually starts at 6-7pm. I get hungry frequently throughout the day and I was saving myself for some good Spanish food.
At 6pm on the dot, I had my iPod in hand with the address of my friend’s favourite Madrid restaurant, Casa Lucas, while staring at a restaurant that appeared closed. I felt deflated, but luckily for me, I had a husband who explained that in Madrid, the majority of the restaurants do not open until 8pm. The Spanish enjoy eating late and staying out late. My stomach had started to growl, which was the sign for my husband to find an alternative.
How to stop being Hangry (“Hungry” + “Angry”) in Spain
That is how we ended up in Plaza Major. Plaza Major is a large square with beautiful buildings surrounding it. We enjoyed wandering around watching the artists draw cartoons and look-alike images of their customers, clowns creating large, bubbles in the air for children to walk through and buskers dressed up as Disney characters. Minnie mouse was my favourite.
We still had a little under 2 hours to spare and our stomachs were starting to make really loud growling noises, so we decided to have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in Plaza Mayor. The restaurant was touristy so it was quite pricey and targeted for tourists, but we were content to eat, drink and people watch. We loved listening to the various languages around us. I heard some English accents and turned around to see some men enjoying a bucks night, a French couple next to us and Italians on the other side.
We enjoyed the people watching for 2 hours until 7.55pm. We promptly paid the bill and walked briskly to Casa Lucas. It was 8:01pm and still the restaurant had not opened. I peeked through the cracks of the window and the light was on. We breathed a sigh of relief. Then, at 8.05pm (5minutes is a long time for a still very hungry woman), the doors flung open and I practically ran inside the vicinity with anticipation.
The restaurant seemed to be a family run tapas bar. The lady who served us spoke limited English, which was fine by me as I was yearning to practice my Spanish skills. I ordered the wine and tapas in Spanish and asked her for suggestions (in broken Spanish). This is what we ordered between the two of us.
Was your mouth watering when you saw the food?
The food was as good as it looks and I dare say it – the best meal of my life! I love Spanish food and my first experience in Spain really confirmed my love for this type of cuisine.
When the food came out, we realised that we had ordered too much. When we looked around, many of these dishes were being shared between 3 or more people! So, rather than tapas bar hopping, Rick and I spent the next 2 and a half hours stuffing ourselves with as much of this delicious food as humanly possible. We barely said a word to each other, except to comment on the flavours. We also congratulated each other for having the patience to wait until way past our dinner time to eat this delicious meal.
Note to self # 1: when next in Spain, eat a late lunch to ensure that I make it to late dinner!
We had a few people looking at us and they could not stop staring as we seem to have ordered enough to feed at least 8 people.
Note to self # 2: learn from the Spanish – eat in moderation, even if your first Spanish meal is absolutely glorious.
Panoramic views of Madrid
Do you want to know where you can get a great panoramic view of Madrid? It’s not something that is mentioned in any of my guide books. The Debod Temple is not just an ancient Egyptian temple. It’s a great place to sit, relax and chat with your friends and enjoy the views. We loved seeing sword fighters practice their techniques, albeit they were plastic swords. We also sat on the bench and rested, enjoying each other’s company and the cool, calm vibe of the area.
People watching in Madrid
People watching is a past time for tourists and locals in Madrid.
Plaza de Espana is quite popular as there is a beautiful fountain right in the middle. We spent a brief time here admiring the fountain and watching the people eat at the nearby outdoor eateries. There was an eatery that barbecued their meats right in the middle of the plaza. The smell was alluring.
My favourite European Palace
There are other aspects of Madrid that I loved, such as the visit to the Royal Palace. The Palacio Real is the official residence of the Spanish monarchy but is rarely used except for special ceremonies.
Before venturing closer to the Palace, we were distracted by the Plaza de Oriente; a beautiful plaza that is right on front of the Palace. We enjoyed sitting in Plaza de Oriente watching the street buskers performing anything from classical music, magic acts to puppet shows. We also enjoyed walking through the rows of statues of Spanish royals.
We also could not go past the Sabatini Gardens, which are located right next to the Palacio Real. The gardens were so vibrantly green that we stood at the top of the entrance just to admire the view.
We even managed to catch a Flamenco dancer practicing and recording her routine in the middle of the gardens. Spain just amazes me!
Inside the Royal Palace
As we waited outside of the Royal Palace, we were serenaded by a classical music violinist who was busking on front of the Palace. My parents made me learn the piano when I was a child, so as I’ve matured, I’ve grown to love classical music more and more. I also had a short stint with the violin (2 months) so I admire those who can play it well! We gave this man a generous tip.
The wait was not long, but we managed to take some amazing photos of La Capilla del Obispo; a gothic style church that sits right beside the Palacio Real.
When we entered the Palacio Royal, we had to go through a metal detector and the usual security precautions. I had a vague image of what I thought the Palace would look like! The parts that were open to the public were much larger than I expected. The Palace’s plaza was extremely large and beautiful. I could imagine how it was like centuries ago, with the royals and their courtiers standing there dressed in their elaborate clothes during a ceremony. I could imagine the classical musicians playing in the background as the King entered, and everyone standing and bowing as he walked past them. To be honest – the audio guide did help with my imagination, but it was still worthwhile to stand in the middle of this plaza!
We walked through large hallways of rooms with intricate frescos painted on the ceiling, gold statues, 14th century wall paper, hand painted china, ebony wood furniture and silver and gold gilded everything! Photos are not allowed to be taken so I cannot even begin to explain the beauty of this Palace. Every room was different, and I don’t just mean in colour. There were rooms that depicted the tastes of specific monarchies of that era. For example, there was a room with oriental flavour which had oriental statues and interesting textures in the wall paper. Then there were grand rooms that I felt, could light up any one’s day; like the grand dining room. The bedrooms and the sitting rooms were also unique with various paintings of Spanish royals and other aristocrats. It was the highlight of our experience in Madrid (except for the amazing food!).
What was your best experience in Spain? Let me know below!
Also, I’d love suggestions on where to travel this year. Happy travels!
- Suggested itineraries for Madrid, Spain by Frommers - has one, two and three day itineraries. I looked at all the available itineraries and used the maps to figure out which sites I was interested in seeing.
- Madrid’s Royal Palace – we purchased tickets at the door and paid and extra 5 Euros for an audio guide. There is no need for an audio guide as the signs provide much of the information.
- Sabatini Gardens – part of the Royal Palace and free to enter