If you go to Madrid, you simply must stand in this open plaza, surrounded by this beautiful structure with a cathedral nearby and mountains in the distance, and wonder about everything that’s happened here over the years. The palace is stunning, lavish, fascinating… and open for tours. There’s a whole day’s worth of history and exploring to do, everything from a display of official royal crowns and scepters, to actual legitimate thrones, to the plate mail worn by King Ferdinand himself during battles. You can tour the palace and the armory, and both contain many wonders of history.
Statues of Isabella and Ferdinand, and a distant picture of the palace, for scale:
This garden contains beautiful and interesting plants from all over the world. They’re all extremely well cared for and labeled appropriately–varieties from New Zealand grow next to plants from Belize. It’s pretty amazing. The garden seems endless, with many places to stop and relax or snap photos. It’s a true sanctuary.
My travel companion, being exceptionally tall, liked the exceptionally tall plants (“for scale”).
This is the most ‘touristy’ plaza of all in Madrid, but it still offers a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. During my visit, I caught the royal family rolling through!
I enjoyed (immensely) my dinner at a restaurant named Eboli… during the Ebola outbreak. Jokes were made. But the food was delicious, and the plaza brimmed with families, lights, entertainers and vendors selling funny noise makers.
Plaza de Santa Ana
Santa Ana is charming and quaint plaza, and it feels less touristy than Plaza Mayor. Relax and have dinner outdoors at one of the cafes. I loved Ginger Restaurant for breakfast and Cerveceria Santa Ana for dinner. Have a glass of wine, watch the sun set… then hit Mauna Loa, a Tiki Bar decorated like a grotto. Even the streets surrounding the plaza are full of interesting murals and shops.
Plaza del Sol
This is the main plaza, central to the city, and the most full of activity. It’s busy and exciting at any time of day and surrounded by great galleries and shops. One highlight is the Mallorquina Bakery. It’s a Madrid staple, opened in 1848! Plaza del Sol is where I found some gorgeous trinkets to take home, stunning metal, glass and wood souvenirs, beautifully made.
El Rastro Flea Market
The central business district feels like any other bustling city… but with really, really old buildings and plenty of statues and museums. And, um, this monster’s creepy crawly legs coming for you through windows:
Think: Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, New York City’s Fifth Avenue, or Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive. All the fanciest shops and restaurants are here. It divides the Plaza del Sol and center-of-the-city area from the charming old neighborhoods to the north.
There’s great shopping here, with the latest modern fashions and design. But keep heading north, because that’s where you’ll find my favorite neighborhood in all of Madrid: Malasaña.
Malasaña is where I scored a gorgeous piece of art that’s now one of my all time favorites. The galleries here are all local and include fashion, art and furniture. Shop, then have a cappuccino along with the students and artists at Pepe Botella, overlooking Plaza Dos De Mayo.
Spend at least a day wandering this neighborhood–you won’t regret it.
Templo De Debod
~Page Light Studios