As my time in the Canary Islands came to an end, I was lucky enough to travel to the mainland and visit some friends (old & new). Here are some of my faves of Madrid:
THE PUEBLOS OF MADRID
Ok, so I know this isn’t technically part of the city, but… the villages surrounding Madrid are absolutely charming. In Spain, it is common for city dwellers to have separate houses in the countryside. My friend, Julia has a house in beautiful Rascafría, situated in the mountains outside of the city, a cozy escape from bustling city life.
While in Rascafría, we trekked Peñalara, the highest mountain peak in the Guadarrama mountain range and part of Sierra de Guadarrama National Park. I would rate this hike a 3/10 in terms of difficulty and a 10/10 in terms of beauty. The peak of Peñalara overlooks a lagoon that was left over from glaciers!
Another charming aspect of the pueblos is the abundance of cats. These street kitties are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen with piercing blue and green eyes; definitely not what comes to mind when I think of a feral cat in the U.S.
While we were wandering around Rascafría, Julia pointed out a bridge known as the “Puente de Perdón” or “Forgiveness Bridge.” According to Julia, people used to be brought to this bridge for their wrongdoings and given the chance to say sorry. If they did not apologize, they would be tossed into the river below (not a very treacherous fall, but humiliating nonetheless). I later found out, Julia had the story a little jumbled, and the bridge was actually where death sentences were handed out, but I like Julia’s version better, and you never ruin a good story with the truth, right?
FOOD OF MADRID
The best part of exploring new places is trying all the local food! Apparently, a Bocadillo de Calamare in Plaza Mayor is a MUST when visiting Madrid. I really wanted to add aioli and maybe a little lettuce to my sandwich, but my friends told me to eat like the locals, I had to order just the dry bocadillo with calamari, so that that’s what I did. 10/10 for experience, 7/10 taste (could have used a little aioli).
We followed our Bocadillo excursion with a trip to the Museo del Jamón for some 1 euro sandwiches and beer because can you really visit Madrid without having some jamón serrano?
While on my food tour, I learned seafood in Madrid is spectacular! I figured since Madrid is right in the center of Spain, seafood wouldn’t be super fresh, but because Madrid is the capital and a major hub, seafood on your plate was most likely caught same day.
One restaurant recommendation I have is Rosi La Loca. This place definitely gave me a touristy vibe, but the food was delicious, and the dining was an experience. I met with my Spanish sister, Nerea, from my high school Spanish exchange program. We had not seen each other in almost 6 years, so this was a special lunch. Basically everything the restaurant prepared came out on fire. The servers place a lot of trust in their customers leaving a flaming plate on their table. I also felt like this was one of those type of restaurants that was trying super hard to be unique with their menu items (and it worked!) My only critique is that I would prefer my cheesecake non liquid-fied.
Need a little break from the city? Head over to Parque Retiro. Just like Central Park is one of my favorite parts of NYC, Parque Retiro is one of my favorite spots in Madrid. The name translates to “Retirement Park” and used to be a green-space for only the Kings of Spain to enjoy. The place is kind of magical and the hedge designs looks like something you would see out of Bridgerton. You can find the Crystal Palace in Parque Retiro which is free to enter and houses unique art exhibits. When I visited, the art exhibit was some artistic interpretation of vegetables and feces that I was not cultured enough to appreicate.
The last time I was in Madrid was 2016, for my high school’s exchange program, and I didn’t really have the opportunity to go off and explore on my own. This time around, I am happy to have seen a little more of what the region has to offer, from bustling city neighborhoods to quiet countryside cottages. Madrid, I look forward to seeing you again soon!