A long weekend in Madrid is the perfect amount of time to explore the city’s beautiful sights, restaurants and shops. We were based in the suburb of Salamanca near Manuel Becerra metro stop. On a map this appears slightly out of the city centre, however Madrid is relatively small and compact so most major sights are within walking distance. Staying with a local is the best way to find out about all the secrets that Madrid has to offer. Pete (my partner and best travel companion) has a brother who has lived in Madrid for 10 years so he made the perfect guide! He owns and manages the Interactive English Studio in Madrid.
Our first full day in Madrid was a bit of a write off having stayed up to the wee hours the evening we arrived… I am never drinking pear liquor again! That said, we still spent most of the day wandering through the main shopping area of Gran Via, whilst stopping occasionally for beer and tapas. There are lots of vegetarian options for tapas; my favourites being patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), potato tortilla and salted fried peppers. Most tapas menus are similar and will contain vegetarian options. Beware, it is mostly all deep fried so it can get a bit repetitive.
After a good nights rest, we kicked off Saturday by go karting around El Retiro Park. You can hire the go karts from diver bikes on the north east corner of the park for €7 an hour. They are a fun and fast way to see highlights of the park as it is pretty big. Walking around the park would take at least full morning or afternoon. We visited the old zoo, the rose garden, several monuments and Crystal Palace.
After a few drinks and some tapas at the old theatre on Plaza de Colón, we went to the Royal Palace and Cathedral. We arrived just as the sun was setting and the colour of the sky was stunning. We headed for some pre dinner tapas at Mercado San Miguel. This has turned into a busy tourist hotspot and I’m not surprised. The food stands are bursting with fresh high quality food with plenty of alcohol flowing from the various bars. I found the mozzarella bar in the corner and sampled some gorgeous burrata cheese with pesto and tomato. Pete had vegetarian mozzarella tapas which was stuffed with balsamic dressed rocket and chilli sauce.
Dinner was at a great vegetarian spot in La Latina, Centro district called Viva Burger. It serves 100% animal free salads, wraps and burgers. There are two large rooms with tables and the place was full by 9pm. Luckily there was a table available for us but it’s probably a good idea to book on the weekends. I ordered the Burger Queen which was their exclusive burger with smoked cheese, caramelised onion and tomatoes. It’s served in a rustic bun with salad and pickles alongside homemade potato wedges. There are 10 burger varieties to choose from all priced at €13.50. The burger is homemade from vegetables, oats, peanuts and apple and it’s really, really tasty! This was washed down with a couple of glasses of Rioja so the full meal came to around €20. Great value which was filling and delicious. There is another vegetarian restaurant opposite called El Estragón which I’m saving for another visit.
Our last day in Madrid consisted of an early start for El Rastro flea market. This is also in the La Latina area with hundreds of market stalls selling the usual tourist trinkets. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re after some bargains but I was after some churros! They are a must have whilst in Madrid. We headed to the most famous place for them, Chocolatería San Ginés, which has been serving them since 1894. Despite being the most famous place for them, they are not overpriced and you get a cup of melted chocolate and 5 massive churros. You can actually get churros 24 hours a day here and I definitely recommend it.
To walk off our churros-induced coma, we headed to the City Hall. Here you can buy tickets for €2 to take you up to a viewing platform on top of the building. The panoramic view of Madrid is truly stunning.
This was a super end to our mini trip away. Madrid is a lovely city for a weekend break. The city itself is easy to navigate with the metro and close proximity of all the sights and restaurants. There is enough to keep you busy for days. The food markets are becoming increasingly popular with locals and tourists serving traditional and modern Spanish cuisine. There are plenty of superb vegetarian food options in the city from a variety of veggie tapas to vegetarian only restaurants.