This post has been in drafts ever since we got back from our trip early in September and I was trying to come up with the best way to tell you all about our Europe 2016 adventures while also sorting through the hundreds of photos we took. I finally decided on three separate posts, one for each city/country we visited. First stop and post, Madrid, Spain!
HOW SHOULD YOU GET AROUND?
I’m a big fan of checking out public transportation prior to arriving. Some cities have great ways to get around the whole area and for cheap. Same goes when you are abroad. The transportation for the most part abroad is super easy and convenient and that is exactly the case for Europe! Literally at every corner there is a bus or metro stop. We definitely missed that when we came home. I also love public transportation because you get to experience and see the normal, everyday life and even interact with local people.
I always suggest people to read up on all methods of transportation and even download a map of the system beforehand so you know where things are and you can slowly become acquainted with the city or country you are visiting before you are even there!
If you’re not in a metropolitan city with easy public transportation, rent a car if you want to cover a lot of ground. Cabs, Uber, and walking are all options as well. I personally love not having to deal with renting a car and as many friends can tell you, it stresses me out having one while on vacation. BUT, having a car is totally worth it if you’re trying to explore outside of town or go more than 20-30 miles in a different direction. Always be on the hunt for a deal and if you do not see one ask!
Also, try and get the weekday rate because it’s so much cheaper than the weekend rate. They usually they’ll give you a special deal if you rent the car for a longer period of time – so play around with the dates if you can!
TO GET AROUND AT NIGHT
Special night buses, popularly known as “búhos” (“owls”). They depart from Plaza de Cibeles square and have an ‘N’ in front of the route number.
Sunday to Friday and on public holidays (11:55 pm to 4 am)
Saturdays and the eve of public holidays they run from 11 pm to 7 am.
There are several tickets and passes available. A single ticket on the metro costs €1.50 (5 stations) or €2 (10 or more stations). It can be bought out the ticket offices and dispensing machines located in the stations. On the bus, they also cost €1.50 and can be purchased from the driver. You can also use the combined ticket, valid throughout the Madrid Region metro network, costing €3, and the Metrobus card, valid for both metro and bus services. It costs €12.20 and is valid for 10 journeys. They can be purchased from tobacconists, newspaper stands and metro stations.
For the train you can either buy a single ticket for €1.70, or a ‘bonotren’ pass costing €10.00, valid for ten trips.
Another option is the tourist pass. These can be used by the holder only and offer unlimited use of the metro, bus and local train services. They are available for one, two, three, five or seven days, and prices range from €8.40 to €70.80. Children under 11 receive a 50% discount. There are two types: for travel within the city of Madrid only; and for travel throughout the whole region (T-Zone), including towns such as Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez, El Escorial, Toledo and Guadalajara. Among other points, they can be purchased from the Regional Transport Consortium, in metro stations, at the Passenger Service Centre in the metro station at the airport, or via the Internet.
OTHER WAYS OF GETTING AROUND
Finally there is also the Madrid Card, which not only offers unlimited access to the Madrid Sightseeing Bus, but also includes admission to the main museums, along with discounts for shops, leisure attractions, shows and restaurants. There are cards available for two, three or four days, costing €47-€77.00. They can be purchased at various outlets, as well as online, and at some tourist offices.
THE MOST CONVENIENT OPTION
The best option will depend on where you are staying, the number of journeys you wish to make, and the number of people traveling. The central tourist area has excellent transport facilities, with numerous metro stops and bus routes. The vast majority of local people get about using the Metrobus pass. Not only does it offer substantial discounts compared with single tickets, but it also allows access to both bus and metro services, has no time limit for use and is transferable, meaning it can be shared by more than one person.
Tourist passes and the Madrid Card are only valid for one person and offer unlimited use of public transport for a specified period.
Tourist pass (offer unlimited use of the metro, bus and local train services)
3 day Zone A pass – € 18.40
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY?
Again, this depends on the location and type of trip you’re taking, but if you’ll be busy and not home much, a cheap hotel is the way to go. You’ll save money for experiencing the location and if you’re just sleeping and showering somewhere, just make sure it’s safe and good enough!
Airbnb-type places are becoming one of my FAVORITE ways to travel, especially when I want to cook my own food and hit up Farmer’s Markets and things like that. Plus, if there are a few of you going, it’s super affordable!
A nice hotel is obviously the most luxurious choice, and if you’re looking for R&R or will be spending a lot of time resting, it’s nice to be somewhere that can cater to you. Since most hotels have a restaurant, gym, etc. it’s a good way to keep up with your routine in the easiest way.
We stayed at Espahotel Plaza de Espana. Madrid, Spain and absolutely loved it. The hotel did not have any amenities but it was at a great rate and local to everything. The metro is right outside the hotel and down the street and many attractions are just behind the hotel! The rooms also had a little kitchen which always works out for us when we travel abroad as we boil our own water and get fruits and snacks from the local market.
The actual Plaza De Espana was literally right across the hotel and gave us a lovely view from our hotel everyday.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
I personally love finding ways to see a lot of ground unless I’m somewhere to fully relax – and that’s usually hard for me because I have so much energy. Plus, I like to save the laying on the beach for longer trips.
Asking friends for recommendations – or going on forums like Quora or Travel Advisor – is great because you can usually comb through tourist traps if that’s not your thing. Especially for cities or places I’ve been before, I LOVE finding restaurants, parks, shops, that are away from the madness. I prefer experiencing a city as if I was a local and not a tourist, so that’s always important to me. Research, research, research! Especially if you are taking a big trip because you wouldn’t want to miss out on anything.
I like to give myself a buffer when getting around and site seeing too. The worst thing is to stress yourself out with too big of an agenda and not enough time to enjoy yourself. Schedule in an extra 15-30 min per activity, meal, whatever, and try not to rush around.
PLACES TO GO
Templo de Debod – Temple of Debod Egyptian Temple (watch sunset here)
Palacio Real de Madrid – Royal Palace of Madrid
Changing of the Guard at Madrid’s Palacio Real (10 am to 12 noon, every half hour – the military procession passes in front of the palace and then enters the plaza on Almudena side)
Mercado de San Miguel – Market of San Miguel
Mercado de San Anton
Inside El Mercado De San Anton
Plaza Mayor de Madrid
Puerta del Sol – Gate of the Sun
El Retiro (Parque del Buen Retiro) – The Buen Retiro Park
Palacio de Cristal – Crystal Palace
Plaza de Oriente – Orient Plaza
Jardines de Sabatini
Other places we visited and recommend but did not get many pictures at:
Museo Reina Sofía (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) – Queen Sofía Museum (Dali, Pablo Picasso art work)
Palacio de Velázquez (Palacio de Exposiciones) – Velázquez Palace
Museo Reina Sofía
El Rastro (street market – must visit on Sunday)
Museo del Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado)
Santa María la Real de La Almudena – Almudena Cathedral
If possible, do day trip to:
Toledo (catholic church of spain)
Special things to eat
Gazpacho – Cold Spanish tomato soup
Paella – Spain’s national dish (make sure to eat at local place and not at tourist place, tourist places only heat up in microwave)
Churros – (Spanish fried-dough pastry)
Tortilla Española (Tortilla de patatas) – Spanish Omelette