Sunday, November 18, 2012

Vacation Guide: Madrid, Spain

Madrid may lack famous landmarks but it does make up with its richness in history, beautiful arts and delicious food.Surprisingly among the European capitals, a visit to this city is actually friendly on the pocket.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

From the airport to the city centre

Cheapest way is to use the metro which is connected to the airport but this means that there is a high possibility of transferring lines and lugging your luggages up and down the stairs

Another option is the airport shuttle which can take you from the airport right into the doorstep of where you are staying in the city centre. The shuttle is usually shared with other passengers unless you opted for the private service. For more information:

The most convenient but most expensive option will be to take a taxi. Make sure that you take the taxi from the taxi stand in the airport and the driver will be using the taxi meter.

My pick: The best option will be to take the airport shuttle, the quote we got is around 30 Euros for 4 pax but since we were not able to prebook the shuttle before we leave we don't have any option but to take the taxi. Since we are a group of 4 the taxi fare wasn't that bad at all because we paid a total of 44.50 Euros which will come out at 11+ Euros per person
Getting around the city

Your best bet will be the Madrid Metro.Madrid's train system is very extensive and it can take you to many places of interest in the city.As in any major city, be vigilant when taking the public transport since there are cases of petty theft/pick pockets.

A 10-trip metro ticket costs 12.20 Eur which comes out cheaper than buying a ticket each time you take a metro. A set of 10 trip metro tickets might be enough to cover your train rides during your stay.

Where to stay

A word of advice if you are travelling with a group of friends explore the option of renting an apartment in Madrid.We got a very nice place a little bit out of the city centre roughly 15 mins metro away from Sol for 245 Euros for 3 nights which is basically 61.25 Euros per person for 3 nights beats out any hostel rate. The place is clean and well kept and the amenities are complete like washing machine, ironing board, fridge, utensils, some pans, plates, glasses, induction stove. You get to have a privacy and a lot of space for luggages and shopping bags. There are convenience store (mercato) near the area where we are able to buy food for breakfast and drinking water by the gallon which proves to be cheaper.The thing in renting out apartments is that you have to call your contact person after you landed and collected your luggage because there is no reception service so your contact person will meet you in the apartment area to give you the keys and to show you around the place/unit.

Where can you book? there are apartments that you can book via

My Pick: The place we stayed at is Apartamentos Adelfas (via  which is near the metro stop Pacifico but you have to walk for about 15 mins to the metro. This apartment is modern, clean, safe and comfortable. The neighborhood is quiet which relaxes you after a day of walking. Wi-fi is provided free of charge.

Suggested activities

Sandemans New Madrid (walking tour)
They say that the best things in life are free well one of the best thing you can enjoy in Madrid is the Sandemans New Madrid (oopps it's not actually free but you pay the guide a gratuity or tip). Don't be fooled just because it's free it's not worth giving it a shot, this might be a case to case basis but we are lucky to have a very enthusiastic and energetic guide during our walking tour. I saw Madrid in a new light because of this walking tour. The tour is about 2.5 to 3 hrs long and you will be covering most of the highlights of Madrid like Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, La Almudena etc. I suggest to do the walking tour on your first full day in Madrid because it is a great introduction to the city. You might pass by a place/area  that might interest you which you can go back to later.
Sandemans New Madrid
Artsy Madrid
Madrid do boast of world class museums which are The Prado and The Reina Sofia. There are other museums as well but these two are the most noteworthy ones. Based on a research I did,it seems like Prado Museum entrance is free from 6pm-8pm (Tues-Sat), 5pm-8pm on Sunday.

Visit neighboring town/cities
From Madrid, it only takes 30 minutes to reach Segovia or Toledo via the high speed train.Both of these towns are UNESCO World heritage sites. If you got an extra day or two consider exploring outside Madrid.
Booking the train from Madrid to Segovia or Toledo is very easy with the influx of online booking and payment. You can book your train ticket via the Renfe website and charge the fee on your credit card then print the eticket. There is no need for any validation you just present the eticket inside the train when the train conductor passes by your seat.There is a high possibility of getting heavily discounted fare when you book in advance.

Renfe website: (Click 'Welcome' to be directed to the english site)

Foodie activities

Tapas culture
One of the best experience in Madrid is to enjoy the Tapas culture. Tapas are basically small portions of different dishes very similar to appetizers that you can eat together with wine or Sangria. It is a food culture that is a world apart from Asia where I came from, with the tapas you have the option to taste different dishes that you nibble like the flavorful Jamon Iberico where the saltiness is balanced by the acidity of the Red wine rendering it more flavorful, tasty croquettas with different fillings, fluffy tortilla and mildly flavored bacalao. Having small servings, you can enjoy diverse dishes and different flavors.

Where to head for some serious tapas:
  There are several tapas bar in the Lavapies area
  Mercato San Miguel (near Plaza Mayor)

Jamon Iberico, Tostas & Croquettas

Chocolate con Churros
This is a familiar dish for Pinoys as you fondly recall Dulcinea which probably serve the most decent churros in Manila but rejoice for you are in the land of the original Chocolate con Churros. Being highly recommended in Lonely Planet there is no other place for your Churros experience but in Chocolateria San Gines which is nearby the San Gines church. One set of thick and hot chocolate with crispy churros costs 3.80 Euros which can be shared between 2 people (light eater).
Address: 5, Pasadizo de San Gines
Road leading to Chocolateria San Gines
Glorious Jamon
Jamon are dried cured ham famous in Spain that it even goes back to the time of the Inquisition where fondness of Jamon serves as a sign of Christianity (why? only Christians eat pig during that time). Jamon comes in different types based on the breed of the pig, Jamon Iberico is one of the most expensive type because this came from acorn fed pigs.You can buy sliced Jamon or with a sandwich called boccadillos. What better place to get your Jamon but in the Museo del Jamon. There are several branches in Madrid but the ones that are near the tourist area are in Calle Mayor and Plaza Mayor (restaurant type). The one in Calle Mayor comes with a promotion 1 Euro for 1 Bocadillo and a drink but you have to eat it in the bar area because there is an extra charge if you eat it in the restaurant area.

Jamon (Mercato San Miguel)
Most souvenir shops are concentrated along Calle Mayor and Sol area. We find that its a bit cheaper with the stores in Opera area.Souvenirs that you can get are the usual key chains, shot glass, fridge magnet and shirts.

1 comment:

  1. Madrid is indeed a dream holiday destination. And with this guide you shared, one can be assured of an enjoyable vacation. How about France? Perhaps you can share some of the must-see attractions like those luxury villas South of France.