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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Spain Travel Diary #2: Madrid

You cannot go to a country and miss visiting the capital city. Even though Madrid is fairly a new city compared to rest of Spain, it has rich culture and history. Not as big as Barcelona or exquisite as Valencia or lush with heritage as Granada but there is a charm to this city which no other has! It is chosen as the capital merely because of it's geographically convenient location, in the heart of Spain.
I expected an urban environment, with tall modern buildings, corporate crowd, heavy traffic etc, like most other capital cities in the world but this one took me by surprise. In the historical part of town, there are still a lot of ancient buildings with stunning architectures that are well preserved and they look like jewels of the city. We stayed on Gran Vía street, one of the most popular streets in Madrid and I could spend hours just looking at the buildings there and admiring them!! They are indeed extremely beautiful. No matter how many photos I clicked, I wasn't satisfied as you just cannot capture that beauty but only soak it in and experience it! So if you visit Madrid, I highly recommend staying on Gran Vía and no where else..


After enjoying long walks on Gran Via, shopping, eating, strolling, photographing (sometimes in rain), our next stop was to explore Plaza Mayor. The advantage of staying on Gran Vía is that it is very close to many of the city's attractions and they are all in walking distance. Walking is a great way to explore any city, in my point of view. The walk from Gran Vía  to the plaza is enjoyable especially if you go through the alley ways and some of the narrow streets. Plaza Mayor is a very touristy place so it can get very crowded so be wise in choosing what time you go there. We went there during sunset and it was raining lightly at that time so there weren't too many people. It is surrounded by several tapas bars, cafes and restaurants where you can indulge in Spanish cuisine to your heart's content.
Talking about food, one of the specialities of Madrid is 'Chocolaté con Churros' which is thick dark chocolate (with or without milk) along with salty churros. It is delicious and you should not leave Madrid without having this for sure!! And of course, there is the usual list of tapas you can try all over spain, one of which is Patatas Bravas.  There is a chain of Pizzeria called 'Papizza' where we loved eating. They have a good variety of vegetarian pizzas and pastas and it is an eye candy and mouth-watering to watch those pizzas in the counters with fresh cheese and tomatoes!
Chocolate con Churros
Patatas bravas
If you are a football fan, you will love visiting Santiago Bernabeu stadium which is the home for Real Madrid football club. I am not, so it was a no brainer for me to skip this one!
If you still have time left after indulging in tapas and pizzas, then Royal Palace would be a great option to explore. The palace itself from outside is nothing exquisite, but the gardens around are very beautiful and worth spending time. Once you go inside the palace, into the courtyard, the open space and the views are gorgeous and so are the paintings and artwork inside the palace building.
There is more to explore in the city but it depends on what you are interested in. I am not a museum person but if you are, then Prado museum is something you would want to consider. I was happy with the 2 days we spent there and what we explored because I could get a flavour of the city, which I loved.

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