Although I had the opportunity to see Spain during my voyages, I always wanted a holiday in this wonderful country so I can trully enjoy it. The small escapades and stays through Barcelona and Valencia were beautiful but too short, so between courses I managed to escape with my girlfriend nine days in the Spanish capital, Madrid. I flew with Wizzair from Bucharest, and the tikets bought a month before costed 100 Euro per person. You will not have problems with Wizzair as long as you respect the limits and conditions stated on their website, especially when it comes to hand luggage allowed on the flight.
We landed late in the country and met our hosts there, which whom I wish to thank you so much for your hospitality, and we went straight to sleep. In the morning we woke up to a beautiful view of Torrejon de Ardoz suburbia, which is a new neighborhood near Madrid, a quiet neighborhood, planned and executed properly, full of green spaces and parks where it was a pleasure to take a walk. [Read more after photos]
Although the suburb is about 30 kilometers from Madrid, you can easily reach the city using a very good transportation system that consists of suburban trains. The state run train company called Renfe , have a frequency of 15-20 minutes and looks flawless, even the older trains. And in the central areas the trains go underground and cross the whole town, very similar to the RER in Paris. Ticket prices vary depending on how many zones you cross, in our case a ticket costs 2.6 euros per trip, but there are cards with 10 or more trips, that make traveling more advantageous. We got off the train at Atocha station , a huge station, which is the city’s main railway hub with links to all Renfe lines, to the metro and also to the main train station were the AVE high-speed trains to other cities in Spain stop. Basically everything related to public transport looks flawless in Madrid. Mostly it’s all largely new, and is well maintained. [Read more after photos]
From here there is only one more stop to Puerta del Sol, the main tourist square in the historic city center. This square surrounded by old buildings is always full of tourists from all over the world, entertainers and street performers and from here you can walk to all the downtown attractions. We took the pedestrian street of Calle Arenal, where there are many shops with souvenirs, clothes, sweets and especially sausage shops where there are exposed proudly many types of Iberian Jamon. Spaniards have developed a passionate obsession for this slightly smoked meat that is sliced for you directly from the pulp of a whole pig. on This Jamon is quite expensive , but it’s quite good also …. and when I say expensive I mean an indicative price of 100 euros per kilogram. [Read more after photos]
Continuing our journey, we arrive at Opera Square following the route and on to the great Royal Palace. The palace is really impressive and serves today as the residence for the royal family of Spain. Near the palace is the great and grand cathedral “de la Almudena”, where the royal family ceremonies take place. This Cathedral which is the largest in Madrid, you can visit for free, but to climb to the dome terrace you will pay a fee of 5 euros. To visit the royal palace nearby the fee is 11 Euro. Also in the area you will find Plaza Mayor, which is a huge pedestrian space enclosed on all 4 sides of a historic buildings, full of cafes and restaurants. My recommendation is to walk along the many narrow streets paralel to the main attractions , which are not only less traveled places but offer superb views, that normally only locals enjoy. [Read more after photos]
The next day we went to the central station Atocha and on to Retiro Park. The main and most famous park of Madrid is simply huge, includes two lakes, a botanical garden, outdoor theater and two art galleries. Here you will find the Palacio de Cristal, which is a small palace made almost entirely of glass, and hosts exhibits (actually hung) bones of all age and sizes. A little further is the second lake, where the monument to Alfonso watchers over. [Read more after photos]
Leaving the park behind , we pass the Puerta de Alcala and glampse the Post Office palace called Palacio de Cibeles, an impressive structure that now houses the City Hall of Madrid. Immediately nextto it starts the Gran Via, where you can admire some of the most beautiful buildings in the “new”, structures from the golden age of imperial Madrid. Here we found many restaurants specializing in seafood and other goodies. A menu can be found here for as low as 15 euros if you search a little. The whole downtown area is filled with underground parking, pedestrian plazas, bicycle paths and the sidewalk here it is holy and usually much wider than roadways. Authorities discourages driving and coming here with your car, and the results are visible. Honestly I do not see why you would do that, given that you have a Metro or a Renfe station next to you almost everywhere. [Read more after photos]
The day after we dedicated to visiting Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The Spanish turned the house of Real Madrid club into a true international attraction. The tour cost 19 Euro per person but it’s worth it, you get to see everything including all the backstage areas. I admit it’s damn good to sit on the coaches bench near the play field. The Club’s history and achievements are presented in an interactive tour and the galleries which host countless trophies are impressive. A must see for any football fan. [Read more after photos]
The stadium is located in the newest part of town, near the financial center. Going forward we reach the Puerta del Europe. Here you will find two of the most tilted towers in the world, an impressive engineering achievement from any point of view. It would have been nice though to let you go up in one of the two towers but unfortunately are both towers are intended exclusively for commercial use. Right next door is the Cuatro Torres Business Area, a set of four of skyscrapers that are the tallest buildings on the Iberian peninsula. Although the financial center of Madrid can not compete La Défense in Paris or The City of London it’s still a must see for modern architecture fans. [Read more after photos]
The next two days we were lucky that our hosts had free from work and we all went to check out some medieval tourist towns near the capital. We started with Toledo, a medieval town located 60 kilometers from Madrid , which is simply superb. If you think Sighisoara is beautiful, you really need to see what’s there. The well preserved city on the hill is included in Unesco heritage, and it is most known for the fact that here started the reconquest of the peninsula by the Christians kings from the Muslims Moors , more than a thousand years ago. The Catholic Cathedral of Toledo combines gothic elements with is Arab elements and it is a delight for the eyes. [Read more after photos]
The next day we went in the opposite direction from Madrid, to Manzanares el Real Castle, one of the many medieval restored castles , which is about the size of Bran castle. From here we went to the winter resort of Navacerrada, but unfortunately the snow was missing completely, being replaced only by the cold and thick fog, so we continued on to the beautiful Segovia. Like Toledo, Segovia is part of Unesco and is a city developed by the Romans. The tall aqueduct built by them still watches over the city and today is one of the main attractions, as well as the Catholic cathedral built later during the Christian reconquest of the peninsula. I must admit that these medieval cities were my favorite part of the holiday and I can only imagine how it would look if our castles and medieval cities in Romania were properly restored. Here almost everywhere in the medieval cities, the car traffic is severely restricted or banned. Tourists who choose to come by car leave their car outside the city walls, or in one of underground parking under the city.[Read more after photos]
Likewise, in Madrid, it seems that the real achievements of the city are those that are not seen: everywhere near the main sights, the car traffic and parking spaces were moved underground without any problem. Besides the city river embankment, all car traffic that used to run along parallel to the river, was buried under the river with great effort, resulting in some large open spaces, meant for pedestrians, more details here. No negative remarks regarding the countries motorways either. Spain, which in the 90s was not too far from Romania, has today the most kilometers of motorway in Europe, most of them built on EU money, and most of them intersect in Madrid. The GPS was holy here. [Read more after photos]
On the last day we visited the amusement park “Parque de Atracciones de Madrid”, though it was not all open due to the season, and although it was raining that day , it still attracted quite a few customers. Here we found some of the coolest roller coasters, but the park has also attractions for the whole family and for all ages. I also recommend going to a Flamenco show, prices are quite steep but it’s worth every Euro for the performance. [Read more after photos]
In conclusion, Spain is a very beautiful country, where the people don’t seem to be bothered that there is a financial crisis and other stuff and rather prefer to keep going with their way of life and work, with their afternoon siesta breaks. They didn’t build or creat something amazing but simply did what it was supposed to be done and in the proper time , and they done a darn good job also. Well worth the trip.
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Check out other trips : Doua zile in Jacksonville USA, Paralia – Grecia cu masina, Brasov 12.2014 , Buzau quick stop , Lepsa & Vrancea county , Chisinau , Nesebar , Bucharest weekends 2014 , Busan , 40 de zile in Cluj Napoca , Hunedoara Castle ; Singapore 2013 , Brasov 02.2014 , Istanbul 01.2014 , Cluj Napoca 08.2013 , Sibiu 07.2013 , San Pedro , Bucharest 2013 , Varna 2012 , Los Angeles 2012 , Budapest & Viena , Salerno , Cluj Napoca 2012 , Firenze , Brasov 02.2012 , Amsterdam , Antofagasta , Valencia , Lima , Bremen , Istanbul 2009 , Valletta , San Juan , Barcelona , Singapore 2010 , Los Angeles 2010 , Transilvania road trip , La Spezia , Bosphor by ship , Sydney , Melbourne , Auckland , San Francisco , Tauranga