DESTINATION GUIDE: Madrid

Madrid is a major international city, and it shows when you visit. It is fast-paced, cosmopolitan, and memorable. Even the Gothic Quarter has been given a face-lift and doesn't look quite so 'old' anymore. Yet, it has not lost its charm. If you have not yet been to Madrid, I highly recommend adding it to your travel list.



History

Madrid has been inhabited since the Stone Age, but its rise as an important city within Spain began in the 1500s, and it became the country’s capital in 1606. The population of the city grew rapidly over the centuries, but most notably in the early 1900s around the time of a civil war. Madrid underwent many changes since, going from a politically oppressed town to a booming and prosperous city.




Helpful Information


Money

The euro is the official currency of Spain. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. American Express is not as popular, but some merchants do accept it. Discover is rarely accepted. ATMs are widely available throughout the city.





Climate

Madrid varies in its climate throughout the year. It transitions from a Mediterranean climate of warm and dry summers to a semi-arid climate with cold winters. Temperatures are most comfortable in late spring or early fall.



Electricity

The standard voltage in Spain is 230-volts, and the standard plug used is the two-prong round plug.






Infrastructure & Transportation

Madrid has an extensive and fast-growing metro network, and it is the easiest way to get around the city. There is also a commuter and a high-speed rail system that connects the city to the surrounding areas. It is possible to bike in Madrid; however, the number of people cycling in Madrid is still low. They have bike lanes, but most are part of the regular roads, just marked for bikes and a slower speed limit for cars. They call them "slow lanes". So, it's doable, but there are other cities better for cycling in Europe.





In case of an emergency

The emergency number in Spain is 112, used for police, fire, and ambulance.


Language

Spanish is the country’s official language, and though other languages are commonly spoken in near-border regions of Spain, Madrid is in the primarily Spanish-speaking area.



LGBT travel

Madrid is widely considered one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world. The LGBT community is highly accepted throughout the entire country.


Religion

The most common religion is Catholicism, but active minorities are evangelical Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.



Getting there

Madrid’s airport is one of the busiest in the world as it is the main point of travel to the Iberian peninsula from around the world. The commuter rail system connects outlying suburbs with the city, and the high-speed rail system connects Madrid to other major cities such as Barcelona and even into southern France.


Driving

Spaniards drive on the right side of the road. Taxis are plentiful; use the FREE NOW app to hire one instead of flagging one down. Cabify is Spain's version of Uber and is a Spanish ridesharing company that provides vehicles for hire via its smartphone mobile app.



The Experience


Culture

Art is prominent in Madrid, and the city is considered to be an art capital, with its many museums that include famous pieces from around the world. Bars and nightclubs are favored places, making the nightlife in Madrid an integral part of its culture.






Bucket List

  • Attend a Flamenco show

  • Visit Retiro Park

  • People watch at Plaza de Mayor

  • Visit the Prado Museum

  • Eat Tapas

  • Stroll through Gothic Quarter





The Prado Museum houses one of the finest art collections in the world. Visit and view art from Spanish masters such as Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, and Goya. The museum also contains masterpieces by great universal artists such as El Greco, Bosch, Van Dyck, and Rembrandt. As a bonus for families, I can help set up a drawing class for the kids through one of my partners, while you learn and discover some of the most remarkable art pieces in the museum.




Family Travel Highlights

  • Paddle boats at Retiro Park

  • Parque De Atracciones (amusement park), zoo, and aquarium at Casa de Campo

  • Museum of Natural Sciences






Foods to Try

  • Huevos Rotos or Huevos Estrellados (fried potatoes topped with over-easy eggs and meat)

  • Bocadillo de Calamares (deep-fried squid sandwich)

  • Churros con Chocolate

  • Pincho de Tortilla (Spanish omelet)

  • Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico de Bellota






Even better, ask me to help you plan a cooking class and market visit with a professional chef! Start the experience by meeting the chef at the market to purchase a few ingredients for your cooking class and dinner. Then enjoy a cooking class designed personally for you with an authentic Spanish menu based on seasonal ingredients. You'll have the opportunity to enjoy the cooking but also relax and have an incredible dinner paired with first-class Spanish wine.







Drinks to try

  • Sangria

  • Agua de Valencia

  • Cava

  • Cervesa (beer)

  • Tinto de verano











Photography hot spots

  • Retiro park

  • Temple of Debod

  • Puerta del Sol

  • Royal Palace

  • Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas

  • Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (home of Real Madrid)

  • Plaza de Cibeles

  • Plaza de Neptuno





Souvenirs to buy

  • Saffron

  • Violet Candy

  • Fans & Capes

  • Flamenco dolls

  • Ceramics


Day Trips from Madrid


Toledo

Travel about 30-minutes outside of Madrid and meet your local guide. Visit Toledo's historical cathedral and view its collection of great paintings. Walk along the cobbled streets of the well-preserved city and stop at a famous shop where they make traditional swords and knives. Then, enjoy lunch at a classic Spanish restaurant.





Segovia

Segovia is an easy day trip from Madrid and is one of my favorite Spanish cities to visit. A few reasons to visit:

  • See a well-preserved Roman aqueduct, built in the first century and is one of the finest still in existence.

  • Visit the beautiful 14th century Alcazar perched impressively on the edge of a cliff and belonged to the family of Queen Isabel, crowned queen of Castile in Segovia.

  • Stroll through Segovia’s Gothic Cathedral, built during the reign of Charles V. It contains twenty-three elaborately decorated chapels and constructed with beautiful golden stone.

  • Enjoy a cocktail with a tapa at plaza cafes with lovely views.




Where to Stay


Mandarin Oriental Ritz

The Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid reopened in April 2021 after three years of restoration. I had the opportunity to stay there in July 2021 and was BLOWN AWAY. It is beautiful in terms of design and the onsite team provides impeccable service and a very warm welcome.


Start your day with breakfast on the terrace (El Jardín del Ritz), lunch and afternoon tea in Palm Court, happy hour at the Champagne Bar, dinner at Deessa, and late-night cocktails at Pictura. With a spa, vitality pool, and comfortable suites, you may not want to leave the hotel. But, of course, you must take advantage of being in Madrid’s famous Golden Triangle of Art. Art is front and center, as the hotel is within walking distance of the Prado and Thyssen museums and right next to Retiro Park.


This spectacular hotel is the epitome of luxury and excellence. Interested in learning more? Let's chat! Better yet, if you book with MacMillan Travel Design, you’ll benefit from the below extra amenities.


MTD client perks include:

* Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability

* Complimentary Continental Breakfast for two daily

* $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit

* Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

* Complimentary Wi-Fi