A WEEKEND IN MADRID: CITY
There's nothing better than a weekend away (although I will be honest, this was a midweek trip), and with mainland Europe just a hop, skip and a jump away, the options are endless for a much needed rendezvous. Since my first visit to Spain in 2016, it has completely encapsulated me from the lifestyle and the people, to the food and the gorgeous architecture. While my time in Madrid was short, I felt it was important to explore every little nook and cranny of the Spanish capital. You can also read my Travel Guide to Barcelona and Valencia here.
WHAT TO DO IN MADRID
ROYAL PALACE OF MADRID
Madrid's Royal Palace is Europe's largest occupied Palace, and is an absolute must when visiting the city. Although it's listed as occupied, the Spanish Royal Family are rarely there, meaning tourists can enter and explore the grounds and the interior throughout the day. The exterior is free to enter and has beautiful views of the mountains, while the interior of the Palace has over 3,400 rooms, with a large selection open to walk through. Entry costs between €12 - €7 but is free on weekdays from 4-6! I would recommend arriving early to avoid waiting in a long line during the free hours.
Almudena Cathedral, luckily, is actually located right next to the Madrid's Royal Palace, two birds with one stone? For me, I actually found this monument to be more interesting and fun than that of the Palace. Due to the fact it took so long to create, the Cathedral had four different architects over the course of its construction, meaning a varied selection of styles and motif. From traditional looking architecture to the ceiling being a strange mix of 1990's tribal patterns and bright red flames, there's a lot of history to be discovered inside Almudena (as well as an incredible 360 degree view at the top).
The Plaza Mayor is the central Plaza in Madrid. Built during Philip III's reign, the plaza has had an interesting history, including a series of enormous fires, which left the square in need of several reconstructions. While I don't recommend actually eating in the square because it is quite touristy, going for a wander through the square and then popping off to the Market of San Miguel or Puerta del Sol is a great way to see some of the best sights in Madrid.
MUSEO DEL PRADO
The Pardo is Spain's national art museum, with some of the world's best art dating back to the 12th century. It has rooms upon rooms of sculptures and paintings to gawk at from a recreation of the Mona Lisa by one of Leonardo Di Vinci's pupils to life-size interpretations of gods and goddesses. I found myself overwhelmed with all there is to see and do, and I don't even particularly like art galleries. It costs around €15 to enter (but is free for students), and is one of my top recommendations while in Madrid.
WHERE TO STAY
Anyone who knows me or reads my blog probably knows that Hostels are always my go to for any time I go away. However, this time around Mum and I decided to splurge a little (also I don't really think my Mum would enjoy sleeping in a bunk bed). We stayed in Only YOU Boutique Hotel, located just outside the centre of Madrid. It was the perfect spot for us and provided the most gorgeous home away from home for the two nights we were in Spain's Capital. The staff were friendly and all the attractions we wanted to visit were all easily accessible by walking.
WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID
As far as my experience goes, I've found Spain to actually be one of the best countries when it comes to an incredibly delicious and vast selection of veggie and vegan food, you can check out my previous post about Barcelona and Valencia for some food recommendations there. While in Madrid, Mum and I ate out for our time there, which just gave us an excuse to hunt down the yummiest spots for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Frutas Prohibidas, which translates to Prohibited Fruits, was the first stop on our trip to Spain. Located just down the road from our hotel, it was the perfect place for a quick bit of lunch before heading out. It provided a range of really great options from toasties, salads and avo on toast, to smoothies, açai bowls and protein balls. I really loved all the options they had on offer (except the spirulina protein ball, that was a bit too much for me), and they also provide an english menu!
Celicioso was a cafe that was actually linked to the hotel we were staying at, Only YOU. It was only a stop off for a quick breakfast, but was a great option for something a little different. I opted for the vegan coconut pancakes, which were absolutely BOMB, and a strawberry and watermelon juice, I'm not sure if you can top that?
Living in the UK often means having a lack of açai bowls, which had become a staple in my diet growing up in Australia. Thankfully, Madrid knew what was up and had an array of different shops offering a variety of smoothie and açai options. Fit Food was just down the road from where we were staying had had the YUMMIEST açai bowl I've had in years! It was like pure magic.
Sanissimo is located right next to the Opéra Metro station, so if you're planning on visiting Madrid's Royal Palace, you may as well stop off here! It had an incredibly vast menu with an array of burgers, salads, wraps, soups, etc. And while the burger seemed to fall apart in my hands, which left me incredibly messy, the food was healthy and flavourful. I also opted for a vegan chocolate cake afterwards, which was the BIGGEST slice of cake I've ever seen in my life. Don't worry though, I finished it all.
If a green burger with a side of broccoli sounds a little too healthy for your liking, Zombie Bar is your best bet. Predominantly offering meat options with a variety of different toppings, it has something to suit everyone. There is a designated vegan burger on the menu, as well as a veggie patty substitute if you don't feel like eating meat on any of the other options. The burger bar was urban and chilled, with bizzare, yet incredibly cool and unique, decor scattered around the shop. The menu came in a comic and the bill comes in an old vintage VHS tape box, which I haven't seen since I was a child! For me, this was one of my favourite spots from the whole trip and I think is an overall crowd pleaser.