We finally went on a weekend travel! The annual family trip is using the national holidays in December when the whole country is traveling. Imagine a crowded city – and then add some more. The city center was closed for cars, police tried to handle the masses and usually it felt like leaving a soccer stadium or visiting a festival. We traveled with 9 people and stayed in a hotel a bit outside of the city center. This meant we took the metro every day and it couldn’t have made me any happier. While I have not organized the weekend, I enjoyed managing us through the metro lines.
Madrid is a beautiful city. Prestigious buildings, royal influences and a rich history. Every building has its own decorations, architecture students would love it. Balconies are designed to look pretty, each main entrance is trying to make the one next to it appear less beautiful. Madrid is great for shopping and for tourists. Everything is in walking distance and we spent all three days in the center walking around.
The most important places
- Puerta del Sol: the old town hall where the Spanish watch the ball drop on New year’s eve and eat raisins, the main point where all national highways start (km 0) and the coat of arms of Madrid: a Bear beneath a Strawberry Tree.
- Palacio Real: the huge palace for the royal family, the largest one in Europe. Right across from it is the church in which Felipe got married to his beautiful wife Letizia and around the corner you can witness the change of guards every hour. We got lucky and arrived right on time!
- Plaza de Cibeles: the beautiful rotonda is located in the northeast of the city center and the town hall is located in one of the buildings. I loved the ‘refugees welcome’ sign and the building itself is my favorite building in Madrid
- Gran Vía: the main shopping street shows the luxury life of Madrid. Every building has a special decoration, prestigious balconies and impressive statues on top.
- Plaza Mayor: in December the main square hosts the Christmas market.
- Rastro: located a bit outside, in La Latina, the market reminded me of the Montmartre in Paris. You can buy everything from souvenirs to shoes and clothes, food, antiques and art.
- El Retiro: the park is considered to be the green lung of the city, just like the New York Central Park. It has a lake with paddle boats, amusement and clowns as well as quiet areas to wander and think. Beautiful during the summer and winter time!
Christmas time in Spain is also special for the lottery. Since August, you can find advertisement for the Christmas lottery that takes place on Dec 22nd. Especially in December the shops that sell the lottery are packed. Even in Benidorm we waited in line for around 20 Minutes. But Madrid is unbelievable. Apparently there is one shop that sold winning lotteries for some years now which is why the line is going back and forth along the whole street. People wait in line for 3-5h to buy at La Manolita… we joined the hype and bought two lotteries, one in Benidorm and one in Madrid but at a different shop. Families usually share the lottery or buy in groups of friends or colleagues and it’s not unusual to have around 10 of them – each costing at least 20 Euros.
I really enjoyed Madrid, the city life and lights but it’s hard to travel with many people when the city is so crowded. Next time we choose a different date but I really want to go back in 2018!