Spain 2015,  Travel

31 Hours in Madrid

This past weekend I was able to visit Madrid, I had a lot that I wanted to see and exactly 31 hours from the time my train reached Atocha on Saturday morning to the time my train pulled out of Atocha Sunday evening. Side note: trains here make Amtrak look like a little child. Not solely because we don’t have high speed trains but more so because trains here almost always leave on time. They have a rule that if they train leaves more than 10 minutes late –they give you your money back. The catch is a train has never left more than 10 minutes late since they’ve had the train system and a majority of the time it leaves on the dot. Anyway, as I was saying, I had 31 hours and so many things I wanted to do and suddenly it felt like all the times my sister made me watch The Layover with Anthony Bourdain had prepared me for this exact moment. So the following is a list of the things I went to see/do in the 31 Hours in Madrid and of course my pros/cons of them. (Visit my travel pictures page for the photoset of some of these places)

Plaza De España

The first stop on my tour of Madrid was the Plaza de España. It was a nice quick stop as there isn’t much to do there besides admire and be awed by the wonderful fountain that is there. I will have to say that my favorite part of being in Spain is looking at all the different fountains and monuments the have. There are so many and you could spend a lot of time looking at them. Pros: would be great for a relaxed afternoon picnic. Cons: not a completely necessary stop for those who are on a time pinch but like most things in Spain, beautiful nonetheless.

Los Jardines de Sabatini 

These gardens are located right beside the Palace and were absolutely beautiful. Spain has a lot of street performers and I was able to stop and listen to a wonderful man who was playing the accordion. Seemed almost too picturesque to be real life. Especially if you visit the palace I would highly recommend stopping here if only for a few minutes. There is a small reflecting pool that has statues of the different kings and queens of Spain– it was truly just lovely.

La Catedral de Santa Maria Real de la Almudena 

The Cathedral located across from the Palace has two parts, the actual Cathedral and then the Museum for the Cathedral. You have to plan this carefully because while the Cathedral is open anytime that there is not a mass going on (it’s still an active church) the museum is only open Monday through Saturday. So while I was able to visit the Cathedral I couldn’t visit the museum, which was sad because if you visit the museum I believe you can climb/ride up to the top of the dome and have a great view of Madrid. Besides that the Cathedral was impressive, entrance itself is just a recommended donation and while not as pretty or grand as the Cathedral here in Sevilla it was really nice. And Santa Maria de la Almudena is the patron saint of Madrid so it was very interesting to see her alter.

Mercado de San Miguel 

I loved this market. It reminded me of a small spanish Reading Terminal. I stopped here to get lunch and I had delicious Paella that also was fairly cheap. Plus it was on my way to La Plaza Mayor so highly highly highly recommended. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong here everything looked delicious.

La Plaza Mayor

An almost required stop on any tour (no matter how short) however this time it was slightly a let down. There was a lot of construction going on so it was a little harder to see the beauty of this place. Luckily I’ve been before so I knew just how beautiful it could be. What was not a let down was the famous Fat Spiderman who is a street performer. He was funny and absurd at the same time. Still I recommend a visit here (especially at night when it’s all lit up).

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

This may be the best art museum I’ve ever been too (that includes the Art Museum, The Reina Sofia, and El Prado sorry Philly). If you don’t go to any other museum in Madrid I would suggest this one. That is not to say that The Reina Sofia and El Prado are not amazing but I don’t think I’ve ever been so wowed by art before. I could have spent all day here but I was only able to spent and hour and a half that (flew by). I was able to see their temporary exhibit “Vogue: Like a Painting”, which I thought was absolutely incredible, and their permanent collection. When I say that every artist I’ve ever heard about in classes (albeit the few art classes I’ve taken were here, I truly mean it.) The first work I saw when I walked in was Picasso. The permanent collection is huge it covers 3 floors and seemingly never ends. I also liked it because there were less people here than in the Prado (and though I wasn’t able to return to Reina Sofia I remember that museum being pretty full as well) so you really go spent a lot of time looking at the paintings you wanted to and have an amazing view of them. The only con I can think of for this museum is I feel like you could never have enough time. But many people feel that way about museums…so go go go! I truly think you won’t be disappointed.

El Prado

This was the whole reason we came to Madrid. We had a program activity to see the Prado. I enjoyed the Prado, it’s hard not too when you’re staring at history and the largest collection of Goya’s work. But after how much I enjoyed the Thyssen, the Prado almost didn’t compare in my personal opinion. I still highly recommend going especially if more classical art is your cup of tea but for my by the time I had gotten to the Prado my heart was already won. Sorry, el Prado — no hard feelings, maybe next time. 🙂

Real Jardin Botanico

 I ended my afternoon with a nice stroll through royal botanical garden. Pros: it was still beautiful. Cons: It was still summer. So bottom line do come here. They have a bonsai tree collection that’s incredible but if you’re in Madrid in the Spring I feel like you’d be in for an extra special treat.

***Disclaimer: Parents you can skip these next two as they are clubs and we can all continue to pretend I don’t go to/ know what those are*** 

Joy Eslavas

As my evening turned to night I took a little siesta before heading out for what was a crazy night. The first stop was this club on Calle Arenal. Definitely fun, and we were able to get in for free and get a voucher for a free drink so all thumbs up here. This definitely seemed like more of a Spanish crowd than a club that caters to international students. So it was pretty much all Spanish music and while i couldn’t understand all of it….I had a lot of fun dancing to it.

Teatro Kapital

After being at Joy Eslavas for a while Jordyn and I decided to brave Kapital. We did not know what an adventure it was going to be. Teatro Kapital is one of the go to clubs in spain for international students. It’s not to say that Spaniards don’t go there but you will almost definitely be more surrounded by other international students and plenty of americans. Still I say everyone should go. Kapital is a 7 floor club that has different types of music playing on each floor. Let me repeat. 7 Floors, each playing different kind of music. It was like a club dreamland for people like me, who get bored of one type of music easily.

I don’t think i’ll ever forget Kapital because 1: I have a ton of fun there, I only stayed out until about 4:30 but easily could have stayed until the club closed at 6. But mainly because 2: Jordyn and I argued our way in. Since we had to bring our passports to travel to Madrid I didn’t bring the copy I had made. It didn’t make much sense to me to have both on me in case something happened. However, the only forms of ID that Kapital would accept by the time Jordyn and I got there were passports or DNI cards (neither of which I had on me because side note: who takes their passport clubbing?). I don’t know if our broken spanish is what did it or this bouncer was clearly just annoyed that we wouldn’t go away. But after about 5 minutes of Jordyn and I using my International student card and repeating “identificación internacional” he just let us in. Cons to Kapital: the cover charge is steep. Definitely look online for the QR code that reduces it or take flyers from the promoters but I think everyone should experience this craziness once.


After waking up bright and early to get breakfast from the Hotel I set out on my second day of exploration. I had less to see but I also felt like I had less time. Plus since my phone charger had broke the night before I had to make a stop at apple to get a new cable. Otherwise I knew I’d be alone in Madrid without a cell phone — and though my use of maps has greatly improved I didn’t want to test it too much.

El Palacio Real de Madrid

The royal palace of madrid was just insane. It was huge and ornate in every sense of the words. I mean there was one room that was almost entirely porcelain. I may have slightly broken the rules and taken some pictures but I didn’t see the sign at first and I stopped after I was told to. They didn’t say I had to delete the pictures so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Anyway my advice, buy your ticket online or go as soon as it opens in the morning. Originally I was going to go on saturday but the line was absolutely insane. Instead, I went sunday morning and there was no line. When I left however, the line was much much longer. Still, I think anyone who comes to Madrid for the first time and doesn’t stop here would be silly. Plus, if you plan it right you could do this and the Catedral in the same day.

El Rastro

El Rastro is a flea market type open air market that only happens on Sunday. Careful for pickpocketers because there are A TON of people. Things though are cheap and I just wandered through for about and hour and a half. I do have to pat myself on the back for not buying anything because I was extremely tempted but I think this is definitely worth a stop. I would not suggest going in a large group. It’s just too large and there’s no way you will all be able to find each other at the end.

Puerta del Sol

Since I had to stop at Apple I took a slight detour through Puerta de Sol on my way to my last stop. Puerta de Sol is where all the major roads of madrid meet. It also is the central origin for all the radial roads of Spain. And if Spain were a perfect circle this same point would be the center of the country. The plaza itself is rather touristy like a Times Square because it has many of the characters from TV shows and other street performers, but the Gillison in me needed the photo op 🙂

Parque del Retiro 

My last stop on what felt like a marathon sprint through Madrid was the Parque del Retiro. One of the largest parks in Madrid, I spent my last hours in Madrid wandering around seeing some different monuments like Fuente del Ángel Caído, Palacio de cristal, Palacio de Velázquez y el Monument de Alfonso XIII. I wish I could have spent more time here because you can rent bad to row in front of the monument for Alfonso XIII, there are other monuments that I didn’t have the chance to see but all in all my little picnic lunch here was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Madrid. The added bonus is that after I finish I was close to the train station so I was able to walk there.

So there you have it. 31 hours in madrid. In those less than two days I walked about 61,000 steps for approximately 29.52 miles. When I got back on the train it felt good to sit down and yet I wouldn’t change a thing (except maybe add some more time). Until next time Madrid, thanks for a crazy, packed, hectic weekend. I loved every second of it.


P.S. If you read this whole thing, you deserve and award as well 🙂