I’m not really a big birthday person – unless it’s a quite “monumental” year such as 18, 21, 25, I rarely even have the energy to plan up a big celebration (although always feel the pressure to celebrate from my friends!) This year, for the first time, I decided to spend my birthday abroad after Levi suggested we hit Madrid during Christmas time. Well – kind of… I spent my actual birthday in the office (something I’ll probably refrain from doing again – although my team were lovely enough to buy me a birthday cake, working through your birthday is not ideal). However, the weekend following my birthday, Levi and I packed our suitcases to jet to Madrid for a city break.
Where we stayed…
I was actually between Madrid and Lisbon when it came to where I wanted to go for my birthday – of course I decided to let Instagram decide and after putting up a poll, most people voted on Madrid. The weirdly fantastic thing about Madrid is that – even though it’s the capital of Spain – it is helllaaa cheap; I mean I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing at times, especially coming from London (and living and renting out in Central), where nothing is really reasonably priced. We decided to stay in Eurostars Casa de la Lirica which I picked from Booking.com as it was near the city centre (pretty much in the city centre), and looked so gorgeous from it’s photos. Ya’ll know I am quite nit picky when it comes to where I stay on holiday – in a foreign country I think it’s important to feel comfortable and safe, so I really don’t mind paying extra money to do so (of course I’ve also done the hostel etc life in uni). Even though this hotel was a 4* it was quite cheap compared to what I had mentally prepared for. They had a buffet breakfast every morning (for EUR 13), which was absolutely delicious, not to mention they had a gym which we also used on our second day there. Finally, the rooms were absolutely humongous, you pretty much got two rooms in one. It was definitely one of the better hotels I’ve stayed at!
Eurostars Casa de la Lirica Hotel
What we did
We arrived fairly early on day 1 and the first thing we actually did was go to grab food. Strangely, even though we were in the city centre (we were based around Puerta de Sol and wanted to stay close to the hotel to eat as we were so exhausted after a 4am wake up), there wasn’t tons on offer. Actually, most of what we came across right in the centre was just junk food – McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King were all within 2 minutes walking distance from each other. I had wanted a “proper” meal but after a bit of searching, I/we gave in and we settled on KFC (which to be honest was pretty tasty so no regrets there). After that we checked in and as is customary after a 7am flight (I don’t know why we always do these) – we had a nap.
We decided to spend our first day exploring, and our first destination was Plaza Mayor where really, we just took in the culture of the city a bit, took some photos, and wandered around. Although the sun was shining in intervals – it was actually pretty cold, so we wanted to move inside ASAP which is what eventually led us to the Reina Sofia museum. Reina Sofia is an art museum and if you go after 7pm, you can actually get in for free. I’ll be honest – I’m not much of an art museum person (does that make me uncultured?), I just don’t see the appeal in looking at tons of paintings and art (I’m more of a history/science museum kinda girl), but this one was definitely enjoyable and Levi and I had a lot of fun trying to suss out what the paintings “meant” from looking at their titles. We got an uber from here to an Italian restaurant we found on Google called Oliveto which was super tasty. Top tip: If you’re British in Spain, remember that most people in Spain actually do not speak English. So if you’re getting an uber (which is so cheap there, by the way), you want to get it to a very obvious destination – this is because if there’re any confusions and the driver has to call you, you probably won’t understand each other and this causes issues (and cancelled trips – been there…)
Reina Sofia Museum
We started day 2 with the buffet breakfast followed by a very quick gym sesh. Then we set off again for what ended up being an absolutely packed day. We started off shopping and picked up some stuff from Zara (I actually bought a black version of a pink blazer I already own for £20-30 less, it was amazing) and after this we wandered over to the Royal Palace of Madrid. On this day the sun was shining and it was actually a lot warmer, so we managed to get in a few Insta-worthy snaps.
From there, we ubered our way to the city’s financial district – which also houses many more shops (higher end), the Madrid football stadium and The Museum of Natural Sciences. Our first stop was the museum which touched a lot on evolution, animals and extinct/endangered animals – and overall was a great way to both brush up on knowledge and learn knew things. I’m a sucker for a science/history museum where I get to find out things I otherwise didn’t know. After the museum, we had a wander over to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium (I think there was actually a match on on this day), and also wandered a bit through the financial district. As you guys know I work in a bank – but I also I actually cover banks, so I could actually pretty much recognise the names of all the banks we walked by which was wonderfully nerdy of me. After a quick coffee and a some chill time (this day we walked 19k steps), we went for dinner at Gino’s which we already knew we loved at it was a go-to for us last year in Barcelona. Spain differs a bit from England in that everything is a bit later – so the restaurants in Madrid didn’t re-open for dinner until around 8-8.30 whereas over here in London that would be shifted a good two hours back.
We freshened up at the hotel after this and then ubered once again to a bar call 1982 Dry Bar which Levi had found on Google which served really yummy cocktails and made for good vibes into the night.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
Catedral de la Almudena
Madrid’s Financial District
Real Madrid Football Stadium
The weather on day 3 was fairly crappy – rainy and grey skies, and with an evening flight on the agenda we didn’t want to pack up our day too much. We had noticed a few people actually inside the Royal Palace of Madrid the day before, so we figured there must be some tickets to do this and picked these up for ourselves the following morning. Definitely the most interesting part of the palace was seeing the actual uses of some of the rooms (some of them were as simple as “the King’s room for changing”), they even had their own church built in there. From there, we ate around the corner from our hotel at a place called Mu! El Placer de la Carne and it was hands down the tastiest meal of the trip. My friend from Madrid pointed out to me that the restaurants really go above and beyond in the city and that’s exactly what Mu! did – we got free popcorn, bread, sweets and a shot each during our visit. Not the mention the main meal (I got chicken and chips, Levi got steak and chips) was amazing. It’s rated very highly on TripAdvisor with thousands of reviews and I definitely see why!
After an amazing meal – and a food coma – we spent a bit of time back at the hotel before hopping in our taxi and heading back to the City of London.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
In a nutshell…
Overall – I really enjoyed my time in Madrid and I definitely think it’s a good option if what you’re looking for is a convenient city break. Plus, if you’re looking to capitalise on savings and still explore, it’s the city for you. Although it was a bit of a trek at times to find appealing places to eat – once you did find the right spot, the food definitely always exceeded expectations (especially Mu!) However – if what you’re looking for is a longer stay in Spain, I’d recommend Barcelona as a better choice. It’s more touristy, and definitely pricey-er – but there’s an endless amount of stuff to do in that city, tons of choice for restaurants, and I’m not sure if it’s just the taste of the beach air but I also found the people there to be slightly nicer also!
Next up – we’re on the brink of booking our trip to Greece (Mykonos or Santorini) this summer and I am super excited!