Spain, a country where everything moves at a slower pace and sometime runs late into the night/morning, was the first country I visited during my 3 months trip in western Europe. I started off my trip to the capital city of Spain, Madrid and made my way down south.
Madrid is the largest city in Spain with an interesting blend of old and new architecture. Like most big Spanish cities, you can expect great food, interesting historical landmarks and amazing nightlife. Its energy can be seen channeling through the people's laid-back approach to life where lunch does not start until 3pm, the night does not begin until 12 AM and you don't sleep until morning. This may sound crazy at first, but you might get sucked into their culture without knowing it.
How to Get to Madrid
The best way to get here is to fly directly to Madrid. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to Spain and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.
If you want to find the cheapest way to get to Madrid, visit Rome2rio and punch in your location and it will calculate the cheapest path you can take. The app is priceless for traveling in Europe.
You can also go with FlixBus as they are cheap, reliable and run widely throughout Europe.
How to Get Around Madrid
Inside Madrid itself, more often then not, you can walk to almost all the well-known attractions if your hostel is in the main area. Otherwise, Metro is probably the easiest and cheapest option.
For transportation to other cities, I would recommend a bus like ALSA if you want reliability and reasonable price.
If you are a little adventurous or short on cash, you can give Blablacar a go. It's a car-pooling service popular among backpackers and locals who want to travel to Europe for cheap. I have not tried it myself but many people raved about it and recommended to me. I have also heard great stories from people who travel exclusively via Blablacar.
Where to Stay in Madrid
Mad4you Hostel located among the quiet streets of Madrid, a few hundred meters away from a metro station. The room was very clean, and the bed was very comfortable. The staff will give you all the information you need including free walking tours you can take and organize pub crawls for you. Best of all, the price includes a free breakfast buffet!
Traveling here, on average, will cost you more than traveling in most countries out there. You can expect to spend around 45 - 65 USD per day per person with food, accommodation and transportation.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Spain, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Best Things to Do in Madrid
Go on a free walking tour with MADride
If you are short on time, I would recommend you to go on a free walking tour with MADride which runs everyday at 11:00AM starting from the Puerta del Sol Square. The tour will take you through Madrid in 3 hours, passing through all the important attractions while a guide will explain all the history and legends of the city. If you are staying at the same hostel as I do, you can tell the reception and they will organize it for you.
Even if you do not go with the walking tour, you can easily walk to the Royal Palace and from there, explore the city at your own leisure.
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
The Royal Palace of Madrid is a must-visit attraction when you are in the city. It is located in the middle of everything. The Cathedral, the Templo de Debod, and the Plaza Mayor are within walking distance from the palace. Not to mention the stunning exterior and the detail of the many sculptures around the palace will captivate you at every turn.
If you can spare a few euros, go inside and learn the history of the palace. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time that day so I opted in for a walk around the palace instead.
Go shop at Puerta del Sol
Puerta del Sol is the heart of Madrid. This square is one of the busiest square in the city with restaurants and shops catering for both locals and tourists. You can come here and shop during the day, or if you don't like shopping, the beautiful architecture will keep you and your camera busy for a while. If you come during the night, the square turns into a nightlife scene with many bars and clubs that will entertain you until morning.
Go People-watching at the Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is another central square just a few minutes away from the Puerta del Sol. This is a marvellous place for you to sit back, relax, sip a glass of fine wine and eat tapas while enjoying the architectural wonders that surrounded the square.
Eat at the oldest restaurant in the world
I bet you did not know that the oldest restaurant in the world is in Madrid. Me neither until the guide told me about it. The restaurant is called Sobrino de Botín, a Castilian-style restaurant which has been operating for more than 250 years, the oldest in the world. The restaurant still maintain its old world atmosphere within the dining area and kitchen, so much so that they still cook their food with their original wood-fired oven! Truly a once in a lifetime experience you should not miss.
Explore the quiet streets of Madrid
Madrid is a maze of beautiful streets criss crossing one another which makes exploring even more rewarding. One minute you are in a quiet street so quiet you thought you were not in a capital city, and another you are in a buzzing square watching people from around the world mingling. Every street has its own charm and it is waiting for you to discover.
Bonus: Join a Pub Crawl
If you travel alone and wants to meet people both locals and backpackers, I would suggest you join a pub crawl organized by your hostel. I found this to be the best way to meet new people while also seeing what the city has to offer in terms of nightlife. You will also be able to experience one of the unique character of the Spanish culture, the party culture where they start their night off at 12am and party until 7am. Needless to say, I completely wasted the next day.
Digital Nomad friendly cafe
La Bicicleta Cycling Café & Workplace is located in the quieter part of Madrid near Mad4you Hostel. Its friendly atmosphere, hipster vibe, and the avalability of WIFI and power outlets, made this place my favourite place to get some work done. Beware, this place has a very limited space and it seems to always be crowded all the time so do come early in the morning so you have more seating options.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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