We started our exploration of Madrid in the best way I can think of: walking around the Centro (Downtown).
Yes, we were tired because of the time change. Our eyes were burning after not having a bed to sleep the night (a plane seat is far away from being considered a bed). I felt in some sort of haze maybe because my ears were still clogged due to the altitude changes. But, we were in Madrid and there was no way we were going to spend precious time resting.
Our first stop was around the corner of our hotel. We started by having a bite at the Museo del Jamon (Ham Museum). Can you believe a establishment with such appealing names exist in Spain?
I had the pan con tomate (bread topped with tomato and ham), fresh orange juice and coffee. My husband decided to have a daily plate consisting of a piece of meat, French fries and salad. First degustation critics from Madrid? Delectable!
We continued towards Puerta del Sol, or, what can be considered the center of Madrid and all Spain (Madrid is located in the geographical center of the country).
This place is famous for many reasons:
- It is the km 0 of the radial network of Spanish roads
- The Oso y Madroño (Bear and Strawberry Tree) statue, the city’s symbol is located there
- The Tio Pepe advertisement, a famous landmark, is situated over one of the plaza’s building
- The square also contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and the beginning of a new year
- It is probably the most famous meeting point in the city
After taking a good look at the buildings (and dodging other visitors), we started to walk west on the Calle Mayor.
I started to feel a bit nostalgic since the buildings in Old San Juan have a similar architecture than a lot of the buildings on Madrid’s streets. I couldn’t stop thinking about home.
The colors reminded me of Puerto Rico as well.
One of those narrow streets diverted me from the main road. I am not even sure what street I took but I ended up surrounded by interesting features.
A look up revealed buildings painted with comical characters.
Another building was adorned with intricate details and patterns. It was a delight to stroll and be surprised at every corner.
We even found a moving watch maker.
And a woodwork store beautifully adorned.
We ended up at the Plaza de la Provincia and Plaza de Santa Cruz (looks like one plaza but, in reality, they are two). This was another great place to admire the striking architecture.
Turns out we weren’t that lost because at one turn, we found one of the entrances to the Plaza Mayor. This rectangular plaza surrounded by three-story residential buildings is another of Madrid’s must. It has a total of nine entranceways and it serves many municipal and cultural functions.
It is another crowded meeting point full of street performers and tour groups.
A lot of people recommended not eating at the restaurants in the plaza, therefore, we moved to the Plaza San Miguel to eat at the eponymous market.
Mercado San Miguel is composed of many stalls selling scrumptious and exquisite food. Do not forget to read my specific post about the Mercado to find recommendations on what to eat.
And, since we are talking about food, did I mention Madrid is full of bakeries, restaurants and shops selling charcuterie, chocolate, candy and other food related items?
I ran from shop to shop taking a look at the goods. Many of them were items I have never seen before. The presentation was impeccable.
Another thing I liked about some of Madrid’s buildings was the way they were covered in tiles. We observed a lot of these (exterior and interior covered in tiles) around the Plaza Mayor.
Some of them had tiles depicting city symbols, house specialties or a painting related to the restaurant’s name. I imagine people asking for this or that restaurant painted with a specific design (who has to remember street names in here?).
Even street and plaza names were painted in tiles. I liked this feature so much that I ended up buying postcards containing a collection of the city’s many street signs.
Our stroll finished around 5:00 p.m. since we wanted to rest in order to experience our first night in Madrid. We had a bite at Venta El Buscon before hitting the hotel. We had a parrillada for two. I was delicious!
Stay tuned for more adventures around Madrid!
Have you been to Madrid? What is your favorite place in El Centro?
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