Over Thanksgiving weekend, to ease the pain of not being with family for the holiday, we hightailed it to Madrid with friends! My husband and our dear friend C had work to do in Spain the following week, so we arrived a bit early to eat our way through the city!
THE LITTLE SCOOP: [THE BULLET POINTS]
EAT & drink:
Plan to eat LATE! You cannot get into a restaurant for dinner before 8pm. Expect lots of jambon (ham), croquettes (ham and cheese, or cod, fried balls), seafood of all kinds, churros for dessert, and try to get as much manchego and chorizo (my personal favorites) as possible! Those drinking should go for gin – it’s having a major moment in Spain, and cider is very popular!
- For an incredible wine list – Taberneros
- For 24/7 churros and chocolate – Chocolateria San Gines
- For mouthwatering breakfast Santa Eulalia cafe
- For Basque food – Orio
- For a little sampling of everything – Mercado de San Miguel
- For the oldest restaurant in the world – Botin
- For rooftop views – Terraza Cibelas
Right next to a subway stop at the comfortable Madrid Courtyard Princesa! Madrid’s subway system is really tourist-friendly – quick and easy to navigate your way around town, perfect for our short visit!
Besides eat? Absolutely visit the Crystal Palace at Retiro Park, soak up city views at a number of rooftop bars, visit the Royal Palace, and check out the big squares like the Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol.
THE BIG SCOOP: [THE WHOLE STORY]
Madrid, with it’s 10 p.m. dinner reservations and abundance of cured meats and delectable wine, is not always a pregnant person’s dream – but you can easily make up for it with churros, chocolate, and croquettes!
We were very lucky in that my friend from high school, E, (now in Dublin!) spent several years in Madrid and is a food and drink pro! She sent me the best guide for the best spots to hit in the city and I’m so grateful she set us up for success!
Upon arrival, we first hit Puerta del Sol and by serendipity got out of the subway at the exact time they were lighting the square’s Christmas tree for the season! It was one of those great traveling accidents that if we had tried to plan, would never have happened.
Fortunately, we were able to get dinner at Botin – which per Guinness is the oldest restaurant in the world (dating back to 1725) and a must-do for anyone who enjoys suckling pig as an entree. But for an after-dinner drink, everywhere else in the surrounding area was totally slammed. We tried to get into celebrity chef Alberto Chicote’s rooftop Puertalsol, but they were fully booked up, so instead, we walked to see the Royal Palace, which E shared is the largest still functioning palace in Europe! Nearby is also the Almudena Cathedral, also gorgeous.
Quickly after, we visited E’s prime nearnby recommendation Taberneros for great modern Spanish tapas, and an awesome wine selection. It was tucked into the back streets and such a perfect pick.
After dinner, she steered us properly to the famous Chocolateria San Gines for 24/7 churros and chocolate before hitting the hotel!
The next morning, we absolutely adored breakfast at Santa Eulalia cafe, a gorgeous interior built over old city walls. They had a robust patisserie, delicious eggs and tortas, and amazing coffee.
We walked through Plaza Mayor (site of many bullfights, soccer games, executions and concerts) and jumped on the subway to Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) in Retiro Park.
The Palace itself, as E described is “very instagrammable” and always has a free exhibition inside. The surrounding miniature park was adorable and a great place to enjoy the last days of Madrid’s foliage.
The lake in Retiro Park was so scenic and reminded us of the Central Park Boathouse and there were tons of some cool, some very creepy, performers nearby.
We spent the afternoon wandering the stunning streets,
and bar hopping under heat lamps (or decaf coffee hopping, depending on your current state), including at a cool rooftop bar called Terraza Cibeles.
That evening, we met a colleague-friend at Orio, a great Basque spot with great pinchos (what those in the Basque Northern region of Spain call tapas!) and seafood. We finished dinner after midnight and though our friends headed out, after a full day of walking and eating, it was time to retreat back to the hotel!
Our final morning, I realized we hadn’t had any paella so we visited a tourist spot, Mercado de San Miguel, the Reading Terminal of Madrid! It was gorgeous and an easy way to see lots of Madrid’s best snacks! Had we had more time, I would’ve loved to check out Erin’s recommendation, the more authentic Mercado de Antón Martin without tourists.
Also – yes, there are some great museums in Madrid and we missed them all this trip. Hunger led the way and after so much travel, we were keen just to soak up the ambiance of a fun, food-forward, friendly city ready to kick off the Christmas season!
As you read this – my parents are landing in Geneva, followed closely by my in-laws, and our sisters, brother out law, and like-sister arrive Saturday for our Christmas in Chamonix! Next post coming up this week is a true Swiss winter showcase! Stay tuned, and LET ME KNOW WHERE WE SHOULD VISIT in 2019!