What to do in Madrid? - 4 days in Madrid, Spain over Christmas
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. It boosts a great variety of culture and entertainment to both the young and old. A shopping paradise, and a great place as a base for day trips out of Madrid, one must certainly visit Madrid when considering Spain.
For budget-conscious travellers who wish to visit Europe, Spain is a good first stop as its hotels and food are inexpensive.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Day 1 - Exploring the beautiful city
Our first day in Madrid was actually Christmas. Unlike in the United Kingdom where public transport ceases on Christmas Day, you can still ride the trains and buses around Madrid on Christmas.
For breakfast, we had churros at Chocolateria San Gines (Click for our previous post on it)!
Churros con Chocolate at Chocoleteria San Gines
After breakfast, our first stop was Plaza Mayor. It was bustling with activities as the main Christmas Market was held there!
Stores selling souvenirs
We found Harry at Plaza Mayor, Madrid
Thereafter, you can walk out of Plaza Mayor and head to Mercado de San Miguel, which is a covered Market that sells groceries, as well as interesting food. It is one of the place that you can get some brunch.
Mercado San Miguel, Madrid, Spain
As we just had a full breakfast prior to this, we admired the food and produce. Thereafter, we took a short walk to Plaza de la Villa which is another historic square, which was once the medieval centre of Madrid as three streets started from this square.
Plaza de la Villa, Madrid, Spain
Casa de la Villa, Madrid, Spain
On one side, you'll be able to see this Baroque style government building, Casa de la Villa.
Street around Plaza de la Villa, Madrid, Spain
And this beautiful street, on the opposite side. Walk through it and perhaps take some pictures here!
Carry on walking on Calle Mayor and you'll see the magnificent Muralla Árabe and the Palacio Real de Madrid is right at the corner of it. Unfortunately, as it was on Christmas Day, the Palacio Real de Madrid was closed to the public. We could only take pictures outside, and hang around Plaza de Oriente.
We actually went into the Muralla Árabe, but as it was Christmas, they were actually having Christmas Service so no photographs allowed. It was an interesting experience as the hall was flooded with tourists, trying to observe the actual service, while the actual church-goers were trying to concentrate on the Priest's sermon.
View of Palacio Real de la Madrid from Plaza de Oriente
Palacio Real de la Madrid
Plaza de Oriente
A bit of a culture shock here too as there were crowds standing everywhere in the plaza. We weren't sure what they were doing there but we observed that the tourists and locals just stood in the square, people-watching.
You can also walk down Plaza de Oriente to Sabatini Gardens. We went to take a look at the garden of the Grand Palace but there wasn't that much to see in winter. We quickly got out of the garden as bus loads of tourists began filling the garden.
Walk down Calle de Bailien and it will bring you Plaza de Espana, which was under construction when we were there. Opposite Plaza de Espana was a park which you can find Temple de Debod!
Side view of the Temple of Debod
The Temple de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was reconstructed in Madrid as a gift from the Egyptian state as a form of gratitude for Spain's help in saving the temples of Abu Simbel.
Reflections of the Temple of Debod
If you look through the front, the three entrances of each monument will align, forming one entrance. We spent quite some time taking in the views of the park, and resting our tired feet from all that walking. There's a nice water fountain at the end of the Temple of Debod and a vantage point where you can see the Palacio de Madrid.
We then walked down to Principe Pio to take the metro to Retiro Park.
El Retiro Park is massive and was filled with lots of people. We went there to visit the Crystal Palace.
El Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain
Palacio de Cristal, Madrid, Spain
Palacio de Cristal was a venue for art pieces but it was not opened when we were there as they were in the midst of installing an art exhibition. The structure was still magnificent with lots of lights.
We also caught an interesting police-and-thief scene as we saw how the Madrid policemen surrounded the peddlers selling counterfeit bags, taking them surprise. We saw them chasing down one who managed to run away.
No shopping on day 1 because most of the shops were closed. We headed back to Sol for dinner and to look for some entertainment to while away our night.
Thankfully Taco Bell was open! We missed having this in Singapore and had to have it! Went to try our luck at getting tickets to watch a movie at their local theatres.
Teatro Calderon, Madrid, Spain
Although the cinema was quite old, it was quite a good way to end Christmas without having to squeeze among the crowds!
Stay - THC Bergantin Hostel (64 euros on Booking.com)
THC has several hostels throughout Madrid. It is a small and cosy guesthouse, that was located a few steps from Madrid's main square Puerta de Sol. Even though it was crowded, staying at Sol meant quick and fuss-free transport from the station. Do note that there is a lift located at the right hand side when you enter the building. (We didn't know and had to lug our luggage up the stairs). To top it off, the hostel was located just above our favourite Jamon breakfast hunt - Museo del Jamon.
Day 2 - Shopping and Parque de Atracciones de Madrid
We started our second day by visiting my favourite store in Europe - Primark! Madrid has a massive Primark at Gran Via and we really recommend that you make it the first stop of the day. We visited it just when it opens as it was only a short walk from our hostel. It was a great idea because we saw a line forming to enter the store when we exited. Also, the prices and variety of products made us go crazy, buying two big bags of clothes and we had to make a visit back to our hostel. Thankfully, THC Bergantin Hostel is so close by!
Primark at Gran Via Madrid, Spain
How not to go crazy in here? Also realised that we only took one picture because we were too busy shopping!
After leaving our items back in our Hostel, we headed to Parque de Attraciones Madrid. This amusement park is located right within Madrid City Centre. Even though it is a small amusement park, there was quite a good mix of thrilling rides and kiddy rides.
To get there, you can take the metro line 10 to Batán, which is located about a few minutes walk to the park. The tickets to this theme park only costs 31.90 euros (52 sgd) at the door. We recommend buying it online for 19.90 euros (32 sgd).
Nickelodeon Land for the younger ones
Rides for the thrill-seekers
We spent the rest of the day at the amusement park and only headed back to Gran Via in the evening for more shopping!
Crowds at Gran Via at night
This is what we meant by priortising your shopping in the morning. It was really crowded at night and it was difficult to browse through our favourite Spanish brands (Zara, Stradivarius, et cetera) let alone try out the clothes. So do go shopping in the day!
Ended the day with dinner at Museo del Jamon.
Day 3: Parque Warner Madrid
Superman ride at Parque Warner Madrid
We have written two separate posts on this so do head there to read about our wonderful experience at Parque Warner Madrid! Highly recommend everyone to head there if you have an extra day in Madrid.
Day 4: Shopping at Las Rozas Village
We went shopping at Las Rozas Village on the final day.
The best way to get to La Rozas is via the shopping express from Plaza de Oriente. The bus terminal is located right below the Plaza. There will be a staircase leading to the basement at the front of the Plaza. Proceed there to get tickets at 16 euros (about 26 sgd).
From Madrid to Las Rozas Village Departure times: 11: 00h, 13: 00h, 15: 00h
From Las Rozas VIllage to Madrid: 17:00, 20:00
At La Rozas, shops that you cannot miss include the Spanish brands like Bimba Y Lola and the Real Madrid store. They had really good deals! Other noteworthy stores include Cath Kidston and Furla as the prices there were below those I've seen in other outlet stores in Europe. We spent the entire day shopping and only went back at 8pm. If you've completed your shopping way ahead of the bus schedule, hop over to Heron City Las Rozas. Heron City is an entertainment hub that has many restaurants, and perhaps catch a movie before coming back. We only had time to grab food from Heron City as we spent too much time shopping!
We missed out on doing short day trips out of Madrid this time round but will definitely return to Spain to cover these cities! (For some ideas for short day trips, head over to Kieran's blog.) Or if you are only in Madrid for a long layover, there's still quite a lot to do! We hope you've enjoyed this travelogue!