sightseeing with the madrid card
after this crazy backpacking summer, my new travel philosophy is to
travel deep instead of wide. i’ve always loved to “pack it in” and
cover as much ground as possible while on trips, but i think in the
future we are now shifting to slow down and spend more time in
each place we go. it feels so indulgent to go to one destination and
experience it more fully with plenty of time. that’s my new goal! I’d even like to learn a significant chunk of the languages spoken in the places I visit beforehand, so I can communicate with the people who live there for a richer experience. So, I’ve signed up to the UK Language Project to prove my dedication to these studies.
i was able to follow through on this new goal when
i had ten full days in madrid all to myself while chase
started his business school kickoff week here at I.E.
i started to feel the weight of work piling up from the summer
and projects to wrap up, so i spent a lot of time in our airbnb
and different cafes working… but i did get out my fair share to
experience this beautiful city. even on my own, i had the best
time just soaking in the city (but it was really different to travel
without chase after being together 24/7 the last few months!)
especially when traveling alone, i like to buy city cards that get
me into the main attractions and access to transport. these can
create more of a rigid schedule, but they make it easy to hit a lot
of main sites and get all around a city easily. some places don’t have
good city cards, but i looked into the madrid card and dedcided it
was worth it. i got the 48-hour pass and was so happy with it. i spent
two full days going all over madrid packing in the sights by myself, but
it was so fun and forced me to do things that i may not have otherwise!
if you really want to see the main sights, the 47€ price of this card is
worth it and pays for itself within a few places you visit. you get in with
priority access to almost every main site, but here are the ones i did:
– prado museum
– royal palace of spain
– las ventas bullfighting ring (with a tour included!)
– bernabéu tour (real madrid stadium)
– opera house
– the reina sofía museum
– wax museum (haha! i went here just for a laugh)
– museum of romanticism
– museum of the américas
– royal botanical gardens
– teleférico cable car ride
– railway museum
my first stop was the spanish royal palace, or palacio real de madrid.
i was really excited to visit because i remember it being so beautiful
on our first trip to madrid 2 years ago, but we were on a time crunch
(of course :) so we didn’t get to tour the inside..we only admired the
stunning outside. this time i went inside and it did not disappoint.
the spanish royal family! i kind of love that so many
european countries still have royalty and these traditions
balanced with their governments. i love and appreciate the
government of the USA the most, but it is fun to see royalty still today.
the state dining room was jaw-droppingly beautiful.
^^ this quick iphone snap does not do it justice.
we had heard that spain’s royal palace was especially beautiful to tour
because it is much grander than you can imagine from the outside.
apparently the ancient royals didn’t want the people to know how
grand the palace was inside, so they made the outside more simple.
i still think the outside is gorgeous – but it doesn’t compare to inside.
from the classy and beautiful opulence of the palace, i went straight
to the opposite: the intensity and gore of the bullfighting ring:
madrid’s famous plaza de toros de las ventas bullring…this is one of the most fascinating places i’ve visited … and there wasn’t
even an actual bullfight happening! we will have to go back to attend
one (if i can make myself brave enough), but to tour the ring and learn
details of how this centuries-old tradition works (which is crazy!)
it really is a little bit hard to believe that these bullfights still go on today,
but it’s another example of madrid’s respect for tradition. the catalonia
region of spain (which includes barcelona) has outlawed bullfighting,
but madrid clings to it as a tradition. eventually they may stop and i
have mixed feelings about them, but learning more from locals showed
the respect they have for the bulls — and the form of art this is to them.
being all alone and waiting for my tour to start
called for a nerdy bullring selfie to send to chase! ^^
definitely take the tour included in your admission ticket here.
they are about an hour long and so so interesting.
we made it into the actual ring and it was amazing. it almost
reminded me of the size and ancient feel of the colosseum,
but still in use today! so cool. i was a little sad that there was
an event the day i visited which is why there was a tent set up
on the sand … but then we found out it was for very good reason:
the king of spain was visiting that day for an event! pretty cool!
we learned that people can pay a few euro for bleacher seats at
the very top, or thousands for the front row box seats. on the
left are the bleachers, on the right is the king of spain’s box ^^
some of the most famous bullfighters have plaques on the wall here ^^
it was a little chilling to see the enfermeria – hospital / emergency
room just outside of the bull ring for injured bullfighters. we
saw some videos of some crazy gorings … i could hardly watch!
this was one of the most famous and respected bulls to ever be in the ring,
so he is now stuffed and at the ring. i feel bad for the poor bulls!
and here you have the greatest/ most embarrassing picture of my life.
HA! they made us take one of those green screen photos at the end
and then photoshopped it onto a bullfighter’s body. this result is
the funniest thing i have ever seen. i was crying laughing! so scary. ^^
i went from this old-fashioned stadium to a newer kind of stadium:
the santiago bernabéu stadium where real madrid plays!! ^^
i could not believe how cool this stadium and tour was,
and now i’m a big real madrid fan after this :)
the tour takes you to the very top of the stadium to begin with a bird’s eye view:
from there you are led all through the stadium – through a
great museum about the franchise, the coolest video highlights,
all of the trophies, confetti, etc. it showed what a dynasty it is.
we went down on the field which was the best part, and then
through the locker rooms and lounge. ps hi, ronaldo! ^^
i highly, highly recommend this stadium tour whether you’re a football
fan or not. you will leave with a sense of the passion of the people here!
i continued my long sightseeing day by hopping on the
metro and heading south down past city hall and onto:
museo del prado! ^^
the prado’s collection is so impressive. it may not be my exact cup of
tea in terms of the kind of art i prefer, but it’s worth seeing for any
visitor just for the sheer dose of spanish history and culture.
it truly is one of the best museum collections in the world. the
work includes talent from incredible artists. from goya – to
velázquez – to el greco, titian, raphael, – you won’t be disappointed.
just down from the prado sits the royal botanical garden, or
real jardín botánico. i was getting tired of walking and
sightseeing at this point, but it was such a beautiful day
and i had to walk through it. it was again so worth it!
after SO MUCH sightseeing i somehow convinced myself to go over
to the teleférico cable car to end the day on a high note (literally! :)
i can’t explain how weird it felt to be riding a little gondola cable car
all alone – haha! i was laughing out loud to myself and getting the
funniest looks from other cable cars passing by full of couples or
friends. a lot of travel activities are fine to do solo, but this romantic
little ride was so funny to do alone. the views sure were pretty though!
the egyptian temple of debod is right outside of the cable car
and was again worth stopping by. this city offers so much culture!
i walked back along pretty views on my way back to our apartment,
completely exhausted but so fulfilled from my madrid sightseeing!
even though i had to sightsee alone, i had lots to tell chase about each
day when i saw him. i met him at google madrid for lunch one day
where we took in this view with some tapas. te amo, madrid!