A Wanderer’s First Experiences in Madrid, Spain
I love to wander when I visit new places. Rather than having my eyes on a map, I just start to walk and take in everything in my new settings with my whole being. My nose and ears kick in quickly, leading me to that great cafe or authentic local hang-out where I hear more Spanish than English. This wandering style of my travels is how I came across these great spots in the enchanting city of Madrid. In pictures and an interactive map, here are those welcoming places and beautiful areas of this attractive Spanish city that have me desiring to return for more of Madrid.
To view the interactive map and listing of places, please visit my public map: What to Visit in Madrid, Spain
Where I Love to Stay
My favorite area to stay in is the neighborhood of Las Letras and Cortes. Most of the time, you will see it referred to as Cortes. Las Letras is the most historic part of this area because it has been, and still is, home to many of the city’s most famous writers, artists and performers. No wonder Las Letras translated means “literary neighborhood”. It’s centrally located within the heart of the city and beats with the authentic Spanish/Madrid lifestyle. Streets of cobblestone lead you past cafes and bars, artisan shops and galleries. Its pedestrian street, historically famous for going out and enjoying the food and music, is Calle de las Huertas. Filled with the charm of historic buildings, I love the magical experience here of Spanish architecture and European romanticism in flowering balconies and intricate details of carved stone artwork. There is an intoxicating headiness, which is maybe why many describe it as embodying a Bohemian energy.
Local Cafe & Artisan Store
Two of my favorite discoveries from wandering in Madrid is in Las Letras. La Libre Cafe and Bookstore (referred to in Spanish as La Libreria Cafe) was my God-send for breakfast one morning. After that, it became my addiction for coffee and books! To my delight, it is also a second-hand bookstore and since my first serendipitous encounter, I have been back there every time I visit Madrid. The colorful walls and eclectically paired vintage decor, provide an enlivened energy and atmosphere. Being here awakens my creative spirit and feeds my physical appetite with deliciously fresh coffee and home-made natural foods that are authentically Spanish. They stay open late as well, serving rich desserts and I believe may serve wine (if anyone can confirm if they serve wine, please do). To top it all off, the owner and manager are wonderfully kind people and shared with me a lot about the current attitudes of Spaniards regarding economics and political issues that the country is undergoing. Their openness was friendly and makes for an intriguing yet restful place to enjoy local Madrid through literature and food.
I will never forgot the magical first night I ever stayed in Madrid…wandering Las Letras under a brilliant, full moon, I continued just down the street from La Libre Cafe and Bookstore, to stumble upon a leather artisan store called La Piel del Zorro. The gentleman who owns it was there. He was very helpful and friendly as he showed me his handmade leather accessories and the jewelry he features by local artists. From purses and large satchel bags to small wallets and key holders, he hand-makes them all so that each one is unique and custom. They are original leather and I bought several small wallets for upcoming Christmas gifts to family members. The prices were so good for the exquisite quality, that I bought myself one too, which I still have and love to this day. I believe it will draw me back to Madrid again and again throughout this life.
Museums, Parks, & National Sites
There is so much to enjoy in Madrid. It took me a couple of long-weekend-visits while traveling Spain, to see them. I have them on my public map above and listed below so that you can learn more about them. To see my view and experience of them, enjoy the slide show of photos further below. And most importantly, if you desire to visit Madrid, live into that desire and embrace all that Madrid brings to us!
- Prado National Museum of Art – Museo Nacional del Prado
- Boulevard Walkway – Paseo del Prado
- Caixa Forum Madrid – Art Exhibition Space
- Vertical Garden – Green Plant Wall
- Madrid Botanical Gardens – El Real Jardín Botánico
- Retiro Park & Green Space – Parque del Retiro
- Tapas Bar & Patio – La Taperia del Prado
- The Barley Market – Mercado de la Cebada
- Plaza General Rafael Del Riego or Barley Plaza – Plaza de la Cebada
- Church of San Andres – Iglesia de San Andres
- The Royal Basilica of San Francisco the Great – San Francisco el Grande Basilica
- Park & Gardens with view of Palace & Almudena Cathedral
- Almudena Cathedral
- The Royal Palace of Madrid
- Plaza de Oriente
- Music Conservatory of Madrid – Real Conservatorio Superior de Musica
- National Art Museum Reina Sofia – Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia