I took a girls trip to Madrid and Barcelona in September … here’s what we did, ate and saw at our first stop in Spain.
I’ve officially been bit by the travel bug. My September Spain girl’s trip was my first time in Europe and I’m officially hooked. *cue saving all my money to book the next trip .. and the next one .. and the one after that*.
We decided on Spain for last year’s trip because none of us had been before and boy am I glad we did. It’s the perfect trip for a girls vacation, or even a couples getaway.
Here’s what I can tell you at a high level:
- We split our time between Barcelona and Madrid and traveled between the two via high speed rail. I recommend doing this for sure – Madrid has sort of an older, quiet feel while Barcelona is a definite party city. You need to see both.
- Day trips are key: we visited Montserrat while in Barcelona and Toledo while in Madrid. Public transportation isn’t that scary if you can find someone who speaks English.
- Citymaps 2Go saved our lives – it’s a navigation app that doesn’t require wifi. Your first map is free, so we each took a city to download to our phone.
- Rick Steves books are the best for traveling. Dude knows his stuff.
- If you ever feel as if you might pass out from the overwhelming smell of men’s cologne … don’t panic. Just learn to embrace this cultural phenomenon.
- None of us speak Spanish, but it wasn’t a problem. Everyone in Spain is super nice and understanding. Just learn how to say jamon and patatas bravas and you’ll be good.
My obsession may be due in large part to chocolate con churros at Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid. They’re open 24 hours, have seating in the cutest alley often accompanied by live music, and it’s a super inexpensive treat that will actually blow your mind.
But before filling up on too much chocolate, we took a stroll through Buen Retiro Park. You can rent row boats to paddle around the pond, or just walk around and see the gardens (and the street entertainment).
Our stay in Madrid at the Hotel Europa was my favorite hotel we stayed at. They were so kind to upgrade us to a room with direct views into the Puerta del Sol. Our room was also very large by Europe standards – which we needed after that much together time. 😉
Loved the location of the hotel too – close enough to walk to pretty much anywhere in the city you’d like to go!
Just look at how pretty it is!
Our day trip to Toledo was another highlight of the trip. It’s about a 30-minute trip from Madrid via high speed train that costs 10 euros.
It’s a beautiful little town that’s fun to simply stroll around.
We stopped at La Cetedral for lunch – the cutest modern, upscale restaurant with the best seating in the basement (a welcome escape from the 100 degree temperatures).
Lunch. Is. Served.
Okay … now let’s talk about the food. THE FOOD. I ate more patatas bravas than I could remember.
We also caught a flamenco show at Corral de la Moreria with a dinner beforehand. YOU HAVE TO SEE FLAMENCO IF YOU GO.
Oh, and definitely … definitely … order the artichokes. YUM.
I thought I might go to Spain and fall in love with a cute Spanish man and return a married woman … but instead, I just returned with a newfound (but very very deep) love for jamon.
My one word of advice to you: if you go to Madrid .. Eat. All. The. Jamon. All of it. Do it for me.
Here are some additional recommendations for your trip to Madrid! I did not visit all of these, but acquired them from a local … so they must be good, right? 😉
Madrid Restaurant Recommendations
- Ana la Santa
- Lateral located at the Plaza de Santa Ana
- Casa Lucio
- Casa Botin
- Lamucca de Pez
- Lamucca de Prado
Madrid Drinks Recommendations
- Tartan Roof (rooftop for drinks)
- Gymage (rooftop for drinks)
- Terraza Cibeles (rooftop for drinks)
- The Roof at Hotel ME Madrid (rooftop for drinks)
- Restaurante Makkila
- Loft 39
- Gabana Club
- Teatro Barcelo
- Teatro Kapital
Madrid Tourist Attractions
- Plaza del Sol – Spain’s city center
- Plaza Mayor (Main Square of Madrid)
- Plaza de Cibeles – Home of a famous fountain in Madrid, where Real Madrid always celebrate their victories
- Palacio Real (Royal Palace), Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini Gardens), La Almudena (Madrid’s Cathedral)
- Templo de Debod – an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuild in Madrid. Go during sunset.
- Parque del Retiro – Retiro Park, the main park of Madrid
- Plaza de Santa Ana
Madrid, Spain Packing List
- European power adaptor
- Travel pillow
- Eye mask
- Cross body bag (one that zips to avoid pick pocketers)
- Space saving bags
- Rick Steves book (his are the best for traveling!)
- Travel snacks
- Travel journal
- Makeup wipes
- Toiletries (shampoo, lotion, etc)
- Curling Iron
- Blow dryer
- Shoes (flip flops to be worn at the beach, comfortable shoes for walking during the day + going out shoes)
- Swim suit
- Cover up
- Cardigan/light jacket