With less than one month left of my time in Spain, I am already feeling very sad to leave. There are so many things I will miss about living in Madrid, like walking everywhere, meeting people from all over the world, the beautiful buildings, the mountainous countryside, talking in Spanish, the wine, the ham, eating churros y chocolate after a night of dancing as the sun rises over Retiro … I have made a list of some of my favorite things to do and see in and around Madrid so far. Not done yet!
1. Thyssen Museum
Above Reina Sofia or El Prado, I loved the Thyssen Museum the most. The art collection at the Thyssen begins on the second floor with works dating back to the 13th century. As you wind your way through the rooms, the collections of paintings progress into the future and you find yourself walking through time. From El Greco to Van Gogh to Lichtenstein, there is something there for everyone!
Intercambios are gatherings held at bars and cafes all over Madrid for people that want to learn either English or Spanish. You go there, grab a drink, make a group of new friends and take turns speaking in English and Spanish. I met a lot of Spaniards at intercambios and greatly improved my Spanish while learning about life in Spain from the people that live there. My favorite intercambio was at JJ’s Bookstore because it was less crowded and more intimate.
3. Sierra Norte de Madrid
Only about an hour away from the city center is the vast mountainous region surrounding Madrid. We spent about six hours walking through the mountains and were awestruck by the marvelous views, cows grazing, clear rivers, fresh air and peace from the busy city life. It is pure natural bliss and a must for anyone who enjoys nature.
If you ever wanted to see a real-life Disney castle, Segovia is the place to be. Segovia’s thirteenth-century Alcazar (pictured at the top of the page) was inspiration to the castle depicted in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella.” You can walk through the beautifully preserved rooms of the Alcazar and up the tower for a view of the city. Segovia also has an impressive Roman aqueduct constructed around 1st century A.D., one of the world’s best preserved ancient monuments.
5. Parque Juan Carlos I
There is the obvious Retiro Park in the center of Madrid, which is impossible not to visit, but there is also Parque Juan Carlos I. It is a quieter park, away from the city center, filled with giant abstract sculptures. Walking through the park is like walking into a Salvador Dali painting. Each sculpture is completely unique and breathtaking.
And I thought New York was the city that never sleeps! The clubs here stay open until 6:00 a.m. Teatro Kapital has seven different floors, each with a different style of music. There’s even a floor for karaoke. Se puede bailar toda la noche!
7. Fútbol (Soccer)
Fútbol fans are fanatic here. We went to a Real Madrid game and the crowd was singing the entire time. The same day, Madrid’s other fútbol team, Atleticp, won in Barcelona. Near the Neptune fountain outside the Prado museum, a massive group of fans gathered wearing Atletico jerseys to sing and chant and celebrate their victory, an overwhelming display of ardor.
8. Tapas y Vino
There is nothing like free snacks with drinks, even if it’s just potato chips or olives. And you can buy a decent bottle of wine here for less than two euros!
It is almost impossible not to get lost in the winding, narrow roads in the Jewish quarter of Toledo. It is a worthwhile trip just to see the 13th-century Gothic cathedral.
10. Cuenca and La Ciudad Encantada
Cuenca is a small city about two hours away from Madrid and is famous for its hanging houses and views of hills adorned with colorful apartments. “La ciudad encantada” is close to Cuenca and it is a “city” of giant rocks. It features grand rock formations that have been carved by nature into organic statues named by the city.