We spent many days in Madrid and had a mission to explore the city and get the real vibe of this reknowned capital. We’d heard many opinions about this city, many compare Madrid to Barcelona, which makes sense, as both are very attractive destinations for foreigners. But we decided not to let our great experiences in Barcelona cloud our judgement and impressions of Madrid.
We stayed in the neighbourhood Cortes (close to all the major attractions), a laid back-no fuss area where you find both locals and tourists. Cortes is close to Puerta del Sol, which is very populated with tourists, we didn’t like this area, it was a bit trashy and too crowded for us. Chueca is the bohemian, ralxed area, also known to be the gay area. We thought Chueca was interesting, but not easy to grasp the areas layout…kinda “all-over-the place”. Either way, you will find many niche stores, cafès and restaurants. Good place for vegitarians and those wanting ecological food.
Generally we preferred the Salamanca district – the nicer and slightly more low paced part of Madrid. Street Calle del Valesquez and the parallell streets are good for “fancy”shopping. You will find many restaurants in the street, Calle del Jorge Juan.
There are many cheap eateries, we noticed that most bars, restaurants, cafès, even the inexpensive places are quite well decorated. Interior wise, each place we visted had some kinda concept about them.
We visited the well known art museums – Reina Sofia, Museo del Prado and Thyssen-bornemisza museum. TIP: Start your museum tour early, save some queue headache. We recommend to visit the amazing Retiro park and also see the Crystal palace.
We had an unpleasant incident during our stay, where my purse was stolen right under our noses at a nice restaurant . The purse had our camera (with all the pictures we had taken), mobile, IDs, wallet and more. This of course left us with a bad taste the next couple of days, but we managed to put it aside and enjoy the rest of our trip. The lesson here (obviously) is: hold on to your belongings and do not for a second let your guards down – even in a fancy schmancy restaurant.
All in all, even though Madrid is beautiful and has all the ingredients to be a ûber cool Metropolitan; Art, great architecture, buzzing culinary scene, cool cafè and restaurant concepts, cultural and entertainment scene, different districts with personalities, good shopping. We didn’t entirely fall inlove with this city. It lacked…the umff. We would choose Barcelona over Madrid any day.