A lot of people fly in or out of Madrid when they come to Spain, but it is often overlooked as a destination itself. I spent a few weeks there when I was in college and was excited to return. We were staying right in the center of town, near the Peurta del Sol. We arrived in the afternoon and after a short taxi ride, were settled into our hotel. We ventured out on foot and walked immediately into the Puerto del Sol a couple blocks away. By now it was early evening, and the plaza was packed! It really is the central gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It seemed especially crowded, and I was wondering if there was a special occasion. We later learned it was not, and it really is just that busy every night! Not only was the plaza busy, but all the streets that fed that plaza were packed with walkers as well. This is one of the things I love most about Spanish culture - the social gatherings in the evenings. People of all ages come out to walk and visit with friends and strangers alike. Whether they are out to shop, eat or simply be with people they take the time in the evenings to just relax, walk around and talk and laugh with their friends and family. We walked by the royal palace and the cathedral, through countless parks and plazas before settling in to a little corner bar for a glass of wine and a couple tapas. Eight euros later, we were full and happy and ready to turn in for the night.
We woke late the next morning but after a quick breakfast and cafe con leches, we headed off to the Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum. The museum was filled with famous modern art, including my two favorites artists, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picaso. The art was fascinating, and you could spend hours looking at each one of the pieces. The highlight of the museum is definitely Picaso’s Guernica, which is a very political piece that fills an entire wall of the museum. It depicts the small town of Guernica that was bombed during World War II. The sadness and destruction is shown through Picaso’s own style, and I suspect it will stay relevant for years to come.
The rest of our time in Madrid was just spent walking, eating tapas and drinking wine, then walking some more. I felt that we covered a lot of ground on foot in just a couple days. There is always more to see but the central part of Madrid is worth at least a couple days, and the perfect introduction to our two weeks in Spain.