11. Go to La Mallorquina first thing in the morning
La Mallorquina, Madrid’s most famous bakery & patisserie, where among other things, they serve the best Napolitanas, which are a must. Especially, if once again, you are a chocolate lover like me. But being popular with locals and tourists alike, it gets incredibly busy at La Mallorquina! Remember that scene from Eat Pray Love where Julia Roberts tries to order some coffee in the busy café in Rome? Yep. That sort of busy. It’s also another example of not so friendly staff. So practice few phrases in advance if you can. And get there first thing in the morning. The closer it gets to noon, the busier it gets and afterwards it’s just too busy to be bothered really. But everything I tried there was excellent – my personal favorite being the Cornete de Nata (but go with the cocoa cream, so much better!). I would have been there every day if it just wasn’t so damn busy.
12. If you don’t eat meat, you’re gonna have a hard time eating in Spain
I’m not a vegetarian myself, but truth is I don’t eat much meat, and I was having a really hard time finding something that would be meat-less. Meat is everywhere in Spain and the Spaniards take great pride in showing their love for it. So much, that it was a little too much for me.. it felt like they were literally celebrating killing animals..
If there is no meat, then there will most likely be at least some fish or some seafood on your menu. This was very true for tapas for example, especially at the famous Mercado de San Miguel. Wonderful place for any foodie by the way. Since I don’t eat seafood either though, not even tapas were a huge hit for me.
13. Get lost in Madrid’s neighborhoods
The part of Madrid I loved most was not the main sights, nor the city center (though the Royal Palace with Plaza de Oriente holds a special place in my heart) but the surrounding neighborhoods without the buzzing of the city center and with many picturesque streets and hidden treasures in form of places to eat. I’m talking especially about the part of Madrid leading to Plaza del Mayo and its surroundings. Yes, the wonderful Malasana neighborhood. Do not miss it. It’s probably the best part of Madrid.
14. The Spaniards are very musical
While walking through Madrid, you will hear music at almost every corner. Street performers are just about everywhere. But what’s more, they are really good. And when there is a lack of live music, there will be some huge reproducer installed playing Paco de Lucia like at my favorite Plaza de Oriente, overlooking the Royal Palace. It doesn’t get much better than that, trust me. An ultimate Spanish experience.
15. Sangria is not the easiest thing to buy
I was certain that the one souvenir I’m gonna bring back home from Spain will be Sangria. I was pretty sure that it’s gonna be the easiest thing to get just about anywhere and for a good price, too – something like the wines in French supermarkets. Even the cheapest ones there taste like the most luxurious wines we can get around here. But boy, was I wrong! I did not find it anywhere. The first time I saw it was on the airport on my way back. And at that point, I wasn’t really bothered. So, if you stumble upon Sangria anywhere, buy it. Don’t think you will bump into it every now and then.
16. Elderly Spaniards seem to be very active!
Although active might be a little misleading choice of words here. What I mean by that is that there are a lot of seniors among the tourists which I have not seen anywhere else in the world and found it quite fascinating. I thought it’s great. That is – untill you find yourself walking behind some of them. They are not only slow, but they also have this very special talent to take the whole pavement for themselves, even if it’s just two of them. Which is something that drove me mad. I mean, the pavements and streets in general are very generous in its size in Madrid, and yet, somehow, they managed to take all of it, making it impossible for you to get them out of your way. Which brings me to another observation..
17. Spaniards don’t rush
Spaniards, similarly as the French, don’t seem to rush. Like ever. They walk slowly, in a relaxed pace, like if they had all the time in the world. I, coming from a nation that is constantly rushing, and as somebody who is quite comfortable with the famous New Yorker’s pace of ‘if you don’t walk fast, you’ll die’, found it a little annoying at times.
18. The days are long in Madrid
And by that I mean not only that it gets dark maybe a little later, but especially that the night life goes on until early hours in the morning even throughout the week. Madridians dine late, and go seek culture late, too. it’s normal that the shops are open till 10pm. When you walk around Madrid at 11pm, you feel like it can’t be much later than some 8pm. With that said, you never feel unsafe there, not even as a solo travelling woman. But that’s not the only benefit – Madrid holds a special charm when it gets dark. So make sure to stay out late at least once.
19. Take a trip to Segovia – but pack yourself some food to take with!
Segovia, an hour away from Madrid by bus, is one of the most beautiful and magical places I’ve ever been to. Make sure to go when in Madrid, it’s definitely worth it. You’re not gonna need a whole day for it, an afternoon will be fine, as it is a small town and there is not much to do (or eat!) once you see the main sights. But the sights truly are beautiful, as are the streets.
My personal favorite was the Alcazar of Segovia which famously inspired the Disney’s castle. It is so so beautiful. I spent more than an hour there just sitting in the small park gazing at the castle and its surroundings and absorbing the wonderful calm atmosphere – an absolute treat after 4 days in Madrid. The Aqueduct is absolutely breath-taking, too, but for me the Alcazar was the true winner. Make sure to climb the tower, as the view is to die for. You might find the stairs that lead there to die for too (although in reverse sense) but it’s so gonna be worth it, I promise.
Once back down there, make sure to stop at the cafe/restaurant which looked by far as the most interesting place to stop and grab something to eat. Sadly, I was gonna try to find something even more exciting which turned out to be a huge mistake. Eat there, I’m telling you. And pack some sandwiches to take with when leaving Madrid. There really is not much choice to eat in Segovia – definitely not if you’re like me and don’t want to eat just about anywhere. The prices are also often higher than in Madrid, which I found ridiculous.
20. Solo travelling is not for everyone
I do like travelling on my own. I enjoy the fact I can do whatever I want, not needing to ‘waste’ my time for things I’m not interested in. The ability to get up when I want to… go back to my room when I want to. Stopping wherever I want to and for as long as I want to. The freedom is amazing! I have no trouble with observing the beauty of the things I see on my own. But as somebody who loves to go to cafés and enjoy local desserts and food, I do miss company tremendously when it comes to this part of travelling. It’s just not the same if you can’t share the guilty pleasures of the wonderful sweets, cakes and all sorts of indulgence with somebody else.
With that said, it surely is better to travel solo than to not travel at all, but the foodie side of me simply not enjoys it very much. Which is why I’m still saving Italy for when I have some company. Or maybe, with more solo adventures to come, I will master this part, too!
So, that’s it! Have you been to Madrid? Or anywhere else in Spain? What was your experience like? I’d love to hear all about it, so feel free to leave a comment!