A Morning in Madrid
After a few days in Lisbon, we jumped on a night train to Madrid for a quick half-day stay. Our Airbnb apartment was one of the best we've stayed in, though its location in Tirso de Molina was about a 30-minute walk from the city's main attractions. Due to jet lag, we woke up early and headed out around 6AM-- we had the streets to ourselves as the sun doesn't rise until 8:30AM! (And apparently all of Madrid with it!)
Madrid is a fascinating city, a unique melding of old and new architecture. I love the picture of the Sigma Dos building below, because it shows two neighboring buildings-- one with more traditional architecture and the other more modern-- in such close vicinity.
For our first stop, we made our way to the Puerta del Sol, or "Gate of the Sun," one of the busiest squares in Madrid. It houses the infamous Tio Pepe sign and had just begun bustling with people when we arrived.
As the sun began to rise, we reached the Royal Palace of Madrid-- about 10 minutes from the square-- home of the Spanish royal family. Unfortunately, it was closed that morning due to Spain's national holiday, El Dia de Los Reyes-- along with a lot of other restaurants and attractions throughout the city!-- but we still had the chance to explore the palace grounds outside.
Right across from the palace's main entrance sits Santa María la Real de La Almudena, or Almudena Cathedral. Completed in 1993, the cathedral's interior boasts the most colorful and unique ceiling of any of the churches we've seen, and thankfully, it was open to visitors that morning!
Next, we made our way to Gran Vía, or "Great Way," a fabulously ornate street that is thought of as Spain's Broadway. It's about 15 minutes from the cathedral and takes another 15 minutes to walk down. Known as "the street that never sleeps," its shopping is rivaled by its architecture, with two rows of white buildings crowned with Gothic-inspired facades.
Our last stop of the day was Buen Retiro Park, or "Park of the Pleasant Retreat," one of the largest parks in Madrid. A 350-acre oasis of greenery and sculptures, it is just a few blocks away from Gran Vía and is filled with different ponds and monuments, a peaceful relief from the bustling city. Our favorite sites were the Paseo de Argentina-- pictured second, for its ethereal majesty-- and the Crystal Palace-- pictured third, for its use of light within a completely glass structure.
One morning was truly all we needed to see the main attractions of Madrid, and we weren't at all disappointed that several of the sites were closed due to the national holiday. The exterior facades were breathtaking already, plus we didn't spend any money except to buy breakfast and lunch! Madrid is a city that caters much less to tourism than the others we've seen, with its attractions widely spread apart and hidden within the metropolis. It's a place I could see myself living more than visiting, but it's a place to take in the beauty that comes from the melding of old and new architecture. Who would have thought we'd be in Spain for El Dia de Los Reyes?! Onto Barcelona!