Lifestyle & Culture

Beth Hoke’s 24 hours in Madrid: A short-and-sweet guide to the art, architecture and cuisine

(Editor’s note: All photos of Madrid are by Beth Hoke with the exception of the Toma Café cappuccino. That’s from Pixabay.)

Last spring, I wrote a post about visiting Paris for the third time in which I mentioned that your relationship with a city changes each time you visit it:

During your first visit, you see the highlights and get acquainted with the pulse of the place. The second time you visit, you hit the places you didn’t have a chance to see the first time. But the third time you visit a city is the best. You’ve seen the tourist hotspots, eaten at some
of the most popular restaurants, and dutifully posted the expected number of selfies on Instagram.

Now you get to wander.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Madrid for the second time. I was excited to have a do-over since I had been deathly ill the first time I traveled there in 2018. I still enjoyed seeing the city with my daughter and visiting the Harry Potter exhibit that was being held at the IFEMA, but I was looking forward to seeing it again when I wasn’t steps away from my grave.

This time, I was accompanied by both daughters and we had a great time hitting some tourist hotspots and revisiting a few of the restaurants where we had eaten the previous year. We arrived on Friday evening and flew out on Sunday, so our exploring was limited to 24 hours.

If you’re planning on visiting Madrid, but only have a day to enjoy some of what it has to offer, here’s my short and sweet guide to seeing the city in 24 hours:

6:30 a.m.
Woke up early and watched a few travelogues in our hotel room before getting ready for the day.

8:04 a.m.
Went down to the corner Starbucks for breakfast. The streets were quiet since the people of Spain are notorious night owls.

8:55 a.m.
Took public transportation to IFEMA (Feria de Madrid), the city’s massive convention center. “The venue boasts an exhibition area that covers 200,000 square metres, 12 Halls, two convention centers, a themed area for Fashion and Lifestyle events in Hall 14.1 that includes 2 catwalks, and 14,000 parking spaces.” (IFEMA website)

9:20 a.m.
Arrived at IFEMA and queued for the “Banksy: Genius or Vandal?” exhibit. I’m going with genius. We had the opportunity to see 70 authentic Banksy works including the original silkscreen of the series “Girl with Balloon.” This unauthorized exhibition will be at the convention center until 10 March.

11:22 a.m.
Back the way we came on Madrid’s efficient public transportation system.

12:10 p.m.
Snapped some shots of “El Dolmen de Dalí,” the only monument in the world designed by Spain’s surrealist legend, Salvador Dalí.

12:23 p.m.
Strolled through Hippies de Goya on the opposite end of Plaza Salvador Dalí for some souvenirs to take home.

1:28 p.m.
Stood in line at Takos al Pastor. Trust me when I say that you need to arrive more than 30 minutes before opening to get a seat in this popular eatery. We were hungry and didn’t want to
spend what little time we had waiting in line, so …

2:00 p.m.
Got a table at Parrilla Alhambra where we ordered croquettes, chorizo, chicken, and cheese while a Spanish-language version of “I Will Survive” played over the sound system.

2:58 p.m.
Marveled at the Palacio de Cibeles. Formerly known as the Palace of Communications, it is now home to the Madrid City Council and the CentroCentro cultural center. A platform in the central tower gives visitors a panoramic view of the city.

3:28 p.m.

Bypassed the longish line to enter the Royal Palace of Madrid by ordering tickets online. While this is the official residence of Spain’s royal family, they actually live outside the city and only use it for state ceremonies.

Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, it is the largest royal palace in Europe.

4:40 p.m.
Wandered through Plaza Mayor which was used as the main market square when it was built in the 15th century. Surrounded by restaurants, this is a great place to grab a bite to eat, admire the architecture, and do a bit of people watching.

4:48 p.m.Happened upon the Mercado de San Miguel where we snacked on fruit skewers from Felixia and oysters on the half shell at the Daniel Sorlut stand.

5:30 p.m.
Ordered coffee and kombucha at Toma Café. This independent coffee shop has a chill, hipster vibe, great coffee, and free Wi-Fi.

6:18 p.m.

Stopped by the popular pastry shop La Mallorquina. This bakery is so packed you’ll feel like a sardine while you fight your way to the register to place your order, but trust me, it’s worth it!

6:27 p.m.
Headed back to our apartment at Suites You Zinc to eat our sweet treats.

8:40 p.m.

Went downstairs to meet our UberEats driver who dropped off dinner from Tacoos , an authentic Mexican taqueria recommended by Vogue Spain’s culture and lifestyle editor, Ana Poyo. Despite the recent protests against Uber in Barcelona, UberEats is still running. I hope the same remains true in Madrid, because I’m totally down for another dinner delivery from Tacoos the next time I return.

Full of food and worn out from a day of criss-crossing Madrid to see as many sites as we could squeeze into one 24-hour period, we headed to bed for a good night’s sleep before our early morning flight.

If you’ve been to Madrid, what are your “don’t miss” recommendations for a day in the city?

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