After brilliant but long day on my first full day in Madrid (read about that here), I woke slightly later than planned on my second and so moved fairly quickly to ensure I could fit as many adventures as possible into the day. My first stop was the Neptune Fountain that the walking tour had finished near which is also the starting point for the City Tour Madrid sightseeing buses. I had been in two minds as to whether to bother with the bus tours, however after all the walking the previous day I decided to see the city from a seated position!
City Tour Madrid operates two bus routes around Madrid, one which tours ‘historic Madrid’ and the other ‘modern Madrid’. The vast majority of these tours operate around a standard route, however two buses per day operate an extended tour around each route. Due to my slight lie in, I arrived at the ‘historic’ tour starting point about 30 minutes before the first extended tour and so decided to grab a coffee and some breakfast and see what additional highlights are covered in the extended version. Half an hour later, after an embarrassing abuse of the Spanish language on my part, I headed back across to the stop and exchanged my e-ticket for a paper ticket.
If you’re planning on taking the City Tour Madrid buses, I’d advise buying your ticket online, or via their app, prior to heading to the buses as you can save at least 3 euros per adult. I had bought my ticket only about 15 minutes before the bus was due to depart and I quickly received the email confirmation with my ticket attached and this was really easy to swap at the City Tour Madrid kiosk. Right on time the extended tour started and we headed around the edge of Retiro Park before turning back towards Plaza de Colon.
I’m not going to go into detail on the bus tours as there was way too much to fit into this blog and I also wouldn’t want to spoil the tours if you decide to take one. Each of the extended tours takes about an hour and 45 minutes and they are timed so that you can take one extended tour before changing buses and taking the other. As well as the main sights within the centre of the city, the tours are a good way of seeing some of the sights that are slightly further afield such as the Santiago Bernabau (Real Madrid’s stadium) and Puente de Toledo, an 18th century bridge which has had a troubled history. If you fancy a day of seeing the city without over-exerting yourself, the bus tours are probably the best way to do it.
After enjoying a morning on the buses, I decided to head back around the city on my own to get a few photos of things I’d seen on the tours and to tick of a couple more that we hadn’t visited. My first stop was Plaza de Colon and as this was a stop on the ‘modern’ tour, I stayed on the bus to that stop. Plaza de Colon is home to a giant Spanish flag and for fun I decided to try and get a selfie with this, although if you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that the wind didn’t play ball! After 10 minutes of failed photos, and a stubbornness that wouldn’t let me leave, I finally got a somewhat respectable photo with the flag and headed to the Metro and my next stop.
Four stops along from Colon on Line 4 of the Madrid, at the west end of the line is Argüelles station and a short walk led me to the north end of Parque del Oeste and Teléferico de Madrid, the Madrid cable car. The Teléferico connects Parque del Oeste with the large open space surrounding Casa de Campo on the other side of the river. A return journey cost 6 euros (or 5.50 with a bus tour discount booklet) and the journey one way takes about 10 minutes. The views throughout the journey, and from Casa de Campo, are absolutely amazing and there are benches and s play area so you can take a picnic and make the most of the journey. Unfortunately there isn’t a café or shop at the Casa de Campo end of the cable car, so if you are planning on staying there a while, make sure you take your own food and drink (there is a water fountain to refill bottles though!)
After enjoying the view, taking some photos and almost certainly getting a decent tan, I headed back to the Teléferico and the city. Re-joining the metro, I took a short trip to Opera station which is close to the Mercado de San Miguel (Market of San Miguel), and it’s amazing array of food. Rather than a conventional grocery market, the 1916 structure hosts a gourmet tapas market with a wide range of premium food and drink available. I didn’t purchase anything during my visit, however it was amazing to walk around and see all of the different food on offer.
Leaving Mercado de San Miguel, I decided to head back to my room, via Bar Ideal in the nearby Plaza Mayor for a (very) late lunch. Having taken my bocadillo away the previous day, I decided to sit in and enjoy it with a beer, which in total came to only 5 euros, and was accompanied by a small plate of olives as tapas (as is traditional when you buy a beer – however only some places still do this). Heading back to my room, I decided to take a break and dump my rucksack before heading back out for the evening to Retiro Park and to enjoy the sunset.
Retiro Park, officially Parque del Buen Retiro, is a 350 acre open space which used to belong to the Spanish monarchy. The park is surrounded by the city, however once you step inside the peace and tranquillity means you quickly leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. A key feature of the park is a large artificial pond, which was being used by rowing boats during my visit, and a monument to King Alfonso XII. After a short wander around one corner of the park I decided to just sit and relax and spent some time watching the activities going on around the park. As would be expected, there were plenty of joggers and cyclists but also large groups of students doing work and musicians sitting playing tunes. In the early evening, it was a lovely place to sit and relax for an hour.
After relaxing in Retiro for a while, I wandered back towards the city centre heading for the Círculo de Bellas Artes (CBA) and it’s rooftop bar. This place was a recommendation I’d picked up from Time Out magazine online and decided to time my visit to watch my final sunset in Madrid. I’d also arranged to meet up with a fellow traveller and blogger, Becks, who’s blog ‘Its Just Becks’ had helped inspire my visit to the Spanish capital. Becks has been to Spain countless times so check out her blog and social media (Facebook, Instagram & Twitter) for some top tips and hidden gems!
The views of the city and sunset from the roof of CBA were absolutely amazing and well worth the 4euros entry fee. Although clearly popular, the space wasn’t overly crowded, and it was a great place to chill with an (expensive) beer and enjoy the evening. It was also interesting to try and find the places I’d visited from above as in my three day visit I hadn’t quite got the lay of the land.
Not needing to be at the airport until about 1 in the afternoon, I decided to have a relaxed final morning in Madrid and after checking out of my room, took a stroll to a café a couple of streets away which I had read was a great place to sit and write. Café de la Luz is just two streets from Gran Via, however is a world away from the chaos of Madrid’s main shopping street. The café has been made to feel like a cosy living room, with large comfortable armchairs to relax in, whilst their brunch deal is a bargain and includes coffee, juice, a very filling slice of toast with topping (think Salmon and dill, not marmalade!) and a piece of cake!
After a couple of hours of breakfast and blogging, I made my way back to the airport to start my journey home with Iberia. In my short visit, I found Madrid to be an amazing city, which unfortunately is frequently overshadowed by the Catalan capital. I’d certainly recommend a visit to Madrid and if you have the time, just wander around the city and allow yourself to take in all of the history and hidden gems. One day make sure to pack a picnic, take a ride on the cable car and just enjoy the amazing views of the city from afar. Madrid has certainly cemented itself on my to revisit list and hopefully I’ll be able to return to the Spanish capital sooner rather than later.