This week’s virtual travel journey takes us to the stunning capital city of Madrid!
With dazzling light and bright blue skies for much of the year, Madrid would be an energising city even without the world-class museums and the buzzing nightlife. The centre is smartening itself up, too, with new boutiques, delis, cafés and gastrobars opening every week, but it is the traditional tapas bars and tiny shops that are the real soul of the city. Wherever you stay, you can usually walk to the major museums, such as the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia, which all have astounding collections, but what will make you smile long after you’ve left is the little things you discover along the way as you stroll through the different neighbourhoods.
Madrid is all about spontaneity and even the best-laid plans tend to get forgotten after a couple of days as you slip into the swing of the city. Don’t feel guilty about abandoning your cultural agenda, it just means you’re behaving like a true Madrileño.
Due to Madrid’s high altitude of 650 metres, it experiences quite different temperatures in the summer and the winter. The most pleasant warm weather falls between May and mid July when average temperatures are between 20 and 32 degrees Celsius (68°F – 90°F).
Towards the end of July, and throughout August, it can get hot with temperatures sometimes reaching 40 degrees Celsius (100°F). Night-time temperatures remain around 18 degrees Celsius (64°F). However, the climate in Madrid is low in humidity, therefore making the high temperatures easier to tolerate.
September is a pleasant month, with temperatures back down to around 25 degrees Celsius (77°F). October is also still fairly warm with an average daytime temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (68°F) and is still a pleasant time to visit.
The weather in Madrid is predominantly dry, but that doesn’t mean that rain can be ruled out. Especially in the winter months. Do bear in mind that these temperatures are averages, and the weather may fluctuate from the normal.
The top 3 activities to do/see in Madrid:
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
Take a look at the Spanish history and home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII, Madrid’s Royal Palace takes us on a journey through the history of Spain. Though it is no longer the royal family’s home, it continues to be their official residence.
Visit Parque del Retiro
The glorious gardens of El Retiro are as beautiful as any you’ll find in a European city. Strewn with marble monuments, landscaped lawns, the occasional elegant building (the Palacio de Cristal is especially worth seeking out) and abundant greenery, it’s quiet and contemplative during the week but comes to life on weekends. Put simply, this is one of our favourite places in Madrid.
Laid out in the 17th century by Felipe IV as the preserve of kings, queens and their intimates, the park was opened to the public in 1868, and ever since, when the weather’s fine and on weekends in particular, madrileños (people from Madrid) from all across the city gather here to stroll, read the Sunday papers in the shade, take a boat ride or nurse a cool drink at the numerous outdoor terrazas (open-air cafes).
Visit the Prado National Museum
The Museo del Prado, an institution dating back almost 200 years and one whose origins and unique nature are largely due to the collecting tastes of Spain’s 16th- and 17th-century monarchs. Collecting at that period differed from the present day. Rather than aiming at comprehensiveness, collectors aimed to assemble as many works as possible by their favourite artists.
The Spanish cuisine is one of the most popular and sought after foods by most cultures. It consists of small dishes called ‘tapas’ and there is nothing more cosy than sitting on the veranda with candle light and traditional music soaking up the Spanish ambience. Kickstart your system with a traditional breakfast of churro fritters dipped into gloopy hot chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines.
Bocata de calamares
A sandwich of calamari on baguette bread is among the most typical of ‘fast’ foods in Madrid. Commonly picked up on the go near the Puerta del Sol, this simple sandwich is best paired with a caña – a small beer – or several.
Vegetarians should probably avoid Madrid, as its most beloved food is ham. While Madrid locals eat pretty much every single part of the pig (the hooves, the intestines, the ear and more) the aged, dried and salted Iberian Serrano ham is quite possibly Madrid’s most famed delicacy.
If you love food as much as me then don’t hesitate to visit the Mercado de San Miguel food market.
Located in the centre of Los Austrias Madrid and with over 10 million visitors a year, the San Miguel Market is the city’s gastronomic temple, the contemporary essence of all the corners of Spanish cuisine. From the best Iberian ham to fresh seafood brought from Galicia each day, the Mediterranean rice or the special cheese from Castile, Asturias or the Basque Country.
Researcher and Writer