I’ll start this blog by letting you know that if you just want the quick recap of where we went and what we ate, I’ve got a handy graphic for you at the bottom of the post! So, feel free to read ahead for all the details, or scroll to the end if you need a quick idea of what to see (and eat!) while in Madrid.
From the (Very late-night) minute we arrived in Madrid, we knew we were in for a beautiful and exciting couple of days. Our cab ride from the airport led us through the winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys towards the Gran Via. We stayed at the Hotel Lusso Infantas, which was a beautiful little boutique hotel (that we got a GREAT deal on through our travel rewards website–> more on that in a later blog!) located right in the middle of everything we wanted to see- museums, palaces, parks; all within in walking distance or a quick metro stop or two.
It was well after Midnight when we got to the hotel, but we wanted to kick off our honeymoon with a toast, so we walked down the block to a great little bar called El Angel Azul. My husband and I both speak very limited Spanish (need to know where the bahtroom is or what kind of wine to order? We gotchu!), but we immediately made friends with the bartender and learned a lot about each other through bits of broken Spanish on our side, and limited English on his. It was a great introduction to the people of Madrid who were warm and welcoming.
Charles the bartender gave us some great suggestions of nearby museums and attractions to check out, so after some much needed sleep and a delicious Spanish breakfast of Jamon y huevos back at the bar, we grabbed our Madrid Pass and headed towards Museo del Prado, our first stop. This is the National Art museum, with one of the largest collections of Spanish painting and sculpture found anywhere. We spent most of our time there viewing the galleries of Spanish paintings, which are laid out in chronological order. It was so interesting to see the evolution of not painting styles and trends, but to see how daily life and the views of the church and people in the country changed over time through the art. The museum has an extensive collection of works by Velazquez, one of the most prominent court painters during the Baroque era in Spain, and his portraits were beautiful and really telling of the style of the time period. The museum is definitely designed for International visitors, and most of the exhibits have information in both Spanish and English.
After that, we walked down the Paseo del Prado and stopped in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia — or the Museo Centro. This is the Modern Art Museum that opened in 1992 and features works by Dali, Picasso, and many other Spanish artists. We didn’t spend a lot of time here but even the small sampling we experienced was simply breathtaking. Seeing so many classic works in one place is an amazing experience. We actually met a man later that evening who had come in from Amsterdam just to see one of the exhibits at the Prado Museum; to us, this was a true testament that Madrid has some of the best museums in Europe and the world.
After a wonderful siesta (seriously, why is this not a thing in America? Afternoon naps, snacks and drinks are the best thing ever!), we ventured out on a tapas crawl. We followed the suggestions of the ever travel-wise Rick Steeves as we started our ham adventure. We took the metro train just a few stops to Puerta del Sol, a really trendy part of town with a huge square where there are always street entertainers, people speaking, and a good combination of locals and tourists. We started at the Museo del Jamón, or, literally translated, the Ham Museum. This place was huge and completely packed with people enjoying samplings from the extensive menu. Seriously, who knew there were so many types of ham? We were there for one specific thing: Jamón Ibérico, which comes from pigs fed a diet of acorns who are said to live “stress free” lives in the valleys of Iberico. The ham itself is sliced thin, and served in a huge stack. The ham itself is rich and creamy with a delicious nutty flavor to it. It was unlike anything either of us had ever tasted before, and we devoured the whole plage, along with our two super cheap Cervezas.
From there, we moved on to La Casa del Abuelo, which is known for it’s delicious seafood. We sampled the Gambas al Ajillo, or Shrimp in oil. It’s like escargot, but with shrimp, and is cooked in oil and garlic. This place was the complete opposite of our first stop on our Tapas Crawl, and was quite small and very cozy. They cook the shrimp behind a glass partition, so it’s served piping hot and fresh from the oil. We indulged in some of their house red wine, which was a perfect complement to the savory shrimp.
We tried to find Oreja de Oro next, but it seems to have closed, but luckily there was a similarly named restaurant- La Oreja de Jamie- just across the street from us, where we sampled a local delicacy: Pig’s Ears. We tried the dish tossed with patas bravas, and it was super tasty! I wasn’t sure how I would like the pig’s ear dish, but they were fried and crunchy with a very nice flavor. The Bravas sauce was the perfect complement.
Our little tapas crawl was a great showcase of some of Spain’s most well-known dishes, and honestly, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Stay tuned for the next blog, which will cover our visits to the Palace, the Cathedral, and our Hot Chocolate Crawl!