I started my trip in Madrid, Spain. Filled with beautiful streets, spirited people, and fantastic architecture, it was truly an inspiring city. This is my second time in this city, and I am always amazed by the city’s culture!

“El Rastro” which is the largest open air flea market in Madrid is held every Sunday from 9am-3pm). Filled with stalls boasting of traditional Spanish goods to antique furniture stores, it is an experience one can not miss out on. There are a lot of people here which means there are a lot of pick pocketer so definitely be on the lookout and be conscious of your bags.

Another place to definitely see is Plaza Mayor, which was one of the main squares in Madrid. Picturesque buildings line all four sides of the square and it is filled with little restaurants on the ground level. Many different cafes and restaurants are located near this plaza!

Mercado de San Miguel is one of my favorite places in Madrid. It is foodie heaven in the form of a covered market filled with a variety of tapas places and drinks. From seafood tapas to baked goodies, it has a diverse assortment of food and is a fun place to eat and hang out. Seating is limited, but there is a common area in the middle for people to sit down and eat all the delicious tapas they’ve acquired from the different stalls. Grab a table and take turns buying different foods and drinks, so that you don’t lose your spots! Food prices are a bit more expensive here than other places, because it is a gourmet tapas experience then other places.

For dessert, I ate one of my favorites churro places. Near Plaza Mayor is La Chocolateria San Gines. It is one of the best churros and hot chocolate place in Madrid. It’s an affordable dessert, and I paid 4 euros for this combo! Churros and hot chocolate are very different in Spain. Hot chocolate is literally melted chocolate and churros are just fried dough with no sugar or cinnamon. It is typically eaten by dipping the churros in the hot chocolate, and it is one of the best desserts to be eaten in Spain.

Puerta del Sol hosts some of the biggest tour groups in Madrid. It also holds the famous ” Bear and the Strawberry Tree” statue, or more locally known as “El Oso y El Madrono”. Made from stone and bronze, this statue represents the coat of arms of Madrid, and is one of the most famous places to take a photo! Puerta del Sol also has a stone slab on one of the floors with a map of Spain and a compass needle that has 0km written on it. This slab marks the center of Spain and is called ““Origen de las Carreteras radiales”.

Museo Nacional Del Prado is one of the world’s biggest art museum and houses famous artworks such as “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez. I actually went on a Sunday for free instead of paying the 12 euro fee. On Monday to Saturday from 6 pm to 8 pm and Sundays from 5-7pm, the museum is free for all! The line, while looking deceivingly long, only took 30 minutes to get through, and it was one of the most beautiful collections of art I’ve seen. It is also next to Paseo del Prado, and while waiting, I passed the time watching a rollerskating and skateboarding competition.

Buen Retiro is in my mind, the Central Park of Madrid. Located at the edge of the city centre, it is one of the largest parks (about 350 acres). One could literally spend a couple days exploring this place and while I didn’t have that time, I had the opportunity to see the “Monumento a Alfonso XII”. It had an artificial lake in front where people could rent little boats and row across in a very picturesque manner. Another feature of the park I saw was the “Crystal Palace” or “Palacio de Cristal”. It is a glass and metal structure with a beautiful cupola and was originally used as a greenhouse, but is now used as an art exhibit.

Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the most extravagantly decorated palaces I’ve been to. Surrounded by beautiful frescoes, elaborate patterns, and beautiful architecture, the entire palace is an ode to the historic culture of Spain. While the current Royal family does not reside there, it is still in use and definitely worth a visit. If you are a citizen of the European Union, it is free at certain times and days. While I was there, it was free to all from 6-8pm from April to September! While it wasn’t enough time to look closely at each room, it was an eventful experience.

Temple of Debod and Plaza de España are close to each other and within walking distance of the Royal Palace. Temple of Debod is quite an interesting ancient Egyptian temple and is nice to stroll down and see the Egyptian work inside. Plaza de España is a tourist friendly square with a prominent monument dedicated to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Random Tips:

* Definitely, try the paella and sangria in local areas around here.

* A great souvenir that is also practical is a pair of espradilles sandals! I got mine for 11 euros at Calzados LOBO near Plaza Mayor and I wear mine all the time!

* If you need to leave luggage somewhere safe, I recommend Drop it! near Gran Via. I left mine for 3.5 euros the first day while exploring and couldn’t check in early and it was so convenient and cheap! You can also print pages here for .50 euros if needed.

* While there is a convenient metro, I recommend walking! You really get a feel for the city by walking around here.

* El Cortes Ingles is the biggest department store, and on their top floor is one of the most beautiful city views! There are a bunch of tapas and food booths. I had drinks here while enjoying this view.

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