Let me put in a disclaimer before I jump into everything that’s great about Madrid. This post is Madrid with a toddler. You know what that means, don’t you? There will be no museums, history or nightlife in this post. It’s like I said in my Teaser post, low expectations. Having said that, I’m sure you’ll get a good vibe of the city like we did.
While traveling with a toddler, it’s always a good idea to stay close to the city center and close to public transport, so that you don’t compromise on nap times. We found a wonderful apartment hotel on Gran Via which is said to be ‘The Street that never sleeps’. Literally meaning ‘Grand Road’, it is home to many restaurants, shopping centers and theatres. We lived right opposite a comedy theater!
So our exuberant taxi driver, while making jokes about how “grande” people from Estados Unidos (United States of America) are, brought us into the city center. The first thing that struck me was the fusion of the old and the new. It’s a bustling city like any other, with posh little cafes…
And suddenly, in the middle of all that flurry, you come across magnificence like this..
Look closely and you’ll see the fine architectural details…
It was love at first sight. Living on Gran Via turned out to be a great decision because some of the most popular attractions were just a short walk. After a good lunch at Rodilla (good vegetarian options here), we walked out to Palacio Real de Madrid (The Royal Palace). Don’t forget to bring along your toddler’s stroller. You’ll be walking a lot. My little one was super excited to see a real castle, where a real king and queen lived.
We passed some really pretty calles (streets)
And Jamonerias (Ham shops). The Spanish take their meat seriously, so seriously in fact that there is a whole museum dedicated to ham. No really! Look at this – Museo del jamon
On the way to the Palace, we came across the Jardines de Sabatini (Sabatini gardens) which are part of the Royal Palace. The gardens are open to the public and M had a great time running around there.
The Palacio Real didn’t disappoint! Although King Felipe VI and the Royal Family don’t live here, M was content imagining that Elsa and Anna (Frozen reference) lived in this palace.
Opposite the Palace is the Plaza de Oriente, which is lined with statues of Gothic kings.
Puerta del Sol was next on the list. Another short walk from the Royal Palace. Puerta del Sol literally means Gate/Door of the Sun. This is the centre of Madrid’s radial roads. Talk about all roads leading to Puerta del Sol, not Rome! It’s also one of the busiest places in the city (think Times Square in New York City), complete with street performers and wonderful cafes! The road to Puerta del Sol is an interesting mix of high end brands, roadside shops and musicians.
Also singing their seductive siren song were the chocolaterias, the churrerias and the tapas bars!