Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain with a population of roughly 3.3 million. This makes it the third largest city in the European Union. Its influences in politics, education, media, arts, entertainment, environment, fashion, science and culture all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities.
We were lucky enough to find a great little hotel called Lapepa in the middle of the Museum District that couldn’t possibly have been better. It was clean, quiet and walking distance from just about everything we wanted. Paula and and whole staff were friendly and amazingly helpful.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s a big city and can be a little intimidating until you get your bearings. We have come to love the “Hop On Hop Off” City Bus Tours. They are a smokin’ deal. For only 8 euros you can ride all day and get on and off anywhere it stops. It gives you a great feel for the layout and stops at all the major attractions. The upper deck is open air so on a nice day they can’t be beat. After just one rotation you feel like you have a pretty good idea where everything is and where you’d like to return.
We saw so much great art in Madrid it was overwelming. The three big hitters are the Prado, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museo Reina Sofia. There’s a great discount pass online, The Paseo del Arte card, that includes all three and gives you a scheduled admission to the Prado, which means no waiting in line. There are also, at least, 50 smaller museums that are equally outstanding. You could spend a month here just looking at art.
Wendi was adament about going to the El Rastro street market, considered by many as the largest street market in Europe and it is huge. With an estimated 3500 market stalls it seems to stretch for miles down little streets and alleys. And it is packed tighter then a can of sardines. And hang onto your panties. I caught two different people trying to reach into my camera bag. I wasn’t particularly concerned as there wasn’t anything in it but an old map, still it’s a little disconcerting. That been said, we did have a great time. There is a lot of excitement and a million things to look at. I do have to offer one caveat though. Cheap t-shirts dominate. Like almost every street market we’ve been to, if China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Korea and Guatemala stop making cheap crap this place will be closed up tight in no time.
The Tabernas are pretty cool too. They’re a little like Spanish Sushi Bars in that the top of the bar is lined with all sorts of little dishes from olives to small open faced sandwiches that run from 1 to 5 euros each. The barman gives you a drink and you just point at what you want and they tally it up when you’re done. It’s affordable and great fun, very social with people coming and going and everyone talking at once.
The Saturday we were in Madrid was the annual Gay Pride Parade and it dominated the entire museum district of the city. There were thousands of partiers in the streets from all over Europe. By 10am police were rerouting traffic, closing down major intersections and roundabouts for a 6pm parade. All the major fountains were turned off to keep overheated partiers out of them. The parade consisted of hundreds of LGBT groups and organizations from every city in Spain. Cross-dressers were turned into minor celebrities and graciously had their pictures taken with anyone who asked. The crowd had a ball.