Madrid is an amazing city, its one of those places that you could go back to several times and do completely different things. In fact, it can feel a little overwhelming having so much to do in a short space of time. Hence why I wanted to do a short guide on Madrid.
Starting with Madrid's Metro. The Boy is fascinated with both trains and underground network, so first thing he susses out when we book a trip is if they have a underground system, one of our dreams is to create a guide book of underground systems around the world and how to use them. I've been on New York and Barcelona's underground systems which whilst the trains are air conditioned, the stations are not, and in hot weather it makes waiting five minutes for your next train feel like a year in the sweltering heat. The great thing about Madrid's system is that BOTH the stations and trains are air conditioned. This makes Madrid's metro my second favorite underground network so far- number one is Prague's metro, just for the crazily fast and super steep and long escalators and the fact that you can tell the train is approaching just from feeling a sudden gust of wind!
In terms of tickets and prices, there are basically three options for tourists, a single ticket for if you just want to make the one trip and don't plan on using the metro that often, a ten trip ticket for around 12,20 Euro that does exactly what it says on the tin and then tourist ticket that allows you to purchase unlimited travel on the metro for a certain number of days. We went for a five day tourist ticket for zone A (City Centre and Airport) at a cost of 26,80 Euro, which works out around just under £4 per day at today's exchange rate. Zone A covers everything are that you want to see as a tourist, and I doubt that you could get as good a deal on London's underground, plus the tourist tickets include unlimited travel on buses and Madrid's train network within Zone A. In addition it includes the 3 Euro airport station surcharge.
The Boy's parent's really like the tourists buses that you find in big cities and we tried the one in La Palma in Gran Canaria and were massively disappointed. However we knew that on the hottest day we were there, we thought going around on a bus might be a good way to keep cool. The tourist bus ticket in Madrid is 21 Euro, and includes unlimited use for 24 hours, or 48 hours for around 5 Euros extra. It was a lot better than the one in Gran Canaria, firstly because the ports you plug your headphones in to listen to the talk actually worked and also because it covers a massive area of Madrid, in fact there are two tour bus routes to cover all the various sites as well as extended tours for each of the routes. It's definitely a good method to suss out Madrid and although we did the tour on the third day, its a good thing to do on your first day to help plan your itinerary.
Temple of Debod
I did try and do a bit of research on things to do before setting off and one of the things on my to do list was to visit the Temple of Debod, which is an ancient Egyptian temple that was given to Spain by Egypt, dismantled and then rebuilt in Madrid. I've always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptians, and I really want to visit Cairo and the pyramids one day, until then, this was a great opportunity to see an real Egyptian temple. We ended up stumbling on it completely by accident whilst walking through Parque de Oeste looking for the cable car. I was expecting to just be able to look at it from the outside, so I was excited to see that you could actually walk in it, and touch the inscriptions on the wall!
Near Parque de Oeste you can catch a cable car that gives you a birds eye view of Madrid and takes you to Casa de Campo park, Madrid's largest park. The views are stunning.
Chamberi metro station is an abandoned station on Madrid's metro system and four years ago they converted it to a museum. It's free to visit and you get to step back in time and see how Madrid's Metro use to look before they modernised it. Madrid's metro was apparently built around about the same time and London's underground, so the design of the platforms is very similar to London's with the patterned tiles and it also reminded me a bit of Victoria Baths in Manchester too.
The museum has very limited opening hours and is only open Friday 11am-1pm, 5pm-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-2pm. Also last access is 30 minutes before closing time, so plan your visit carefully!
What Madrid lacks in beaches, it makes up in parks, and there are tons of them dotted all around the city!
Campo del Moro and the Sabatini Gardens, next to the royal palace.
Parque Juan Carlos I, which is a park full of various sculptures.
The Botanical Gardens, which is a hot house inside Atocha train station.
There is also Casa de Campo and Parque de Ouse that I mentioned before. The park we kept on coming back to was Retiro Park which is one of Madrid's best known parks, and has a boating lake and two palaces that you can walk in- Palacio de Cristal, a glass palace, and Palacio de Valazquez, which is now owned by the Ministry of Culture and holds various exhibitions.
These are just a few of Madrid's parks and you can find a full list here.
This is just a taster of the things there are to do in Madrid, I hope you find it useful. You can find more ideas at www.gomadrid.com/.