A year in Europe followed by a move to Bangkok

48 Hours in Madrid - Day 2

I began day two by impressing Jake with my knowledge of Madrid's subway system, the Metro. I proudly showed him how to use the ticket machine, get his ticket stamped, and find the right train. Madrid's Metro system is pretty easy to use, however my biggest challenge was finding my way out of the stations.  Some are many stories underground.  At the height of my confusion, I exited a subway car, followed the signs to the exit, walked about 15 minutes through the station, and ended up right where I started.  Twice.  I made it out on my third try. The second time I went to this station, I made it out on my second try.  Progress!  However on this day with Jake, we got off at the Opera stop which didn't even pose a challenge.  I spotted that exit from a mile away.  Off to a good start.

First stop: the Royal Palace (or in Spanish, the Palacio Real).  

As a sidenote, I just realized that the soccer team "Real Madrid" must actually mean "Royal Madrid"...  

The Royal Palace is no longer a residence of Spain's royal family and is only used for state occasions. The history of this plot of land goes back to the 9th century when it held a Muslim defensive fortress. When Madrid became Spain's capital in the 1500s, the fortress was converted into Spain's royal palace which later burned down on Christmas Eve of 1734.  Spain's King at the time was the grandson of the King of France and had grown up at Versailles, which served as an inspiration for the rebuilt palace.  

I thought the carriage in the parking lot was a nice touch. 
To get through those gilded gates, you have to pay for a Palace tour.

If you stand with your back toward the above gate, you will see Madrid's Almudena Cathedral. As European cathedrals go, this one is a baby.  Construction finished in 1993.

Next, we headed toward the Plaza Mayor.  Calle Mayor is a street that starts by the Royal Palace and runs directly to the Plaza Mayor.  It is a great walk with lots to see along the way.

I loved the magenta building on the corner. The bright color looked surprisingly elegant in person.

We stopped by a pharmacy to buy some hand sanitizer.  We had to ask the pharmacist because it was not on the shelves.  We paid the equivalent of about $5 for a tiny bottle.  The same bottle would have cost about $1 in the United States.  I don't think hand sanitizer has taken off yet in Europe...

We passed the Palacio de Santa Cruz.  Over the years, it has housed various government agencies.  At one time it was even a prison.  Prisoners during the Spanish inquisition trials held in the nearby Plaza Mayor were locked up here.

We entered the Plaza Mayor by walking through one of its nine huge archways. I would describe the plaza as striking and hectic. Throughout the centuries, the Plaza Mayor was the centerpiece of life in Madrid, used for everything from markets to bullfights to public executions.  Today, it is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants.

Next, it was finally time to eat.  We walked a few minutes south to the Cava Baja street.  This is a fantastic street in the La Latina neighborhood that is famous for its many tapas bars.  This is the real deal.

It was siesta time, so some of the restaurants were closed, but luckily, Taberna La Concha was not one of them. This cozy tapas bar was nearly empty, and we took a seat at the bar.


We started with the meatballs, which were amazing.  They tasted like the best meatloaf I had ever eaten turned into moist and flavorful meatballs.  

Next, at the bartender's suggestion, we tried a sort of shrimp toast - made with shrimp and a mayonnaise sauce browned in the oven.  Again, very tasty.

We had a lovely time, but eventually pulled ourselves away and headed for more tapas of course. One street over, Juana La Loca has a reputation for serving the best Spanish omelette (tortilla de patata) in town.  Different than a regular omelette, the Spanish version is cheese-less and has a heavy dose of potatoes mixed in with the eggs.  This one was made with caramelized onions - delicious!  

Next up?  More food!  We headed back toward the Plaza Mayor area to visit the Mercado San Miguel where Jake picked up some olives.  While this famous market has been around since 1916, it was actually saved by a group of investors and reopened in 2009 with a more modern concept.  The Mercado San Miguel is now more of a food hall filled with tapas counters and miniature restaurants and bars along with a sprinkling of traditional market booths like a fruit stand, butcher, fishmonger etc.  

Our last stop was the Puerta del Sol. This is one of the busiest squares in Madrid.  Similar to Times Square in New York, this is where Spain gathers to ring in the new year.  The statue of the bear and the strawberry tree is the symbol of Madrid.  It draws quite a crowd, and we had to stand in line to get a photo. 

From the Puerta del Sol, we caught the Metro back to our apartment.  Jake and I had such a wonderful time in Madrid.  The city was elegant, the people were kind and the food was some of the best we have ever eaten.  Viva Madrid!


  1. love your photos, i would absolutely love to go one day!

    danielle | avec danielle

  2. Thank you!!! Madrid is such a great city, definitely worth a visit!

  3. When were you there? We might have walked by each other, as we've been to the exact same areas. I also saw that olives bar at Mercado San Miguel, but we skipped the olives and went straight for the sangria instead:)