The first thing I saw when I arrived is a big sign hanging over Plaza de Cibeles saying “Refugees Welcome”. It made me feel good about Madrid instantly. I stayed in Sun Gate hostel, which was very central, however the drunk young people scrambling into beds at 4am and collapsing to snore totally put me off hostels catered to the young. I also detested the vegetarian dinners (oily, salty, not very nutritious considering the starch ratio to vegetables) and opted to eat out after the first one. I loved the receptionists though, and found them extremely helpful and friendly.
Sandeman’s tour guides were very amazing. Most were non locals studying history in the universities. They made the whole Philips / Charles sequence entertaining and were very passionate about it. They conduct free tours twice a day from Plaza Mayor and they also do paid tours throughout the day.
The walk through the Palace towards the temple of Debod was very enjoyable, and the Retiro park was lovely on the Sunday that we went, with a grandstand band, couples boating in the lake, and various musicians playing jazz.
I had very memorable grilled octopus from Mercado San Anton, heaped tapas and great wine from Txacolina, and great everything from Mercado San Miguel, especially the Paella.
The layout of Reina Sofia was quite confusing and did not lead me from room to room seamlessly and some floors were closed. It took 20 minutes for me to figure out how to exit the building. When I managed to find the Dali and Picasso paintings I could appreciate the collection slightly more so than the Dali/Picasso paintings elsewhere. I did appreciate the siesta I took in the shaded courtyard where there were already visitors doing the same. I had more fun walking around the National History Museum because of my preference for history.
A pity this famed sleeping beauty castle inspiration was undergoing refurbishment thus I could not get a nice picture. The castle seemed a lot bigger from the outside, but was grand nonetheless.
The other interesting piece of history was the aqueduct albeit totally refurbished. Had a good crispy roast pork leg at La cueva de San Esteban, and the shrimps in olive oil were a sure-win choice as usual.
The day trip I liked better. The scenery was beautiful viewed from the city centre, atop a hill. There were lots of churches, synanogues and alleys to wander about in and a great mercardo to stop at for lunch.