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  • Writer's pictureLiz Hilliard

Liz and Lee's Travel Tips: Madrid



Since Lee is the planner and organizer of all our travel excursions she has written the blog this week with our recommendations for Madrid. Travel feels necessary for us, not only to see the world but to go outside our comfort zones to explore and experience all the beauty and wonder our world has to offer. No matter where we go, what culture or languages are  spoken we always find that we all have the same things in common. We all share a need for love, community, joy and peace. In our experience where you show kindness you will be received in kindness. Travel if you can. And be prepared to fall in love with the world!

We just returned from Madrid and are reveling in the beauty of Spain’s capital city. We found the city and it’s people easy to maneuver, gorgeous, clean, practical, efficient, affordable and fun. Here are our thoughts on the trip. We hope you find them useful and highly recommend adding Madrid to your travel list. *All suggestions are our own and unsponsored. 


Traveling in January can be tricky weather wise. Madrid’s average high temps are in the 50s this time of year, but we ended up super lucky with bright blue skies and mid 60s temperatures. While we wouldn’t call plane flights affordable these days, there is a direct flight from our city of Charlotte to Madrid and booking hotels, touring, and shopping are much easier on the wallet during the off season. 


We admit to our ineptitude in our foreign language skills, but as it is in most capital cities, English is widely accepted and spoken, and we did our best to exchange pleasantries in Spanish. And boy is everyone in Madrid pleasant! Every airport employee, taxi driver, and staff member at the hotel, the restaurants, the shops and museums was so kind. It was one of the most significant things we noticed about the city. Babbel all you want, but you’ll survive without it. 


Let’s get right to it:

The direct flight from Charlotte lands at 5:00 am Madrid time which is kinda rough. While customs wasn’t packed, it wasn’t fully staffed so it took about 45 minutes to roll through. Liz’s baggage remained in Charlotte, but the baggage claim staff was super helpful, made the claim, and her baggage arrived at the hotel intact the next morning. (Highly recommend Apple airtags!) Another lesbian benefit: clothes-sharing when your luggage goes rogue. All of the taxis we experienced in Spain were spotless, hybrid, white vehicles who’s drivers were all friendly. The flat rate from the airport to the city center was 33 euro and most credit cards were quickly accepted with a tap. We did not try the metro system during our stay. We walked everywhere and it was extremely walkable and extremely pedestrian friendly. Staying in the center city was a huge plus for getting around. 


We chose the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid (c. 1910, renovated 2021) and arrived around 7:30 am at which point our jaws dropped for the first time. The scent of the lobby with its gilded artistic ceiling and purple laden bouquets wafts right out into the streets where caped men and women escort you to reception. With such an early arrival, be prepared to check your luggage and explore or book the previous night to ensure a room is ready upon arrival. We were prepared to stow our luggage, but were delighted to find they had our room ready and available. Considering the sun doesn't rise this time of year until 8:30 am, we were so happy we weren’t going to walk the dark streets of this brand new city! Breakfast, a nap, and the spa…that’s how we roll! 


Yes, we used our tried-and-true magician Lucy Williams Travel to book our hotel. She can be hired for more detailed luxury experiences like booking cars, tours, experiences etc. and she is extraordinary. We explored the city on our own and the concierge was incredible for basic needs and questions, but we’ll never not use Lucy to book our hotels. The benefits are too many to resist including possible room upgrades, daily credits, free breakfast, and honestly I just think the hotels give us an upgraded experience when we book with an agent. It’s like they know us and that always feels good, especially with international travel. 


Yes, we stayed in Madrid for the entire week and did not travel to other Spanish cities. Our choice was to really immerse in Madrid for our first visit, use the time to relax and recharge, and not feel rushed to experience all we wanted to see. 


Favorite restaurants:

Bel Mondo (so fun, Italian, part of Big Mamma group, we like the indoor salon after peaking at the terrace)

Pictura Bar  (all the dining at the hotel impeccable)

Le Bistroman Atelier (French bistro, because doesn’t everyone want duck confit in Spain?)

Casa Beninga (authentic paella, quirky, cozy interiors, sketchier neighborhood-they called us a taxi on the way home, knock on the door to enter, and ask to see the kitchen)

Sala de Despiece (unique, experiential, Spanish, deconstructed cooked at table, tasting style menu)


Others:

Restaurant Botin (oldest restaurant in the world 1725, do the experience to get the full tour before a tasting menu, we wouldn’t necessarily go back for the food, but super authentic)

Casa del Abuelo (authentic Spanish, several locations, popped in for a beer and the renowned garlic shrimp. TBH, it was fine)

Ten Con Ten (Spanish fine dining, we were underwhelmed but many, many people recommended it) 


To-Dos:

Prado Museum (18th and 19th paintings featuring Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt et. al, part of the Golden Triangle of Museums, book tickets ahead, we didn’t make it to the Reina Sofia or Theyssen-Bornemisza…we tend to get caught up strolling through the city and people watching and exploring. There’s a beautiful botanical garden right across from the back entrance of the Prado 4 euro entry that was beautiful even dormant and within was an indoor plaza that was exhibiting a small Balenciaga collection, who knew!?)

Retiro Park (beautiful spot for strolling, jogging, people watching, see the lake, the peacock garden, Crystal Palace)

Barrio Salamanca (stylish and beautiful walkable neighborhood with nice shopping and dining just north of Retiro park) 

Corral de la Morreria (incredible flamenco performance, the food is highly touted, but it was just fine for us, hard to serve that many people in that style well, but perhaps the smaller restaurant is better prior to the show)

Royal Palace (in the old town and another neighborhood we loved exploring, buy tickets ahead, grab your audio guide 5 euro, and spend about an hour going at your own pace on a well guided tour of this magnificent palace)


Have fun exploring, try something new, ask the locals, respect the locals and the city, slow down, and enjoy! Let us know in the comments what your favorites in Madrid are and where we should go next! 

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