12 Things I Did My First Time in Madrid!

For me, Madrid is one of those cities where there is just an endless amount of places to see and visit. If you’re interested in art like I am, then you’ll surely have yourself a Spanish bucket list much longer than you can manage. As the third largest city in Europe, Madrid is an expansive, beautiful metropolis with a wonderfully preserved history and culture. Despite its size, Madrid is supposedly less popular than Barcelona, but I think that’s a good thing. I loved hearing mostly Spanish on the streets – especially in my area which straddled the neighborhoods Chueca and Malasaña.

Below find the twelve spots that made me feel most welcome in Madrid…

Royal Palace of Madrid

While I didn’t go inside, I certainly had a lot of fun taking photos of the exquisite exterior of Madrid’s royal palace along with the adjacent Catedral de la Almudena.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

Catedral de la Almudena

The architectural splendor Catedral de la Almudena has two grey bell towers. It’s in amazing condition, having only been constructed starting in 1879.

Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid
Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid

Chocolateria San Gines

One of the most famous chocolaterias in Madrid, this place will be busy no matter when you go! It’s definitely worth a stop though, as the chocolate con churros are a must-eat during a visit to Madrid and this place has been serving them since 1894!

Chocolateria San Gines, Madrid

Plaza Mayor

One of the iconic Madrid plazas, Plaza Mayor was built during the 17th Century, characterized by the three levels of windows and two spires which rise above its roof.

Plaza Mayor Madrid

Plaza Mayor Madrid

Plaza Mayor Madrid
Plaza Mayor Madrid

Hotel Petit Palace

I stayed here and enjoyed every minute! The value you get for the price was amazing. I had big beautiful Spanish windows looking out onto the balconies across the street, a modern bathroom and a super comfy bed here. There was even a beautiful white vintage telephone I had to take some photos with! The hotel is located just north of the old town center, making it the perfect place to chill after a long day exploring Madrid.

Hotel Petit Palace Madrid

Hotel Petit Palace Madrid

Hotel Petit Palace Madrid
Hotel Petit Palace Madrid

La Bicicleta

At the end of my street, I discovered this quirky bicycle-themed cafe, where I had breakfast one day. Go here for a nice place to relax.

La Bicicleta, Madrid

Palacio de Cibeles

The Palacio de Cibeles has turned into one of Madrid’s iconic city landmarks, having been designed by Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otamendi and opened in 1909. It functions as the Madrid City Council today.

Palacio de Cibeles Madrid

Cafe Federal

I had a wonderful breakfast here at Cafe Federal, a spacious and casual restaurant located in the Malasaña district of Madrid.

Cafe Federal Madrid

Plaza de la Villa

This is a small square I came across on my way to the Royal Palace.

Plaza de la Villa Madrid

Gran Via

The famous Gran Via is lined with upscale shops and nightlife spots. It’s kind of like the 5th Avenue of Madrid. I came to visit for the architecture of course, where early 20th century buildings stand tall in all their ornate glory…

Gran Via Madrid

Mercado de San Miguel

Perhaps the most famous market in the city, the Mercado de San Miguel was built in 1916, and is a must-stop for any foodies in Madrid! This indoor market sells every Spanish food you can imagine in a really fun atmosphere!

Mercado de San Miguel Madrid

Mercado de San Miguel Madrid

Plaza de Oriente

I found the flowers of Plaza de Oriente to be so exquisite next to the colorful architecture…

Plaza de Oriente Madrid

Toma Café

I read that Toma Café brews the best coffee in Madrid, so of course I had to pay a visit. The café is somewhat easy to walk by, and located on a mostly residential street in Malasaña. In Spanish fashion, a typically tiny sidewalk lines the front of the café.

Inside, several potted plants were hanging from the ceiling, and rustic wooden tables scattered throughout the space. I ordered a flat white and sat down to enjoy my coffee when the song Snow from the Red Hot Chili Peppers started playing! A nice mix of Spaniards and foreigners frequented the café. The coffee was certainly top notch for Europe but to be totally honest, it was of no comparison to New York coffee.

Toma Cafe, Madrid

November 01, 2016

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I’m an American photographer and writer based in Paris after living in New York for 7 years and then and spending a year and a half traveling. My work has been featured by the Paris and Nice Tourism Offices, Art Basel, and Refinery 29. Culture Passport is a place to share my travels and experiences in new places, with a focus on cultural attractions.

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