Last weekend, after our classes finished on Thursday, my friends and I went to Madrid. We had been planning the trip since the end of Orientation week and were ready to leave. The hostel was booked, the train tickets were purchased, and we even had a spreadsheet containing all of the things that we would like to do. Friday at 5:30 am, seven other students and I hopped on a train to Madrid-Príncipe Pío from the station in Salamanca. The prospect of extra time in Madrid gave us just enough energy to roll out of bed that Friday morning and make it to our train on time.
After arriving at Madrid, we made our way from the station to our hostel. We had a short breakfast at the buffet of our hostel and then put our bags into lockers, as we were not able to check in until 2 pm. From there, we walked through the city as it was just beginning to wake up. We made our way to Puerta del Sol, a plaza in Madrid, to meet our guide for the walking tour one of us had booked.
Our tour lasted two and a half hours and took us all throughout Madrid. We discovered that Puerta del Sol is not only the New Year Celebration destination for those in Madrid, but that it is the center of many roads leading to the rest of Spain. We encountered the restaurant that Hemingway immortalized in his novel The Sun Also Rises. We ventured through the Plaza Mayor and also learned a lot about Spanish history. Our walking tour finished at the Royal Palace in Madrid, the largest royal palace in Europe, boasting 3,418 rooms.
After walking all throughout the city, we headed for a restaurant with traditional Spanish cuisine to eat and relax. We then headed back to our hostel, Generator Madrid, to check in. The hostel was really nice and clean, and because there were eight of us, we got a room to ourselves. We took a quick (not so quick) siesta and then headed out around 5 pm.
Our next destination was El Retiro Park to watch the sunset. It was filled with tons of lovely walks and photo ops. There were many little cafes and restaurants sprinkled throughout the park. We walked until we reached el Estanque Grande del Retiro (the great pond). There, we sat on the steps next to el Monumento a Alfonso XII to watch the sun set. It was beautiful to see the sky turn a purplish hue illuminating the water in front of us. We went to dinner after sunset at a “hole-in-the-wall” Mexican restaurant close to Calle Gran Vía.
The next day I had breakfast at a small cafe and then went to El Prado, a famous art museum in Madrid. We were able to see tons of work from people like Goya, Greco, and Velázquez, but even with three hours, we were unable to see all of the Museum in detail. With over 80 different rooms and over 1300 works on display, it is truly a sight to behold.
Leaving El Prado, we spent some time shopping. I bought some new clothes, some treats, and a Real Madrid jersey in shops along and near Calle Gran Vía. We also shopped in a little street market we had found on the way. We finished our shopping and went out for dinner, treating ourselves to some yummy Greek food.
The next day, before heading back to Salamanca, we went to Sunday Flea Market. The street was taken over by hundreds of tents selling things ranging from jewelry to clothes to decorative mugs. While there was so much to see, we had to make it a quick visit and then head to the train station. We took the bullet train back to Salamanca from Madrid-Chamartín and were home for lunch.
The trip was so much fun and I would highly recommend a visit to Madrid for anyone studying abroad in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. With the success of this first weekend getaway, I cannot wait for the next trip we take.
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Kai da Luz
My name is Kai da Luz and I am a current sophomore at Villanova University who is studying in Salamanca. I love to play volleyball and am a major foodie.