Living like Royals in Madrid

Kate Mclean
April 6, 2017

I finally made it to Madrid in late February! I was excited to take on the country's capital. Lucky for me, it was an absolutely beautiful weekend with tons of sunshine and good times with good friends. 

We began our trip at the Palacio Real which is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family, but now it is only used for state ceremonies. It reminded me so much of Versailles, the infamous French palace near Paris. The thought and detail that went into the architecture and design is absolutely incredible. I especially loved the ornate ceilings featured throughout the palace. I was able to sneak a few pictures!

After, we went to the Museo del Prado which is best explained as Spain's Louvre as it is the main national art museum in the country with over 21,000 pieces of art inside. It is one of the most visited sites in the world and showcases art by Goya, El Greco, Hieronymus Bosch, Veláquez, and many others. A definite must-see in Madrid!

The next day we went to the Reina Sofia which is Spain's national museum of 20th century art. Some notable pieces inside include Picasso's Guernica and Juan Gris' The Musician's Table. I especially liked the small historical pieces featured inside attributed to one of Picasso's many muses, Dora Maar, as I have completed a subject study on her in my art history class this semester. Picasso led a fascinating life and went through numerous artistic influential periods. 

Speaking of, I have thoroughly enjoyed my art history class and it is definitely one of my favorites from the semester. If you're planning on studying abroad, I would recommend taking the class. It focuses on Picasso, Miró, and Dalí and even includes field studies to each of the museums plus one to the MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya). I have learned so much and have found a new appreciation for Spanish art!

Later, we walked to El Retiro which is a historical park located within the city. The weather was amazing and my friends and I were able to take a paddle boat onto the pond to enjoy the sun. So fun!!


If you ever find yourself headed to Madrid, here’s some of my favorite things:

  • FAVORITE CULTURAL STOP: Puerta del Sol – shopping, shopping, and more shopping! What's a Spanish trip without a stop at Zara?!
  • FAVORITE PICTURE POINT: El Retiro - gardens are beyond beautiful and the center pond is postcard-eske
  • FAVORITE MUSEUM:  Palacio Real – explore the palace to see how the royal live (hint: it's fab)
  • FAVORITE ART STOP: Reina Sofia – amazing collection and I'm a sucker for Picasso, so an easy favorite for me.
  • FAVORITE BRUNCH: El Azul – Best avocado toast! Super affordable, too.
  • FAVORITE SNACK: Churros – You can't visit Madrid and not try some of the infamous sweet treats...beyond yummy! Try San Ginés, they have been perfecting the art of churro since 1894 (and have amazing gelato if you're not into churros! My favorite was the Oreo).
  • FAVORITE DINNER: Kaixa – good tapas and cute atmosphere


Here's the schedule we followed to get the most out of our two-day trip (along with some general Madrid suggestions & tips!):


10am: Gran Vía

11:00am: Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real, Sabatini Gardens, Almudena’s Cathedral

6:00pm – Museo del Prado + audio guide

7:30pm – Puerta del Sol for shopping & sunset walk through Botanical Gardens

9:00pm – Dinner at Kaixa

Back to hotel to get ready for the night




Breakfast at El Azul

10:30am – Reina Sofía Museum

12:30pm – El Retiro (and Palacio de Veláquez & Palacio de Cristal)

Head to España Square (Cibeles Fountain and Puerta de Alcalá)

5:30pm – Dinner

6:45 pm – Head back to hotel

7:30pm – Late checkout // Shuttle to airport

8pm – Flight check-in & security

9:45pm – Depart for Barcelona (arrival at 11pm



  • Kapital – super popular club, a rite of passage in Madrid
  • El Tigre – typical pregame spot (5 euro huge mojito with free tapas)



  • Art Triangle: Museo del Prado, Reina Sofía & Thyssen-Bornemisza
    • PRADO: main Spanish national art museum of European art (€7.5 from 10am-8pm; free from 6-8pm)
    • REINA: 20th century art (10am-9pm; free with student card; 7-9pm public free hours)
    • THYSSEN: art museum (€8 with student card; 10am-7pm)
  • Puerta de Alcalá (inside of Plaza de la Independencia, Next to El Retiro) – best at dusk, 10am-3pm, closed on Sundays, free with student card
  • El Retiro (and Palacio de Veláquez & Palacio de Cristal) – free from 10am-6pm each day
  • Palacio Real (old official residence of the royal family) open every day from 10am-6pm
    • €5-10 admission
    • Bus: lines 3, 25, 39, 148 or metro lines 5 and 2 (opera station)


Realization of the week: Sometimes it's nice to splurge on a quality accommodation. At first, I thought it was unfortunate that I was 0/3 on my AirBnB requests and all of the hostels in Madrid were booked. Because of this, I resorted to using the iPhone app, "Hotel Tonight" to try for a hotel (which are usually a no-go for budget travel because $$). This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I was able to book a four star hotel for dirt cheap. It was SO NICE to travel and not stay in a hostel -- the beds were like clouds, the bathroom was clean & came stocked with (free) towels & shampoos, and there was even a spa included at the hotel. Truly living like reinas in Madrid!

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Kate Mclean

<p>Wanderlust enthusiast, seeker of all things sweet, and lover of exploration.</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
George Washington University, The
International Relations
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