12 hours in Madrid

What do you do when some crazy flight scheduling gives you under 12 hours in Madrid? You set off on a run & you do what you can!

Heading into Madrid central from the airport is really simple – unlike other metropolitan cities, the rail service into town costs neither a small fortune, nor takes too long, so no more than an hour after touchdown, we’re already striding towards Plaza Mayor to grab some sustenance at Mercado de San Miguel.  Billing itself as a ‘culinary cultural centre’, this friends, is what Borough Market’s glamorous, older, sophisticated & wealthy aunt looks like.

We try a little of a lot of things – some skewers of fat juicy olives, pungent salty feta, sweet peppers and artichoke pack an awful lot of flavour into a small hit.  They also cost the same as a small hit with each mini skewer setting you back between €1 or €2.  The crispy fried combo of prawns, squid and anchovies could have used being hotter but they were crunchy and beautifully flavoured and lick your lips tasty and went down a treat with the ice cold Pinot Grigio’s we washed it all down with.  We also added to our repertoire some rich pieces of chorizo and give us an even taste of all the most important Spanish food groups.

There’s no denying it, this is not a cheap place, we’ve only had a small amount of nibbles and a glass of wine each and we’re down €40 but when you’re in a setting like this, you ignore the complaints of your pocketbook and enjoy.

Determined to find some churros for dessert (Surprisingly not to be found in the Mercado), we head off to explore more of Madrid in our limited time.  It’s extremely easy to find your way around, armed with nothing more than a tourist map given to us at the Airport’s train station, we’re now walking towards Museum avenue, Paseo del Prado on our way to the Reina Sofia.

Almost every Madrid lover I’ve spoken to has expressed disbelief that we didn’t visit the famed Museo del Prado on our visit, surely one of the world’s premier art galleries.  But consider this, I’m a bit of a philistine.  I don’t pretend to know a great deal about art and I just don’t think I would have appreciated it in the way it deserves to be appreciated.

I had however heard about the Picasso collection at the Reina Sofia and that seemed like something I’d like to know more about, so we bypassed the lovely Museo del Prado and defiantly carried on our way to the Reina Sofia.  No hardship on a day as beautiful as this, walking as we did past Congress, Plaza Mayor and Real Jardin Botanico.

What’s fascinating about the Reina Sofia, and in particular it’s signature painting the Guernica is that it was a planned painting, made to order by the Spanish nationalists to highlight the futility of war and the pain it inflicts on innocent civilians.  You are of course not allowed to photograph this one, but what gives you an added insight into Picasso’s genius is the series of sketches he did to plan his painting and how they took shape in his mind which you can compare with the real deal in front of you.

I won’t pretend to tell you a lot more about art, as what I know I’ve only gleaned from reading museum descriptions, but we spent a very pleasant couple of hours here, soaking it all in and taking photos of my favourites.  Mine is the portrait of the wistful woman staring out to sea, perhaps it reminds me of me, prone to daydreaming although my daydreaming usually takes place getting lost in a great book.

Time is getting tight now, so there’s no time for lingering and after stopping for a sugary hit of unnamed pastries from a street vendor, we high-tail it a rather strange tourist attraction to be found in Spain – an Egyptian temple.  Gifted to Spain, by Egypt, for their assistance with the building of the dam of Aswan, Temple of Debod existed originally in Southern Egypt.

Had I not known what it was, I don’t think I would have considered as anything more than an interesting stone sculpture from the outside and although small, this too makes for a fascinating meander around the detailed descriptions of life in the temple and it’s coming to land here.


We’ve now spent too long exploring Madrid and it’s time to make a dash for the airport – in the nick of time too as we’d underestimated the length of time it takes to make it back to the BA terminal, which is another mini train journey away after check-in.  Even so, I just have to take a photo of this – bouquets of flowers delivered through a vending machine! Utter genius.

Luckily our onward flight is slightly delayed otherwise taking this photo would have cost me the price of a flight away from Madrid.


I think we did justice to our limited time in Madrid, if I come back again, I’ll be coming back armed with more preparatory knowledge of the art scene here, which is evident everywhere you look.  Art History 101 in a beautiful setting.


6 thoughts on “12 hours in Madrid

  1. Loved your description of the Mercado de San Miguel, its like i was back there munching away on those heavenly olives again. We found churros hidden away in the corner of the markets – along with coffee. But that was last year. Sounds like you had a great time.

  2. Great post. In four weeks I’m off to Spain for a week, we have three nights in Cordoba but only two in Madrid, so it’s great to know that you can see something of the city in a short period of time.

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