Renfe train experience + 3 Days in Madrid

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I feel like I’ve been dragging my feet to write this post. We didn’t have a terrible time by any means. The food was delicious, people were nice, and there was always something beautiful just up a hill or around a corner. But I think it would have been an even better experience if we had a local (like our host in Barcelona) to guide us through a bit of the city’s landscape. Nevertheless, if you love art, slowing down, and Real Madrid then Madrid is surely a place to visit. 

Transportation

I can’t recommend the Renfe train enough. It was a scenic, 3 hour ride from Barcelona to Madrid. It was more enjoyable and comfortable than any flight I’ve ever been on. We paid a bit more (~$70 US dollars per person) for First Class/Preferente seats and it was definitely worth it. We were served drinks and a meal. And the best part, so much leg room.

All the beverage options
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This is obviously not the best photo but I was so comfortable and full of carbs and cava. There’s also an area of the train to buy food and drinks, but they will charge you more for the convenience like they do at stadiums, movie theaters, etc… I definitely recommend buying snacks and water at the train station before boarding.

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Where we stayed

This airbnb in the Lavapiés district. Our area was lively, conveniently located, and full of popular local restaurants. We walked everywhere since it was so convenient, but be prepared for narrow sidewalks and hilly situations.

Neighborhood art

Explore the Cortes area of Madrid. There’s murals at every turn and so many cafes and restaurants. We walked through this area everyday to get to all the tourist spots. So if you would like to be in a more central location and still have that local experience, check this area out.

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I couldn’t believe that this was a hostel (Hostal Persal). I love how they have “hello” and “welcome” written in a number of different languages. It’s impossible to walk by and not notice how beautiful it is.

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Tourist things

Museo Nacional del Prado

Come here if you love religious art or want to just spend a few hours in a museum. Would recommend buying tickets beforehand. My lukewarm facial expression says “I’m happy to be here but not so pleased by these menstrual cramps I’m experiencing.”

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Chocolatería San Ginés

They are so organized for a tourist food spot. You order, get a ticket, go sit, and someone will take your ticket and bring you your order. Easily the best 4 euros we’ve ever spent for 6 churros and a cup of chocolate. My husband ended up drinking the rest of the chocolate because it probably tasted like a chocolate lover’s dream. Churros were surprisingly light and perfectly crunchy and soft at the same time. Definitely worth it.

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Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

If you like Dali, Picasso, or 20th century art definitely put this on your itinerary. There’s a courtyard area with benches for people to relax and take a moment to take everything in. I preferred this over the Museo Nacional del Prado. Make sure you check when it opens and closes because on the day we went, the temporary collections closed after 2 pm. Also, buy tickets beforehand.

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Parque del Retiro

My recommendation: bring a blanket, food, and plop down on a patch of grass and enjoy the weather in this beautiful, massive park. This was just one of the entrances to the park.

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Lots of photo taking opportunities here.

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Where to eat (probably my favorite topic to cover)

All my favorite food places were located in Lavapiés, where we stayed. Keep scrolling through to see what I mean.

Los Porfiados

Those green olives tasted like savory grapes (not sure if that makes any sense at all), but the flavor was so mildly perfect. Best olives I’ve ever eaten.

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Our entire meal was vegetarian. Everything on the menu involving vegetables was just more appealing to us. This is a big deal because my husband probably eats meat in every meal and never gravitates towards vegetables as a main course.

Left plate: grilled vegetables (so fresh and grilled to perfection) with a blob of goat cheese on top
Right plate: veggie wrap with a side of the most delicious sweet potatoes (light and fluffy)

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Two desserts = pretty common for us because we want to try everything. Top dessert is a brownie with vanilla ice cream and the bottom dessert is the most delicious apple crumble I’ve ever eaten. Warm, crunchy, and not overly sweet.

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My glass of rosé was 2.20 euros! Our bill was way less than how much we usually spend for dinner in Brooklyn without wine/beer. Will forever feel jipped wherever we eat here in NY.

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La Infinito

Delicious breakfast/lunch spot. Croissants were buttery perfection. There’s usually just one guy taking orders so find seats, read the menu, and be ready to order when he comes by because it might take a while for him to come back and take your order (they get really busy).

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La Libre

This cafe/restaurant has an outdoor seating area but inside is full of books you can read while you sip your drink or eat your meal.

Delicious avocado toast with a light tomato sauce. Full of flavor while still being light.
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Flaky empanada filled with something delicious that I can’t remember now. The salad was untouched though.

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El Sur

Our favorite dinner spot. Be prepared to wait especially if the weather is nice. This place gets packed quick but the staff here makes sure you get a table as soon as possible. So good we had to go back there for dinner on our last night in Madrid. The tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) easily became my favorite dish during this trip. If you like eggs, scallions, and mashed potatoes, this is your dish.

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Before I sign off on this post let me leave you with some cultural differences to note that I just realized is all centered around dining and food:

1. Spanish dinners start at 10 pm typically. So if you see people sitting outside around 7-8 pm with a drink and a tapa, know that this is their pre-dinner warm up. You can still have dinner earlier, just make sure you check when restaurants will be open before making the trek.

2. Take your time eating. No one’s in a rush to get you out the door. Don’t be surprised to see people reading, chatting, and sipping slowly.

3. It helps to make reservations. Even if you see an empty table when you show up, it might be reserved. And restaurants may not give you a time frame for you to come back because once again there is no rush for people to leave.

And that’s a wrap!

If you didn’t get a chance to read my Barcelona post, check it out here. Don’t forget to share this post and come say hello on Instagram.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sophie 🙂

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