A few weeks ago we read a New York Times piece about how to make the most of 36 hours in Madrid. We had less than 24 before catching our train to Irun. Staying in the center city and walking about turned out to be a great strategy.
Central Madrid was greener than expected, with expansive parks, plazas, narrow tree-lined streets and walking space for pedestrians. At street level, there was a variety of independent shops that was striking compared to what we would see in the U.S. There were cafes and bars, of course, but also multiple small clothing stores, high fashion shops for men and women, shoe shops, office supplies, pharmacies, specialty groceries including pasta, queso and jamon, fabric stores, yarn shops (Milly), plant shops, furnishings, toy stores, jewelers, convenience stores, book sellers and stationers. These are all purchases we’d probably make at chain stores – or Amazon. The usual suspects, all U.S. born, were also present – Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and the ubiquitous Starbucks. But these did not predominate.
We were also struck by the unexpected charm of the architectural detailing on buildings. Some ornate, some understated, and all a contrast to the more sterile or institutional vibe of newer buildings. Painted tile work, polished brass medallions, intricately carved wooden doors, and ornate iron balconies with flower boxes announcing spring.
And what better way to spend the afternoon than Real Jardin Botánical de Madrid situated on the long pedestrian promenade, Paseo del Prado.