Madrid: Football, Food and a Place to Rest our Heads

In my last post about our recent mini-break to Madrid I mentioned we went for an adventure one morning, taking Madrid's Metro to our destination. This was for the football lover amongst us so we could go on a stadium tour of the Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid for the uninitiated amongst you. Now I've never been on any kind of stadium tour before though my companions have done a few plus, whilst I don't mind football, I'm not a huge fan and probably wouldn't choose to do that type of thing ordinarily. However it was actually a great morning and I really enjoyed it despite my limited knowledge of the club etc.

When we arrived and left the Metro I think all our hearts sank as we saw a massive queue snaking around the perimeter of the stadium. Luckily as we were a group we were able to send someone to find out what this queue was actually for. No one wants to stand in a queue they don't need to be in, right? Turns out this was a good idea as that queue was to buy tickets for the next match, a quick look around and we found another ticketing booth for tour tickets with only a handful of people in it. I wonder how many people end up queueing in the long wrong queue on match ticket selling days .... anyhow we got our tickets and a short while later were heading up to one of the highest seating points in the stadium to get the view in the photo above. As I said not having done a tour of this kind before I don't have anything to compare it to but I imagine it was pretty standard in terms of what you got to see. It included all the background stuff like the changing rooms, Press room and so on and a chance to go in the dugout etc. There was also a museum full of all the various cups that they've won. Of course at the end of the tour you enter the souvenir shop where you can buy your replica shirts and pretty much everything you can imagine with the Real Madrid logo on. Honestly if you like football even just a bit I think you'll enjoy a visit to the stadium but if you don't then it's probably not really for you.

When we weren't sightseeing we obviously needed to keep ourselves fuelled up and we enjoyed some great food whilst we were in the capital. Naturally tapas featured heavily and proved a great option for a variety of likes and dislikes in the group meaning everyone got to enjoy dishes they wanted. One of my favourites, which I did choose countless times over our few days were the yummy Padrón peppers, so moreish and yet so simple. Every time I've shared a plate in my head I always think, 'we'll never manage all of those', but of course we do! We also made a lot of coffee stops at the gorgeous little cafes on almost every square enjoying some excellent coffee too obviously, I love being able to sit and watch the world for awhile like this.

Cafes like this are everywhere, perfect for a coffee break

Our lunch stops were usually at the Mercado de San Miguel a delightful covered central market full of all sorts of yummy goodies. It is one of Madrid's oldest markets and is incredibly popular both during the week and weekends. As a result it can be tricky to get a spot to sit or stand and eat straightaway but keep walking around enough and you'll soon be able to grab a spot either at the long tables in the centre or the spaces around the edge of the market. Being covered it was very useful when we were there given how much it rained plus the selection of food available makes it well worth persevering to get that spot. Here we enjoyed a variety of tapas as well as churros, in fact there is so much here, as well as some nice wines available I reckon that you could easily while away an afternoon.

Inside Mercado de San Miguel (as you may be able to tell from the umbrellas, it was raining)

Just one part of many delicious lunches we had at the Mercado de San Miguel

Whilst we were in Madrid a friend shared with me details of a café in the city famous for its churros. Following a map consultation we realised we were pretty close so decided to head there, particularly as it was threatening rain again! Chocolatería de San Ginés was founded in 1894, it is apparently a famous part of the Madrid nightlife scene, tourists visit by day but locals head there at night looking for sustenance on their way home from nightclubs. I admit this made me chuckle when I think about my past choices of late night snacks after a night out. The café is down a side street in a delightful shop maintaining much of its original décor and definitely worth taking a look at. Not surprisingly it was pretty busy but luckily they have outside seating too and we nabbed a table there and shared some churros, dipping the fried dough into the rich hot chocolate, delicious!

Look at that thick rich hot chocolate!

When we weren't exploring the city and eating we also needed somewhere to sleep and we found a gem of a hotel in a very good location. We stayed at the Petit Palace Santa Barbara which, once we got there, I discovered was obviously part of several hotels in the city as we found a few other Petit Palaces on our travels around. The heart of the hotel is in an older building beautifully modernised with newer buildings attached. It's full of quirky design features and even included access to a laptop in our room, though we didn't use it. Breakfast was full of pastries, meats, cheeses and bread, there were some delicious little pancakes (I enjoyed those every morning) as well as smoothies, fruit juices, tea, coffee and, of course, churros. Bike hire is an option if you want to explore the city this way, we didn't take that up but we did enjoy a couple of drinks in the outdoor bar area in the evenings. Luckily the rain held off at those times! Our room was spacious and the bed comfortable, we overlooked one of the side streets so got a great view of those lovely windows and balconies that are everywhere in the city. It was a little noisy in the evenings as we were near a few bars etc. but as soon as you shut the window you shut the bulk of the noise out too. I'd happily stay there again if I were back in Madrid.

Madrid was great, stunning architecture, beautiful open spaces and squares, great restaurants and tapas bars. If you haven't been you really should think about booking your visit.

Funky coffee table shaped like a giant clothes peg

Gorgeous wooden staircase (don't worry there were lifts too)