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Marvels of Madrid

Majestic in its own right, Madrid will captivate you from the minute you step into its mesmerizing metropolis. This is a city that knows how to live with passion. From the thunderous roars of the Corrida de Toros arena to the crowds cheering ablaze for their beloved fútbol team - you'll feel your heart pulsate to the contagious excitement of Madrid's vivacious traditions and celebrations.

Stay

For my stay, I picked the Vincci Capitol Hotel and could not be more pleased with my selection for many reasons. This is where I stumbled upon the most spectacular view that made me feel like I was on top of the world. Situated at the corner of Gran Vía and Calle Jacometrezo, take the elevators all the way to the top, step outside and there you'll find a stunning view of the city. Look down and you'll see the main arterial avenue that intersects the heart of Madrid. Every angle from the rooftop deck invited magical views of the city that made me feel excited to explore. This location also provided the perfect backdrop for some of the photos I took with famous Madrid-based Argentinian photographer Marcelo Aquilio.

I always make it a point to see if my hotel has a rooftop. Because of this travel habit, I have stumbled upon breathtaking views that have given my life a whole new thrill.

Promenades

From my hotel, I felt like I was right in the heart of this magical city, steps away from Plaza del Callao which opens up to the Centro. Each day's promenade started right here. It's fairly easy to get lost through the winding streets of Madrid's Centro, which is not a bad way to experience the city. As you make your way through colorful passageways and dizzying corridors, you'll stumble upon these great sights - Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel, Palacio Real de Madrid, Jardines de Sabatini, and Templo de Debod.

Food

As you scavenge through Madrid's Centro, take a moment to enjoy the rich culinary explosion at Mercado de San Miguel. You'll fall head over heels for this tapas heaven. Located on the west side of Plaza Mayor, ask any local to point you in the right direction. I spent a few hours here, indulging gigantic oysters, titillating tapas, and drinking sangrias and fresh fruit juices. This food jungle was such a hypnotizing experience that it brought me back at least three times throughout my trip.

Another great stop to make is Gourmet Experience Gran Via, which sits on the top floor of the shopping complex at Plaza del Callao. It's a large indoor cafeteria, with many delectable options, and also boasts a spectacular view of the city.

Fun Things to do

To feel the city of Madrid come alive and get entrenched in its contagious whirlwind of excitement, catch a Spanish style bullfight, known as the Corrida de Toros, in the warm season between March and October. Observe how the matador runs elegantly with the bulls, as he studies the bull's movements and aims to give the bull a quick and clean death. A clumsy estocada, the act of thrusting the sword, will bring more pain to the bull which will often raise loud protests from the crowd and may ruin the whole performance. This is a dangerous and brutal sport, but a unique cultural experience nonetheless.

Next, attend a Real Madrid fútbol game. Real Madrid fans are a whole new level when it comes to fútbol fanaticism. Fútbol unites people, families, and communities together. It's a big part of their lives and that's why they are passionate about their beloved team. The blazing uproars of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium will give you an unforgettable experience. You may be able to scout discounted tickets outside the stadium, but just make sure that they are not fake tickets by not paying the street vendor until you have it checked at the gate.

Party

Each and every night, the city and its residents come alive. You can have high expectations for great salsa dancing and dozens of places to dance the night away throughout Madrid. You'll also be approached by herds of party promoters throughout the Centro district offering you a fixed-price party package. This is a guided party tour, where you pay one price, and bar hop to 5 or more different places throughout the area and have drinks at each one. It's a pretty nice deal, however this generally attracts a younger crowd and foreign exchange students. If you prefer autonomy in experiencing the city, I wouldn't recommend taking this tour.

If you're looking for more of a high-end type of partying experience, check out Moma 56, Vanila, Kapital, Joy Eslava, or Pacha.

Day Trips from Madrid

If you have the opportunity to explore other parts of the country, taking a day trip to some of these cities will enhance your Spain experience. Segovia and Toledo are a few of my favorite nearby cities.

To see more of Spain

From Spain, taking a bus or a train down to the south of Spain is the beautiful region of Marbella, which translates to beautiful sea. From there, you'll come across the stunning acropolises of Cordoba, Sevilla, and Granada, so be sure to check one of those out on the way to the southern coast. From Marbella, you can also take a day trip out to the Rock of Gibraltar.

If you're going east, check out Valencia or Barcelona. I have another separate post about Barcelona, which goes into detail so check that out if that's in your itinerary.

Be sure to check out "25 Most Beautiful Cities in Spain" and also "The Buzz About Barcelona" for more recommendations on where to visit in Spain!

Photography Credit: Marcelo Aquilio, Domingo Leiva, Tony Klimas, Gen Vagula

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