5 pm: Upon your arrival to Madrid, head directly to Plaza Mayor, one of the central plazas in the city. Rectangular in shape and with a total of 9 entranceways, it’s a great place to grab a coffee and watch the world go by.
After exiting Plaza Mayor, head over to the Mercado de San Miquel, a market located in a remarkable turn of-the-20th-century building off of Calle Mayor. It’s quite intricately designed. In fact, the ornamental detail of the building was acheived through the dual use of paint and iron.
Grab a tapas and a glass of wine if you’re hungry or buy some Jamón ibérico to snack on. But buyer beware, a kilo of Jamón might just go for more € than you’re expecting.
6 pm: Continue eastwards on Calle Mayor to reach the Catedral de la Almudena. You’ll pass through some of old, historic Madrid. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll see that the Almudena Cathedral is a bit interesting. You think to yourself that the colors and patterns decorating the ceilings and walls are a bit childish in design, but maybe that was the architect’s intention.
6:30 pm: Just next door is the Palacio Real, also known as the Royal Palace. It’s actually used, but not owned, by the King of Spain for state ceremonial activities. Yes, Spain still has a King and Queen (I didn’t know before this trip!). The palace was built over the period of 26 years on the site of a former alcazar that burned down in the 1700s.
The palace is a real gem. if you’ve got time spend a few hours there, but if you arrive there late in the day, don’t fret. Wander around the palace grounds, find some cool statues, and watch the people of Madrid just relaxing here after a long day’s work.
The gardens are beautifully manicured as would befit a royal palace. Find a bench and marvel in the fact that you are in a garden designed for royalty. You contemplate how so much can change over the 300ish years that this palace has existed. 300 years. Longer than you’ll live, but a really short amount of time in the history of the world.
7:30 pm: Thinking too much makes your head hurt, so you head up a hill (what is with you and hills?) to reach the Parque de la Montana. If you peak to the southeast, you can see traces of the palace and the cathedral.
But why are you here? Well, you’re here because a local of Madrid mentioned that the Egyptian temple was one of the best places in the city to watch the sunset. Hang on, an Egyptian temple in Spain? Yup. The Templo de Debod was donated to Spain by the Republic of Egypt in 1968. It was built approximately 2200 years ago in the Nubian town of Debod to honor the gods Amon and Isis.
You watch the sun slowly to go bed. The days are getting longer while the nights are getting shorter. You’ve always been a big fan of watching the sun rise and set, but you think it’s infinitely more awesome to see the sun set over this temple.
9 pm: Head towards Puerta del Sol, one of Madrid’s busiest squares and sometimes called the center of Spain. During the day, it’s a bustling place with people constantly streaming in and out. But come back at night, and you’ll see a place transformed into the center of Spanish nightlife. Walk a little north and visit Gran Via, Madrid’s main avenue. Every city has one. Lyon has Rue de la République, Paris has the Champs Elysées, Barcelona has La Rambla, and Madrid has Gran Via.
You reflect on just how different this city is from a French city. You adore the energy of this city. At 9 pm, the sun has not fully set but the people of Madrid were coming out in full force to start their evenings. At 9 pm in France, people would be well into dinner, but in Spain, people only start thinking of dinner at 9 pm. The differences intrigue you. But you don’t reflect too long. Because it’s tapas time.