The red eye from Cusco, Peru to Madrid, Spain took 17 hours, and we spent two nights in Madrid for the kids to recover before moving onto our destination – Sevilla. That gave us one day to explore Madrid!
With only limited time to explore Spain’s capital, we tried to make the best of it. We rose at 9am (3am on Peru time, mind you) and set off for the downtown area.
The historic center of Madrid offers a ton of things to do and would be great with kids for an extended time. We hit just a few of the main sites to get a feel for this wonderful city.
The Plaza Mayor was our first stop. It’s a grand 400-year old square with restaurants and small shops. Luckily for us, the walkway hugging the outside of the square is covered and offers good protection from the rain. (It started raining on and off for the rest of the day). We enjoyed walking around and looking at the shops. There seemed to be a lot of coin shops for some reason, but my favorite was the Museo de Jamon. It’s a chain store but it’s got a great name and different types of ham from all over Spain. Apparently, the Spaniards know their ham. The girls also ventured out into the rain to take a picture with the statue of a dude on a horse in the center of the square. (Okay, it’s King Phillip III.)
We then went to the Mercado de San Miguel right next door. Everyone had massed in the indoor market to get out of the rain. It reminded me lot of the Quincy Market in Boston but with a European flair. We pushed our way through the crowds before finding the one quiet corner in the market. Luckily for the girls, it happened to be right next to a dessert vendor. They got something sweet, and I got a ham sandwich at the place next door with a pig leg sticking up in the air. Everyone was happy.
I just wish we could have spent more time there, or some time without the kids. Everything looked so good… a great, even if touristy, place to hang out and grab some drinks and tapas.
We then made our way over to the Royal Palace, an easy walk through narrow streets from the Mercado de San Miguel. The rain had abated a bit and we got some great views of Madrid from the Palace grounds. The cathedral next door also very impressive. We elected to move on since we didn’t have much time, but for a fee you can enter the palace grounds, which I would have loved to visit had we a few more days.
The kids were surprised to find out Spain still had a King (Phillip VI) and we had a good talk about the power of kings of old versus that of modern royalty.
Our last stop for the day was El Retiro Park. It’s a sprawling, 300 acre park in the heart of Madrid. We made the mile and a half walk through the city from the Royal Palace, a nice stroll in and of itself. But the rain had set in again by the time we made it there. Which was too bad considering the park is beautiful and there are supposedly 15 playgrounds. The kids would have loved it!
And that was it for us… Madrid in day. Given jet lag, the rain and a full day, we were pretty exhausted. I’m glad we had the day to explore!