Intro to Madrid and Toledo
Madrid is the capital of Spain, located smack in the middle of the country. In terms of art, Madrid can hold it’s own with almost any other place on earth. Along with the Louvre and British Museum, the Prado museum in Madrid should be on every art lovers must see list. Like the rest of Spain meals in Madrid are part of the experience of being here. Sight see in the morning, have a long drawn out lunch, have too many afternoon drinks, sleep until 9pm, and finally wake up and start your tapas crawl.
Toledo offers a glimpse of an older, more traditional Spain. The city is still quite religious and it’s not uncommon to see nuns walking the cobbled lanes. This was the home of the famous painter, El Greco, and many of his best works are still here. At night don’t be surprised to hear the seductive sounds of a Spanish guitar, gently echoing off the city’s stone walls.
Spain is on Europe’s eastern tip, so flights there are slightly shorter than much of the rest of mainland Europe. Madrid is generally well connected to most international airports, particularly on the east coast, so finding a direct flight is generally easy. Madrid flights are often slightly less expensive than many other big European cities.
If you only have a long weekend (3 nights) and you want to go to Spain, go to Barcelona. But if you have four nights and want to see more of the country side; a two night in Madrid, two nights in Toledo is ideal. The old walled in city of Toledo is just a couple hours from Madrid via high speed train.
When we went
March 2010. Flew into Madrid (slept 2 nights), took high speed train to Toledo (slept 2 nights), took high speed train back to Madrid’s airport.
Prado; Madrid. Absolutely amazing collection including works by Goya, Botch, Velazquez, El Greco. Prepare to spend a couple of hours here even if you’re not an art lover.
Museo Thyssen Bornemisza; Madrid. Impressionist and 19th century American art.
Renia Sofia; Madrid. Go to see Picasso’s famous Guernica.
Retiro; Madrid. A former royal hunting ground turned into a 300 acre public park.
Naval Museum; Madrid. Collection of models and paintings but the descriptions are all in Spanish.
Plaza del Toro; Madrid. The main bull-fighting ring in Madrid and one of the most famous bull-fighting rings in the world. If you can justify the experience as a cultural event buy your tickets beforehand online.
The Royal Palace; Madrid. Impressive but often crowded royal palace.
The Toledo Cathedral; Toledo. Very impressive interior with wood carving highlighting the re-conquest from the Moors.
Hotel Europa; Porta del Sol, Madrid.
Hotel Santa Isabel; Toledo.
*All of these places are tapas bars unless noted. They are all great choices for lunch or dinner.*
Casa Rua; Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Get a calamari sandwich!
Museum of Ham; Madrid. You should probably get ham…and some cheese.
La Taurina Cerveceria “Bull Bar”; Madrid. A bar that is all things bull-fighting where the walls are covered in memorabilia, including a few bull heads. It’s a great place for a beer.
Oreja de Oro; Madrid. This place is known for pigs ears, you know, the ones that your dog chews on except these ones are safe for human consumption.
Casa del Abuelo; Madrid. Great tapas wine bar a perfect to cap off your tapas crawl.
Gonzalez; Madrid. A modern tapas bar with a good wine selection. It’s another great place to end your tapas crawl.
Casa Paco; Madrid. A steakhouse just south of Plaza Mayor; Hemingway ate here and it makes for a fine pre-bullfight meal.
Alhambra; Madrid. A typical tapas bar with excellent wine.
Restaurant Meson Palacios; Toledo.
Alfonso Vinotecca; Toledo. A modern wine and tapas restaurant with an excellent wine selection.