I celebrated All Saints Day today in what seems to be the typical fashion for any 20-something in Spain: recovering from Halloween and taking a rest day. From my understanding (experience), Halloween in Spain is an excuse for a few people to dress up (in legit terrifying costumes) and others to party all night long. All Saints Day, on the other hand, is a national religious holiday where people from around Spain go back to their native communities to celebrate deceased relatives. Meaning, everyone has the day off and most public venues were closed today.
Getting to the point here, I’ve had (more than enough) time today to consider my trip in Madrid so far. My experience is similar to others, my goal for the month is to explore Europe while on a budget. Throw in a digestion disorder (lack of food options), and I feel like I’m learning a lot about how to explore Madrid on my own. To share with others, here’s a list of my favorite moments so far (and to make you want to come here as well).
An amazing feature of my hostel was the offering of a free walking tour, but as I explored Madrid on my own further, I noticed that plenty of companies offer free tours as well. I came to Madrid because of a few friends that I have here, but they were out of town the first few days after I arrived, so I took advantage of the tour. I highly recommend such an experience for anyone on a budget because it was free (duh), but I also got to understand Madrid from a local’s standpoint and meet new people (mostly from Australia). Besides visiting the Royal Palace of Madrid, other sights on the trip included: Plaza Mayor, Botin (oldest restaurant in the world), Mercado de San Miguel, Almudena Cathedral, Plaza de Oriente, and Puerta del Sol (central of Spain). All of the destinations included detailed, historical backgrounds which made the tour even more worth it (like a history class brought to life).
My next recommendation to explore Madrid would be to visit all the parks (definitely free). My favorite so far has been Buen Retiro Park which at 350 acres, is one of the largest parks in Spain. Factor in the fact that it is practically in central Madrid, and Retiro is a nature oasis in the middle of the gigantic city. Parks offer the perfect spot to exercise, lay in the sun, accomplish some writing, eat lunch, or even bask in the (beautiful) natural surroundings (translate to people watching).
Turns out, most museums in Spain are either free or have certain hours every day where admission is free. I highly recommend taking advantage of this because it offers amazing opportunities and history lessons (costing nothing). My first free visit was to the Reina Sofia, the modern art museum of Madrid. It was here that I got to observe pieces from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, and they were extraordinary. I look forward to other museums in the upcoming weeks as well (getting cultural).
There are tons of monuments and statues all over Madrid, such as the Temple of Debod located within the Parque del Oeste (also free but beautiful). The temple was excavated from Egypt and rebuilt in Madrid in 1968, and represents one of the only chances to view Egyptian architecture outside of Egypt. On this day I also got to go to the (huge) monument for Don Quixote and it took my breath away. Walking around Madrid can be rewarding in exercise and in the opportunities to see these unique structures everywhere (versus the convenience of the metro).
Honestly, I’m recovering more from the lack of sleep last night (the Spanish like to party until 7AM – I only made it to 3:30AM) than anything else. I went to Teatro Kapital to celebrate Halloween last night with some friends. I went more for the experience than to drink, but it was fun to see how the Spanish like to party and to see my first real disco club (that’s 7 floors large). Tomorrow everything will be open again, so maybe I’ll come across more experiences to share with you all then.