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  • Writer's pictureKiah May

Starstruck by Madrid

Updated: May 17

Statue of Carlos III, King of Spain 1759-1788

Hello friends! I hope you all are well!

I'm so glad you decided to follow along as I explore Europe this Spring!

My dad and I arrived in Madrid on Friday, jet-lagged and hungry. Madrid is supposed to have some of the best food in the world and we've seen this throughout, but it started the first night. Anyone who knows me know I have a MASSIVE sweet tooth and the amount of incredible chocolate here might be the death of me. The first night we ate at the hotel, which was delicious, but the cake definitely took the cake!

Triple Chocolate Cake from The Madrid EDITION

After a good night's sleep, I moved into my apartment early Saturday morning. The apartment is near one of the major plazas, Puerta del Sol (translation: "Gate of the Sun"). We were absolutely shocked at the sheer number of people out walking, even on a Saturday morning. This has continued to be the case, with the square packed almost 100% of the time.

Puerta del Sol (the emptiest its been)

After getting mostly moved in, we headed for breakfast. We found La Rollerie, a cute (although a chain) little cafe just off the main street. There we found the best hot chocolate we'd ever had, which is saying something as my dad has had a lot of hot chocolate over the years. It was thick and not too sweet. We ended up back at La Rollerie again on Monday and it was just as good. I would highly recommend the crepes and the Shakshuka.

The next adventure was the supermarket. We went to Corte Ingles, which is a boogie Whole Foods below a 7-story department store similar to a Macy's. Shopping was an enjoyable experience for the most part, except for one little hiccup. The milk aisle is huge. Its probably of comparable size to those in the U.S. but I got overwhelmed because there seemed to be no real ordering to it and all of the containers were very large. But there's no crying over unrefrigerated milk as the saying goes.

We then headed towards the restaurant we had booked for dinner. This was our first experience with the Metro in Madrid and it was honestly pretty easy to get a multicard (one that you can share and reload) and figure out where we needed to go. On the way we stopped at Plaza de la Independencia which houses the beautiful Puerta del Alcalá. Just across the street is the stunning Parque de El Retiro (Park of the Retreat). At the entrance there is a sign that says roughly 'Old trees, you assume the risks associated with that'. On the last bit of the walk in the park we saw the stunning Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict. Finally we had dinner at the wonderful El Paraguas restaurant.

 Puerta del Alcalá at Plaza de la Independencia

Church of Saint Manuel and Saint Benedict

Sunday consisted of more exploring including the National Archaeological Museum and the Naval Museum as well as Plaza Mayor (Main Square), Fuente de Cibeles (Fountain of Cibeles) and CentroCentro (a cultural center). Dinner on Sunday was at Raimunda which had a unique atmosphere but the food was only okay.

National Archelogical Museum

Cultural Center

Felipe III Statue in Plaza Mayor

On Monday we visited the Catedral de Santa Maria and its crypt, possibly the most stunning cathedral I've ever seen from the inside, with incredible stained glass and amazing internal architecture. The outside is pretty amazing as well, however there are more beautiful cathedrals exteriors. Construction of the Catedral began in 1883, making it young on the scale of European Cathedrals. The Catedral has a 71 pipe organ which, while not massive like others around the world, was still gorgeous (yes, hi, I'm still a music nerd).

Catedral de Santa Maria

Pipe Organ in Catedral de Santa Maria

After the Catedral, we headed to the neighboring Royal Palace. The original Royal Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1734. Putting out the fire was delayed because the locals thought the alarm bells were a call for prayers. The art piece Expulsion of the Moors, by Diego Velazquez was among the pieces destroyed in the fire. The Palace is extraordinarily decadent, with some of the rooms taking more than 50 years to complete due to the artwork. The Gala Dining Room has a table that is more than 30m (~100ft) long and can seat up to 140 guests. The Golden Fleece and other Greek Myths make appearances throughout the Palace. We were unable to take photos inside the Palace but if you're curious, there are some great photos on google. Make sure to check out the Throne Room, The Gasparini Salon, and The Royal Chapel. The Royal Armory is also on the grounds of the Palace and it was very interesting to see the sheer amounts of commissioned armor for children and horses.

Royal Palace

To close out Monday we took a tapas cooking class at Cooking Point with Eduardo, which was FABULOUS. We ended up being the only people taking the class that day which was wonderful as we got to know Eduardo a bit better! We made Sangria, Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp), Crema Catalana (Catalan Creme Brulee), Chorizos a la sidra (Chorizo in Cider), Tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelette), Patatas Bravas (Potatoes with Brava), and Pan con tomate (Tomato bread). I would 100% recommend this experience and I will be returning to take his paella class.

Gambas al Ajillo (upper left), Chorizos a la sidra (bottom), Tortilla de patatas (upper right)

Torching the Crema Catalana

On Tuesday we made our first trip to the Getafe and Leganes Campuses. The trains, unlike the metro, were slightly difficult to figure out as you had to buy a different ticket from the metro. The campuses were nothing particularly special but it felt good to figure them out. That night we had dinner at Amicis, which was lovely! We finished the night with gelato!


Wednesday consisted mostly of errands but it was nice to explore the city a bit more. On Thursday we did a Tapas and Wine Tour around the city and saw some incredible sights including where Miguel de Cervantes wrote the second half of Don Quixote (Casa Alberto). We had some amazing tapas, including some of the ones we had cooked on Monday but also had shark, ham, and breads with various spreads including cheese, artichoke, and sausage. After a wonderful tour, about half the group went to one of Madrid's staples: Churros con Chocolate (Churros with Chocolate). It is exactly what it sounds like. And it is delicious. The chocolate is thick and not too sweet and the churros are not rolled in sugar so the chocolate is the sweetener. Following our chocolatey adventure, we found the Center of All Roads in Spain, known as "Kilometer 0". This is the point where all of Spain's 6 Major Roads originate. This was followed by more gelato because gelato is good.

Casa Alberto

Churros con Chocolate

Kilometer 0

Más Gelato

On Friday, after my orientation at the University, we went to the oldest restaurant in the world, Sobrino de Botín. The building that houses it was constructed in 1590 and the restaurant opened in 1725. The oven, used for roasting their specialty--suckling pig--was started in the same year. The oven has been on the entire time, even during COVID when the restaurant got special permission from the city to have essential workers maintain it. The ambiance of the restaurant was amazing; we even had some of the mortar fall from the ceiling onto our table (none got in our food). The main courses were mediocre, however, the cheesecake was the best I'd ever had. We even got to see the oven! (If you want to see the pictures of the oven, please let me know and I will send them separately as there are animals pictured.)

The Old Coal Storage Room where our table was

Sobrino de Botín

My dad and I had one more dinner together on Friday night at Jeronimo at the hotel. The food here was wonderful! I am so grateful for the time we had together. Thank you for everything, dad.

My dad and I at Jeronimo

Overall, my first week here in Madrid is more amazing that I ever imagined! The city is gorgeous and I'm so grateful that I get to call this place home for the next 5 months!

Wishing you all the best!

Con mucho amor,


Below are some recommendations on hotels, restaurants, and activities if you're curious. Most were mentioned above.

Hotel Recommendation: The Madrid EDITION

Restaurant Recommendations:

Breakfast/Brunch: La Rollerie

Dinner: El Paraguas

Experience: Botín

Activity Recommendations:

Cooking Classes from Cooking Point

The Naval Museum

The Royal Palace

Tapas and Wine Tour



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