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A week in Madrid

Before our 4 week Camino (Leon to Santiago) pilgrimage, we will spend 1 week in Madrid. I have a place to stay. Whats the best way from the airport to downtown? What would be the "must see" places? Prado for sure. I am going in May, are there bull fights around May 6-13th? I know day trips to Toledo and /or Avila would be great, especially since St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross lived in that region.
Thanks for any information you can give to me. I am 66 years young.

Posted by
283 posts

Hey Neighbor,
Federico Barroso (a RS tourguide on the RS "Best of Barcelona and Madrid" tour) has a tour business in Madrid called Spain Fred (spainfred.com).
I enthusiastically suggest you visit Federico's website and arrange a tour with him. He is highly recommended.
Best wishes for 2019.

Posted by
11132 posts

Pick up a guide book with good coverage of Madrid and read about your options. Your interests may be different from those of the responders.

I don't consider Avila a very interesting destination; it's basically just a wall. Though there might be something of religious importance there.

In addition to the magnificent Toledo, I'd recommend Segovia and Cuenca. Cuenca is affordable only if you buy your train ticket very early; otherwise, the AVE is awfully expensive for a day-trip.

If you find you need another side-trip, Alcala de Henares is very easy because of frequent commuter trains.

Posted by
923 posts

If you're interested in modern art, you'd definitely want to visit the Reina Sofia Museum - they have 'Guernica', for one thing, and lots of Joan Miro, who's one of my favorites.

Posted by
11561 posts

And a shout-out for the Thyssen Museum with its excellent collections, chronologically roughly from where the Prado leaves off to where the Reina Sofia begins. The Naval Museum is very interesting, just up the street from the Thyssen. You need to have your passport with you to enter.

Do you know about the tarjeta dorada (gold card)? Anyone over 60 can buy it at any train station for €6. With the card you can get discounts of 25% or 40% on many trains. The discount depends on the day of the week and type of train. Also ask for the senior discount at every sight - many offer it but not all advertise it.

Posted by
1504 posts

If you wanted to see some of Saint Teresa de Avila’s relics ( her heart and an arm) you’d need to visit Alba de Tormes near Salamanca. They are in the Carmelite Convent of the Annunciation. There are some beautiful places you’ll be passing on the Camino, so ensure you have a camera. Some include, the Parador in Leon (currently undergoing renovation), Puente de Obrigo in Hospital de Obrigo, Crucero de San Toribio near San Justo de la Vega, Astorga, Cruz de Hierro where pilgrims leave a stone, Villafranca de Bierzo, Alto de Cebreiro, Alto de San Roque, Alto de Leboreiro, and just before entering Santiago, Monte de Gozo. Hopefully much of the restoration and the scaffolding will be completed and have been removed from the cathedral in Santiago.

There should be bullfights in May. You can check dates at: https://madridbullfighting.com, but may want to wait to get tickets until you’re certain you are going to one. I’ve never purchased tickets online. There are plenty of booths at the bull ring where you can get last minute tickets.

Posted by
936 posts

Are you a fan of tennis? If so, the Madrid Open is being played while you are visiting and this could be an excellent opportunity to watch the clay master play.
We also seek to learn of concerts and plays being held while we visit a destination. Doing so helps peel away the layers of tourism to rub elbows with local culture.
Madrid is one of the largest cities in Europe, but the central tourist destinations are in a relatively compact geographic area. Madrid offers a good public transport system to assist with exploring beyond the tourist areas.
We do recommend exploring Retireo Parc and taking a picnic to enjoy time.

Posted by
9883 posts

First, you should get a guidebook or two. These will explain your airport transport options, as well as giving details of the main sights, restaurant hours and typical foods, the logistics of day trips, etc. Assuming you're using other resources for your Camino, Rick's Madrid Snapshot book should cover you for the city and some daytrips: https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/madrid-guidebook (click on "What's Included" to make sure it covers what you need).

For the airport, the options are bus, metro, train, or taxi. Which is "best" depends on the exact location of your hotel, how comfortable you are on public transportation, physically or otherwise, with luggage (potentially including changes), how much you want to walk from a bus stop or metro station, your budget, etc. Note that taxis from the airport to the center have a fixed rate of €30, including luggage in the trunk, and there is no need to tip beyond this. Other methods are much cheaper, but if you're at all unsure, a taxi is door to door and so very easy.

Posted by
1215 posts

I loved the Royal Palace in Madrid-it's beautiful and a manageable size to enjoy.

Posted by
1504 posts

Both San Lorenzo del Escorial and El Valle de Los Caidos are worth visiting, but not “must see” if you have limited time. The main, and in my opinion only, attraction in El Escorial is the monastery and crypt of kings and queens. The valley of the fallen is about 8 miles away. The tomb of General Franco is there and there are some great views from the cross. It’s very somber because of the thousands of people interred there and because it was built with essentially slave labor. On a clear day, if driving from Madrid on the A-6 towards Zamora, the 500 foot high cross can be seen from at least 15 miles away.