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Madrid and surrounding areas

My wife and I are traveling to Madrid Oct 26-Nov 2. What is the best book to get? Also any tips for that season? What to do, etc... We are big foodies so any restaurant "must go" we will love to know. Also we will be there on our anniversary so any romantic restaurant would ne nice to know. We don't mind taking buses and trains when in other countries we do it all the time. This will be our first time in Spain, but definitely plan on doing it multiple times.

Posted by
4981 posts

I believe the Rick Steves Madrid book includes some side trips like Toledo, Avila, and Segovia, and that would be more than enough for the time you have.

For food, I loved Madrid and the towns mentioned. Certainly plan on hitting one or more of the Market Halls, big food courts really more than working market, a good place to try lots of things. Mercado de San Miquel near Plaza Mayor is the best known, touristy, but wonderful. Mercado de San Anton is a little further of the tourist path and worth a visit.

As for restaurants, I haunted the Tapas places. I could move from one to the other, try stuff...the pigs ears, the sweetbreads, razor clams, all types of seafood, and be full by 9 or 10 at night when the real restaurants are just opening. Ricks books hit the best ones.

There were a few great restaurants I have been to, I will try to find names for you.

As for other than Madrid, I really enjoyed the food in Segovia, Suckling Pig, large beans, soups, all really hearty and delicious. Probably worth an overnight just for the food. Toledo is also nice, more for the sights, but have had good meals there as well.

Posted by
3679 posts

I am not that much of a foodie, and with gluten issues, didn't do a lot of tapas feedings in Madrid, but the Mercado San Michel is fun. I was also going to mention the suckling pig in Segovia. It is a much higher altitude than Madrid, so perhaps you can be flexible when (if) you go. I planned Nov 10 but there were snow flurries. Nov 11 was beautiful and sunny though a little brisk. Started with gloves but not needed throughout the day. Toledo is also wonderful. Both would benefit from an overnight. They are both quick train rides away, but not from the same stations. There is a milk train run from Atocha station to Segovia. I did enjoy that and took it as I was staying in the area.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you both, I ordered the book. I usually use Ricks books anyway..... I appreciate the tips.

Posted by
2992 posts

Popular sights in the Madrid and its surrounding area are Toledo, Segovia, San Lorenzo del Escorial, Avila, Salamanca, and Cuenca. Some people visit the Valley of the Fallen if they visit El Escorial. Some popular sights in Madrid include, museums (e.g., Prado, Reina Sofia) Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Retiro Park, Alcala and Toledo gates, Royal Palace, Plaza de Espana, and the bull ring. There are others.

Posted by
360 posts

With Madrid, the main sites are well covered in the guide book and if you go to Toledo (we did it as a day trip), so you'll be able to figure out which ones are your priority. Probably a few extra tips -- if you go to the palace in Madrid, we also added on the kitchen tour, if seeing an old royal kitchen sounds interesting (if you watched Downton Abbey, it's like that, but probably 10x the size) and it's about 20-25 minutes long with security guards staying with the group the whole time. If you go to the Santo Tome in Toledo, it's really one gigantic room and the tour groups will clog it up in the morning, so it may be worth going later in the day, unless you see there's no line or it's moving quickly. We were stuck in the back of the room and couldn't get up front to really see it (imagine trying to elbow your way to the front row of a concert).

As for food, we are also foodies and we enjoyed Mr. Lupin's in Madrid, and it's really popular so get a reservation (we had entrecote and duck breast for our entrees). If you like good, casual Italian fare, Davanti was also great (even for lunch) -- we were at the end of a 2 1/2 week trip in Spain and needed more variety in our food options by this point (and love Italian food). The staff is really nice -- we went twice and all of them remember us. If you're into beer, there's a beer place across from Davanti that uses honey in their beer (I think "bee" is in the name). Near The Prado, we ate lunch a sidewalk cafe called The Spanish Farm that was also good (fresh, local ingredients -- we had burrata salad, iberico pork and hake). I find that we don't always agree with the food recommendations in the guide book, but will see what they call out as their true favorites, but we always cross-check the ratings on Trip Advisor. In Madrid, we enjoyed getting out in the nearby neighborhoods and it only takes about 6-7 euros in the taxi (we stayed near Retiro Park).

Posted by
1660 posts

Recommend La Sanabressa for a great 3 course lunch in Madrid. It full of locals and with a a lively atmosphere. Not too pricey and with good food. We ended up going there twice in 4 days.

Posted by
36 posts

Hi there. We spent 10 days in Madrid at the end of June. We are also foodies and had some great meals but the best by far was dinner at Restaurante Ordago. Roasted anchovies, amazing fish, amazing beef....still dreaming about it! Just a short walk from the Ventas Metro.

We went to Toledo on the high speed train, arriving in the early afternoon and staying the night as recommended by many on this site and in Rick's book. Wonderful! We also did an easy day trip to Segovia. I recommend both!

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks to all for your thoughts... One more question and I will let you be, since I am doing a lot of research. My anniversary is Oct 27th which I will be there, 35 years... Any romantic restaurant anyone can recommend?

Posted by
2992 posts

Pricey, but has a good reputation; Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas at the Plaza Mayor. Believe it is known for its cochinillo (suckling pig). I’ve never eaten there.

Posted by
17 posts

Has anyone taking a one day tour to Toledo.. I am looking at the tours and don't look like they give you enough time. I am thinking of just taking train there and taking my time and leaving when I want....... Any thoughts?

Posted by
2992 posts

To me, Toledo is one of those towns one should explore on their own, without being put on a schedule. It’s fun wandering the streets. Other possible day trips, Alcala de Henares, and if you like castles, Manzanares el Real.

Posted by
7 posts

Toledo Thoughts-
Hire Juan Jose in Toledo. He is a local and extremely knowledgeable and welcoming. He is recommended by Rick as he was his personal guide to Toledo.

Madrid Recommendations
Churros: Chocolat - Calle Santa Maria 30
La Duquesita, incredible croissants - Calle Fernando Sexto 2
Motteau, amazing American and French pastries and great coffee - Calle San Pedro 9
Brunch: Carmencita Bar - Calle San Vicente Ferrer 51

Taberna Elisa - Calle Santa Maria 42
La Taberna Errante - Carrera de San Francisco 8
El Economato - Calle Belen 5
La Sifonería - Calle de Martín de los Heros 27
Devour Madrid Tour

Lunch (menú del día, set lunch menu):
La Burlona - Calle de Santa Isabel 40
Casa Macareno - Calle San VIcente Ferrer 44

1862 Dry Bar - Calle Pez 27
Bar Angelita (lounge feel with an amazing wine bar upstairs)

Fun areas to explore:
Lavapiés near the Reina Sofia Modern Art Museum. An eclectic and fun area with great bars and galleries. Calle Argumosa and the galleries on Calle Doctor Furquet. If you have time, the Tabacalera is a massive industrial space that has been converted into one of Madrid’s most cutting edge art spaces. On the weekends, Mercado San Fernando is a food and drink paradise!! Really, try it!!!

La Latina/Rastro Flea Market Area (not just for Sundays when the flea market happens). Plenty of antiques around Plaza Vara del Rey and the shops are open every day. There are great bars to try on Calle Marques de Santa Ana including Museo de la Radio. Wander down Calle Ruda. There are fun wine bars on Calle Calatrava nearby, try Casa Gerardo, Taberna Calatrava, and Casa Dani. Be sure to stroll through Plaza de la Paja, a great square with tons of outdoor cafés and be sure wander down all the little side streets.

Barrio Salamanca is a beautiful area for shopping and ogling luxurious architecture and even better boutiques. Start at Mercado de la Paz (a spectacular local food market hall) with a piece of Spanish tortilla (Spain’s famous egg and potato omelet) then wander down Calle Ayala, Calle Claudio Coello, Calle Lagasca and up to Calle Velazquez.

Alonso Martinez/Chueca behind Gran Via (the main avenue) are great areas with tons of bars. Stroll down Calle Barquillo, Calle Almirante and Calle Pelayo. Frida is a nice little restaurant with a great terrace - Calle San Gregorio 8.

Posted by
14227 posts

With a week in Madrid, considered staying 1 or 2 nights in Toledo. To make it easier leave your luggage in Madrid and just take a small overnight bag. You won't be rushed and Toledo is worth it. Even as a day trip, you can do it easily on your own. Note that there are no early morning trains on the weekend. Buy your train tickets a couple days in advance - they can sell out.

In Madrid, one sight I don't see mentioned often is the Maritime Museum. I enjoyed it a lot - think Golden Age of Exploration. Take passports with you to get in. For a sampling of Spanish food, go to the San Miguel Market and graze for lunch or dinner. For a romantic dinner, note that dinner time in Spain is around 10 pm. Eating at 9 is early, eating at 11 is not out of the ordinary.

Posted by
17 posts

What would you recommend for my 35th Anniversary night? I see a lot of Michelin Star restaurants? Anyone recommend one?

Posted by
637 posts

Congratulations on your 35th wedding anniversary. For foodies, I would recommend DiverXO, a three Michelin Star restaurant. I copied a description to give you an idea of the experience. When I went to Madrid 2 years ago, tried to get reservations, but wasn't able to. Friends of mine went and said it was amazing (and they go to a lot of 3 stars).

Think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, one’s dreams and nightmares — this is the imaginative spirit chef David Muñoz brings to his three-Michelin-star restaurant located inside the Eurobuilding hotel. At DiverXO, Muñoz breaks the boundaries of avant-garde cooking, using intense flavors in two tasting menus that aim to surprise diners with dishes that imitate works of art both in their aesthetics and their taste. [$$$$]

In addition, when I travel, I always look at the Eater's Essential restaurants and there are some other options that might fit such a special occasion:

For a fun and very local experience near the Plaza Mayor is El Cogollo--delicious and very filling Gallicia food, must try the Octopus. It is a very small place so unless you want to eat very early, you will need reservations:

The other recommended experience for foodies is to take a tour from Devour: These are small tour led by local foodies. I learned so much about the tapas culture. Our guide, Joy, is the one who introduced us to El Cogollo.

Finally the food shopping list: El Cortez Engles is a department store with a gourmet food court and very reasonable prices on Spanish goods. My friend recommended that I save my shopping for there at the end of my trip so I didn't have to cart olive oil and sardines throughout Spain. The other recommendation is to buy some cookies from the cloistered nuns. Here is an article on how to find them: Around the corner from here is a real shop with delicious cookies and local jams/honey. These were some of my favorite souvenirs.

Have a great trip. If you have time, take a trip out to the wine country. We took the Wine Bus tour from Ignacio that had a winery tour, lunch stop at a local village, and tour of Segovia. It is a bit pricey, but for a full day with a generous and lovely host, we had one of the best experiences in our trip. For foodies, you get to try some wine and snack at a road stop restaurant on the way to the wine country. Then visit a winery in Ribera del Duero with an excellent tour (in Spanish, but Ignacio translated), then an amazing lunch and tour of an old wine cellar, and finally Segovia, ending the day on bluff overlooking Segovia and the castle, toasting the trip with a bottle of excellent Ribera del Deuro wine. You can see the video my husband took on the site.


Posted by
17 posts

Sandy you have great advice and I wanted to take my wife to DiverXO but its not open on my anniversary night. And wanted it to be on that night. Now I am looking at the 2 and 1 star Michelin restaurants. But you have other links and ideas that sound great as well. I appreciate how everyone takes the time on this forum...