Hi Forum friends, My wife, myself and my daughter will be staying at the Hotel Moderno, which is at the Puerto Del Sol, for four nights in Mid January. Looking to get some insight into folk's favorite restaurants in the area, sights, etc. Also, how will the tourist level be at this time in Madrid? Will it be necessary to get tickets ahead of time for key attractions? Will do a lot of walking and are considering a day trip to Toledo. A past focus on our trips is usually Museums and food. Thank you all in advance for your comments and suggestions.
I stayed at the Moderno a few weeks ago and liked it. The breakfast is good but overpriced. The front desk people were helpful, the room clean and well kept though (typically) small.
Here are our host's recommendations on what to see in Madrid. Choose based on your interests. January will probably be the least busy time of year for tourism, so crowds shouldn't be a problem. I think the only major attraction where an advance-purchase ticket might be needed is the Prado. Fortunately, you can buy one online, and the commitment is to a specific date but not a specific time.
Most of the major sights are walkable one direction or another from Puerta del Sol, but the Metro system is very good and a ten-ride pass makes it cheap too. You can walk till your feet give out, then get on a subway back (though you might have to do some walking and stairs in the stations).
I'm not a foodie, just an eater by necessity, but I'd recommend two places close to Sol: (1) The Gourmet Experience, a kind of food court on the top floor of El Corte Ingles department store, and (2), Los Artesanos 1902, a churros-and-chocolate place on Calle San Martin, the second right westbound from the street your hotel is on. Tapas at the Mercado San Miguel are also very good. You have many choices.
A day trip to Toledo should be easy by train. Toledo is often called "magical" at night when crowds have left, and people recommend spending a night there (as I did). But the crowds may not be an issue in January, and nighttime strolling might be less appealing in the cold weather. Madrid and Toledo are high elevation, be prepared for cold days and colder nights.
You are staying in a great, walkable area. Crowds should not be a problem this time of year. If you really like museums, and if it's still available, inquire about the ticket that allows entry to the Prado, Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen. It used to be possible to purchase this at the Prado (or whichever museum you visit first). They are all relatively close to your hotel. Another museum really worth visiting is the Museo-Arqueologico. Their objects, ranging from Roman mosaics to Islamic ivory carvings, and more, tell the multi-cultural history of the Iberian peninsula. On the same theme, I highly recommend visiting Toledo (maybe even staying the night). The high speed train (reserve in advance) takes only about 35 minutes from Atocha station to Toledo. There are many sites in Toledo - former mosques and synagogues, the Cathedral, El Greco-related sites, and more, all in a walled city with winding streets and great views.
The food in Madrid is great. I find that tapas are fun for the evening meal and the daily "menu" for the main meal around 1:30-2:30. Just walk a bit away from the popular tourist attractions and have a look around. Some of the side streets around your hotel have lots of restaurants. Take a walk around the Plaza Mayor and the Retiro Park. I personally don't care for the Royal Palace but others may have a different view.
We stayed in Puerta Del Sol several years ago and would recommend a restaurant in the Huertas neighborhood called La Sanabresa. It’s an easy 10 minute walk. Great menu, delicious food and reasonable. We ate there a couple times. We arrived when they opened and shortly after the place was packed. I am not familiar with tourism in January. We were there in September.
Some of our favorite sites were the Royal Palace, Museo Del Prado, & Museo Reina Sofia,
Retiro Park, Mercado Sam Miguel, Plaza Mayor.
We took the train to Toledo for the day. Lovely walled city known for historic monuments & former home of El Greco. Highly recommend.
We took a free 2.5 hour walking tour in Madrid with Ogo Tours the day after arrival. It starts at Puerta Del Sol at 10:45. The guides are knowledgeable and engaging. www.ogotours.com
We also enjoyed eating at El Corte Ingles. The view was lovely as well.
Most popular sites include the museums (Prado, Reina Sofia, Naval, etc.), Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Retiro Park, Gran Via, Royal Palace. Lesser sites that are popular include Plaza de Cibeles, Alcala Gate, Fuente de Neptuno, Plaza de Espana, temple of Debod, Cathedral De Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena. Other sites, Puerta de Toledo, Puente de Toledo, Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida (if you’re a Francisco Goya fan), Lucky frog statue. Mercado San Miguel is popular for tapas. Another nearby Mercado not as busy as San Miguel is Mercado San Anton. A smaller and less noisy plaza that would be nice for outdoor dining is Plaza de Chueca. I’m sure I missed some places.
Your hotel is quite centrally located, so it's close to a number of points of interest, most have been listed above by my fellow contributors, but I'll add a few I think have not been mentioned:
Chocolatería San Ginés: a 100+ year old Madrid institution serving up authentic Spanish style Hot Chocolate and Churros. Perfect on a cold January day, conveniently open 24 hrs!
Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales: a royal monastery in the heart of Madrid, houses a number of art works of Renascence masters "in situ". Pre-purchase tickets from Patrimonio Nacional.
Royal Armoury of Madrid: an annex to the Royal Palace (well worth a visit too!). Houses all kinds of arms, armour, priceless artworks, and even rare musical instruments of the Kings of Spain.
For good information on food in Spain, especially Madrid, check out James Blick on YouTube or Instagram. He leads food tours, but his YouTube videos were really useful for me as he does virtual food tours and talks about Spanish culture with his wife (who is Spanish). All in English, good information, and his restaurant guidance hasn't led me to a single dud yet!
Carlos, thanks for uncovering the pre-booking website for the Monastery. I don't see anything there about tour language. Do you? Have they perhaps switched to audio guides available in multiple languages? The language issue was a major hang-up for me in 2016, because there wasn't an English tour offered every day, and you couldn't find out when one would be offered even one day ahead of time.
@Acraven it does not look like there is any updated information about English language tours for Las Descalzas Reales Monastery, I checked the website in the original Spanish. I do know there are guided tours in Spanish, so it was not a problem for me. However one may want to reach out to a private 3rd party Madrid guide that can include this stop, it's a pretty historical place.
Thanks. I'm pig-headed and generally not willing to pay an outside tour company to get access to a tour conducted by the facility (which I'm sure was the case in 2016, because they were selling left-over slots for the English tours). It was just impossible to find out when those tours would take place before 10 AM on the day of the tour. I figure the next time I go to Madrid I'll try to stay in that area so it's not so much of a problem to pop over every day at 9:45 AM.
My first visit to Madrid was in mid-February about 5 years ago. There was a short line for tickets at the palace, no line at the Thyssen or the Prado, but a short security line at the Prado.
The San Miguel market is great for grazing, lunch or dinner. It's pretty crowded at lunchtime. Dinners in Spain are really late (9.30 is early :-) so you may want to find tapas places for dinner and enjoy full meals at lunchtime (though that cuts into sight-seeing time).
If you love European art, plan to spend a lot of time at the Prado, and a few hours at the Thyssen, a little less time at the Reina Sofia. Try to narrow down what you want to see at the Prado and map it out in advance. The place is huge and it's easy to get side-tracked. I thought the audio guide was worthwhile. I enjoyed the Naval Museum (think Columbus, Cortes, Balboa) and be sure to have your passports with you.
We stayed at the wonderful Hotel Moderno right on Plaza del Sol for three nights this past November and thoroughly enjoyed it. The location couldn’t have been more convenient, with many sights within easy walking distance, lots of restaurants and shops in the area (including the huge Corte de Ingles department store next door), an entrance to the Sol Metro within a minute of the hotel entrance, and two other Metro stations nearby. Plaza del Sol is the heart of Madrid and it was always filled with people out enjoying themselves. There were a couple of demonstrations while we were there but they were peaceful and the police kept watch but never needed to intervene. We always felt safe in the hotel and walking around this part of Madrid as well as the city as a whole.
The room (205) was a good size by European standards, the bed and pillows were comfortable, and there were two night stands, a desk and chair, a sitting chair, and a spacious closet with a safe. The bathroom had a large-for-Europe shower stall with both rain shower and hand-held shower heads, sink, toilet and bidet, good towels, and very nice toiletries. We had large windows and a small balcony that overlooked a side street off of Plaza del Sol. There were heavy wooden shutters and they kept the room very quiet. While the common area at the entrance of the hotel was small, there was a large lounge area upstairs as well as a dining room with an excellent array of breakfast foods and drinks for 13 Euros per person. There was an elevator that could hold 4 people. Staff was knowledgeable and helpful. The charge for the room was extremely reasonable, especially given its location and the quality of the accommodation. We would gladly stay here again.
There are lots of restaurants nearby. For a quick lunch at Puerta del Sol, we had a great sandwich, fries, and drink at Pans. Don't miss churros and chocolate at Chocoleteria San Gines nearby. We had them in two other cities and they were a huge disappointment but these were what we expected. We had a great meal at El Sur - excellent food, service, a free tapas and after dinner drink, and very reasonably priced. After touring the Prado and Sofia Reina, we had late afternoon tapas at Cerverceria Cervantes, where the wild mushroom topped toast was delicious.
We only had a day and a half for Madrid as we made a day trip to Toledo and wish we'd had longer as it was a beautiful city - very walkable and with a great Metro system. The day we arrived (a Sunday) we went to the Reina Sofia (free for over 65 and on Sunday) to see the Guernica and a few other works, and then toured the Prado. Puerta del Sol was so much fun that night as people streamed in from the side streets and people dressed in character costumes filled the square. We browsed through Corte Ingles and went to the Supermercado in the basement to pick up some snacks.
The second day there we had an early admission to the Royal Palace, which was beautiful. Be sure to tour the armory, too. We had hoped to walk to the Temple of Debod but there was a lot of construction and we weren't able to follow Google Maps to get there. We walked from Plaza de Espana down the gorgeous Gran Via to the Fountain of Cibeles and the Puerta de Alcala, and then to Retiro Park, which was resplendent in fall color. From there we took the Metro from Estacion del Artes to Puerta del Sol.
Although I typically book everything in advance, I just booked the ones in Madrid when we arrived and showed the SQ code on my phone to get in. There were long lines for those with no booking, so I do recommend booking ahead online. Be aware of museum closure days and free admission days and times. I wish we'd had more time in Madrid as it was more than we expected and was the least expensive city that we visited in Spain. I hope you enjoy your stay as much as we did!
I really liked the Museo Sorolla, which is Joaquin Sorolla's house. The outside has an Andalusian-style patio, and inside are lots of his works. I went on a free day in September and it wasn't too crowded, so I assume that on other days and in January it will be empty.
For food, if you like squid, be sure to have a squid sandwich. I went to Rick's recommended Casa Rua just off the Plaza Major, which was cheap and delicious. I was the only tourist in the line of locals waiting for sandwiches.
I have been in Madrid for work before in February and it was not terribly crowded at the time for museum hopping. My most recent trip was in October a few years ago and this is where the food recommendations come from.
For a fun and very local experience just a short walk from Puerto del sol is El Cogollo--delicious and very filling Gallicia food, must try the Octopus. The menu is in Spanish. It is a very small place so unless you want to eat very early, you will need reservations: https://www.facebook.com/elcogollo2013/.
The other recommended experience for foodies is to take a tour from Devour: https://madridfoodtour.com/. 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.
Other posters shared their recommendations on El Corte Ingle’s fantastic gourmet food court. This is also the place where I got many of my food souvenirs to bring home.
Enjoy your trip.
Second the Devour Tour. We took the Las Letras/Huerta neighborhood tour.
Valor for hot chocolate. There are several stores. You can find the locations on their website.
Bar La Campana for fried calamari sandwich, off the SE corner of Plaza Mayor.
Sanxenxo for Galician seafood.
Casa Carola for traditional cocido madrileño. This is in the Salamanca neighborhood. Subway stop nearby. Not touristy. We were the only English speakers. English menu available. Friendly staff speaks English. 29 euro/adult (2018 price) all you can eat plus two drinks and dessert.
Mistura ice cream. Find their locations on their website.
La Tasqueria, if you like offal. Had the best ever tripe.
Not to be missed, Casa Mira, bakery est. 1842. Calle de San Jerónimo, #30 within walking distance from Puerto Del Sol. You will probably walk by it on your way to the Prado.
Also on this street is Cebo, a one Michelin star restaurant. We had lunch there after our Prado visit (within walking distance). Lunch tasting menu without drinks was 80 euros/person, which we felt was very reasonable given the high level of service and quality of food.
Thank you all for your recommendations! So many great tips and so little time! Will be hitting a majority of these, thanks again