Our second day in Madrid began with a tour of the Prado Museum, the national museum of Spain. This sprawling museum holds masterpieces from Rembrandt to Caravaggio to Matisse. We hired a private tour guide (shout out to to Drica for being an awesome guide!) using the website With Locals. I highly recommend going this route. Not only was Drica incredibly knowledgeable about the paintings we were seeing, but she was able to guide us through the museum quickly and efficiently (she was even able to get us to the front of the security line). Although our tour was focused on the highlights of the museum, one could have a more customized tour.
After the museum, we headed to El Retiro Park, essentially the Central Park of Madrid. With over 125 hectares of green space, this park is truly an urban oasis.
The large (albeit artificial) lake in the center of the park is a popular spot for boating and photographs.
The elegant Crystal Palace is not just a great spot to swan watch, it is also a museum exhibit hall. Unfortunately, they were in the process of setting up a new installation, so we were not able to go in. Another point of interest in the park is the Fallen Angel Statue.
After all that walking, it was very much time for a lunch/tapas break. Near the park and our hotel was the lovely Tinto Y Tapas. I got a very rich and delicious cheesy open faced sandwich.
Later that afternoon was our scheduled ticket for entry into the Royal Palace of Madrid. With slightly over three thousand rooms, the palace is quite the spectacle. Many afternoons they have a free entry that you can line up for, but you can also buy skip the line timed tickets, too.
Inside the palace are grand staterooms, beautiful furniture, statues, ceiling frescos and more. You can also pay extra to tour the armory and kitchen, but we skipped those. There was plenty to see even with just the normal visit.
After a quick afternoon siesta, we ventured back out on the town. We found a rooftop bar near the Gran Via area to grab a drink and watch the sunset before our dinner reservations. Many of the hotels have rooftop bars with stunning views. Some even have pools that are open in the warmer months. Even in early October, the temperatures were starting to drop at night.
For dinner, we made reservations at El Senador. We did eat on the earlier side (at 8PM!) so a reservation wasn’t really necessary, but it was easy enough to make one online. We went here with one goal in mind…to try Cochinillo, aka Spanish suckling pig. Although this dish originates in Segovia, Madrid as the capital city has a thriving food scene that is very much representative of the nation as a whole. If you can’t make it to Segovia, don’t be afraid to try it in Madrid.
Like most of our meals in Spain, we started out with croquetes. But the star of the meal was the meat. The skin was crispy and the pork very tender and juicy. It was my first time trying suckling pig, and where better to do so? The meal ended with a free chocolatey liquor shot, a great ending to a day exploring the highlights of Madrid.