I recently visited Madrid solo for the first time and was surprised at how clean, compact and upmarket the city is! It is very easy to navigate your way around on foot, by bus or using the Metro. This blog post will give you recommendations of things to do, where to stay and where to eat if you are in Madrid solo.
Day 1 in Madrid Solo
Hotel Melia Madrid Serrano
I emailed the well located and stunning Hotel Melia Madrid Serrano, a couple of days before my arrival to arrange a taxi transfer from the airport to the hotel. A prompt reply confirmed they could do that at a cost of Euros 40 to be paid cash directly to the driver.
Norwegian Air – London Gatwick to Madrid
I flew from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air. It was a pleasant flight with only a few negative aspects, considering it cost less than £40 one way. On arrival, my driver, Jose, was there with my name card to greet me. The drive to the hotel took around 20 minutes. He was extremely friendly and spoke very good English. I was hungry for information about Madrid, so picked his brain about where the locals go, good things to see etc.
Arrival at the hotel – upgrade
I arrived at the hotel at around 10am. I could not access my room until 3pm so expected to leave my luggage in storage for a while. However, the receptionist explained that they had some rooms available on their exclusive level 7. These rooms were of a higher standard and included many extras such as…
- flexible check in and check out
- private terrace for guests staying at the Level
- unlimited tapas and drinks (soft, hot and alcoholic beverages) between 7am-11pm
An upgrade was available for an extra 40 Euros per night. I did it. I was able to have access my luxurious room straight away. I later discovered that this level seemed popular with business travellers too, so there were several solo travellers on our exclusive terrace dining and drinking of an evening and at breakfast.
Reception provided me with a comprehensive map and told me to be aware of pickpockets in the downtown Madrid area.
I needed to cross the busy road to head to the Metro and after checking all around, I realised that the crossings do not have a button to press as you do in the UK. You just have to wait for the green man, you can’t hurry him along! I was surprised while walking at the contrast in roads, some are like tiny narrow lanes and others are like motorways!
The Metro was a challenge to begin with. There were no members of staff in the station so I had to purchase my ticket using one of the machines. I watched others do it and it seemed easy. But my turn was not so straightforward. I took forever to get nowhere! Aware of the queue forming behind me, I stopped and went to the back of the queue, watching the others to see what I was doing wrong. Then, I noticed they were inserting a red card into one of the slots. I realised I needed to purchase one of these travel permits first and then add journneys to my card! Eventually I was able to pay for my ticket! Easy when you know how!
The Metro was very easy to use, the lines are numbered and colour coded. Some of the trains had charging sockets and the carriages were air conditioned making it a very comfortable way to travel, certainly compared to London underground! Doors were not automatic though which surprised me, you have to manually open them when you stop at a station.
Sobrino de Botin
My first activity was to dine in the world’s oldest restaurant. I booked my table a few weeks in advance at Sobrino de Botin. I got a little lost finding my way to it from the underground station as it became a maze of narrow lanes and passageways. But, with my limited Spanish language and the help of a lovely lady, I was escorted to the restaurant by her.
After spending a couple of hours in this amazing restaurant drinking chilled wine and dining on manchego cheese and the exquisite speciality dish of roast suckling pig, I explored the local area.
The lanes were interesting and beautiful to wander through. The architecture was stunning with leaning facades…
There were souvenir shops, clothes shops, tavernas and tapas bars, cafes and more… I couldn’t resist popping into Turron y Chocolate to taste some of their free samples of creme brulée nougat!
I then took an hour long leisurely walk back to the hotel rather than use the Metro. This was a very straightforward walk passing more interesting architecture along the way.
Having been awake since 2:30am, I decided to have a light tapas dish at Sugar Cane, a local restaurant a short walk from my hotel.
I ended the evening with drinks back at my hotel, while watching a glorious sunset from the terrace.
Day 2 in Madrid solo
I wanted to see some more of Madrid’s finest architecture so, from my hotel proceeded to walk along Calle Claudio Coella, diverting at one point to have a wander around Spain’s famous department store, El Corte Ingles. I arrived at Calle de Alcala. It was here I saw Puerta Alcala, a monumental gate that used to be the main entrance into the city….
… and Fuente de La Cibeles, a monumental fountain with a sculpture of the goddess Cibeles.
I followed this road until I came to Puerta del Sol with a 4m high bronze monument of a Bear and Strawberry Tree monument which represents the coat of arms of Madrid.
I continued until it became Calle Mayor and by this time I had worked up an appetite for one of Plaza Mayor’s famous bocadillo de calamares. En Copa de Balon, a restaurant with outdoor terrace overlooking the square, is highly recommended for this delicious dish of squid rings in a crusty baguette.
After I had replenished my energy, I continued walking until I found the Royal Palace and the Crypta Catedral de La Almudena. The crypt is beautiful and free to enter, it is well worth a visit!
After walking around in 34 degrees of heat, a siesta was needed at the hotel before setting off for round 2. I was very much looking forward to my evening plans..
I had read that Radio, a rooftop bar overlooking Plaza Santa Ana was great for drinks and taking in far reaching views of the city. This was a relaxed place to visit alone early evening. The lift takes you up to the 7th floor and the seating areas are lush and inviting. Alternatively, the seats at the bar area were good if you were alone because you could watch the cocktails being made while you relax.
A small glass of wine will set you back 6 Euros, the most expensive I had while in Madrid but it was a good wine. The bartender filled the glass with ice for a while before pouring it, so my drink was very chilled and it was served with complimentary jelly sweets.
I then set off to Cardamomo, a Flamenco show, just a few minutes walk away. I had purchased a ticket a couple of weeks in advance. This was a fantastic way to enjoy Spanish culture in an intimate setting and I thoroughly enjoyed the hour long experience.
Day 3 in Madrid Solo
On my last morning I decided to hunt down churros with hot chocolate. Chocolateria San Gines is located close to Plaza Mayor. It has thrived for over 100 years and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! The churros were delicious, crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, served with a cup of rich, dark hot chocolate sauce to dip them in!
The last thing on my list to go to was one of the recommended food markets. Mercado San Miguel is a gastro food market close to Plaza Mayor and sells all sorts of delicious food from tapas size dishes to more generous portions. Prices start from just Euro 1.
I returned to the airport by Metro rather than car and this is definitely a more cost effective way of travelling if you are in Madrid solo, costing less than 5 Euros. Just make sure you check which terminal your flight is from as there are 2 Metro stops, one which services terminal 4 flights and the other is for terminals 1, 2 and 3!
Madrid is a compact, clean, upmarket city and 3 days was the perfect amount of time to achieve everything I wanted to do. More time may be necessary if you plan on visiting museums or going to a football game at one of the stadiums. But whatever you decide to do on your visit, it is a great city for solo travel.
Suggested Further Reading:
Solo Travel Destinations – other places I recommend for solo travel