Experience Madrid with our Travel Advisor Heidi Nanigian and see some of the beauty this Spain destination has to offer.
In October of 2015, I was given an opportunity to experience Madrid with Virtuoso’s Made For Spain tour operator. My flight from LAX had a stopover in Atlanta. I arrived the following morning into Madrid. I took a shuttle to the gorgeous Hotel Ritz. I was greeted immediately as I entered and was in awe of the gorgeous decor of the lobby. The hotel was built in 1910 and it felt like such a privilege to be able to stay here. There was a beautiful staircase to take me up to my room. There are no two rooms alike. My room was the size of a suite or a studio with vintage decor. The bathroom was very modern. There was a hallway to the bedroom and two steps to take you up to the bed.
After freshening up, I met up with the other travel agents for a guided tour to experience Madrid. We made a few stops and saw the beautiful Grand Via. October is a perfect time to travel here with clear skies. We saw where people live, parks, shops etc. We made our way to the Prado Museum. As someone who is not an art guru, I would say this was one of the highlights in Madrid for me. The grounds are absolutely beautiful with a gorgeous Church across the way. Had it not been for my wonderful guide with Made For Spain I know I would have been in and out of there in about a half hour, not really knowing what I saw. I learned about Diego Velazquez and how he often put himself in his own paintings. He also used a technique called Chiaroscuro which gave the paintings volume. Once it was pointed out to me I could see the shadows outlining his artwork. She also gave us the back story and gossip of the artists and how you could see some of it in the paintings of the artists. I highly suggest getting a private guide to get a deeper explanation of everything. I got so much more out of the experience. That evening we were given a private tour of all of the different rooms at The Ritz. It is such an iconic hotel with so much history. The bar reminded me of a scene in a 1940s movie. We were given a 4 course private Welcome dinner. It was a great way to end my first night in Spain.
On Day 2, we had a private guided city tour of Madrid. We saw the Grand Via, stopped at Plaza Mayor, Temple de Debod, The Palace, tasted churros and chocolate and learned the story of the fable Raton Perez. We ended our tour at the Intercontinental Madrid. We were given a private tour of all the rooms. We were also taken into the kitchen to meet the chef and watch him create paella. We were seated in the dining room and he brought it out to us in a huge pan. It was delicious! After lunch we went downtown to do some local shopping. That evening we were given a private tour at the Westin Palace and enjoyed another amazing dinner.
On Day 3 I tried the complimentary breakfast at The Ritz. You can have it made to order or choose something from the buffet. From there we walked to El Rastro or what we would call a flea market in the U.S. It is open every Sunday morning. There are aisles and aisles of vendors selling everything such as clothing, purses, shoes, belts, artwork, ceramics, jewelry, and kitchenware. It was great to see where the locals shop and spend time on the weekends. On our way back to our hotel we decided to stop in at The Rincon Brewery and have a tasty Madrid beer. We were then picked up from our hotel and taken to the apartment of Pilar LaTorre. She was giving us a private afternoon cooking lesson. We took an elevator up to the 2nd floor. What they called an apartment is bigger than the home I grew up in southern California, except they don’t have backyards. Pilar is also a photographer, so she has her home decorated with her own photography with people not posed but in their natural state. We were of course given wine to get our cooking lesson started. I learned early on during my trip to Spain that wine is a must no matter what time of day it is and it is always flowing. As someone who doesn’t cook much at home, it was fun to see the people in my class that do cook and learn some tricks from Pilar such as an easier way to peel tomatoes by putting them in warm water. The skin literally falls right off. We made appetizers, a steak, cold soup and dessert. It was a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in the culture. If you have the time I would definitely book a cooking class. It can be booked through Made for Spain. After our lesson, we had some free time to sightsee. We walked over to Retiro Park which was close to our hotel. It is a gorgeous green park. It happened to be raining which as a Californian is something I haven’t seen much of the last few years. It rained just enough to make it seem like fall with orange and red leaves, but it wasn’t cold at all. Our final dinner in Madrid was at The Hotel Villa Magna. I would say next to the The Ritz this was my second favorite hotel out of the ones we toured and dined at. It has a classic yet very modern feel. The rooms were spacious, in a great location and the hotel has lots of extra amenities when booked through Virtuoso travel agencies. This was one of my favorite meals that I had in Madrid as well. They had one side of the building lit up in pink for breast cancer awareness month. Madrid was a great city to visit. I would say 2-3 nights is the perfect amount of time to experience Madrid, depending on the time of year you are visiting. If you are here during summer and can take in Madrid or a flamenco show or do a tapas tour you may want extra time here.