El Parque del Buen Retiro

It was starting to get a little embarrassing, living in Spain and never visiting the capital city. When I first moved here, my husband and I would take every opportunity to travel to other countries. I wanted to visit Madrid, but with limited holiday time, it always seemed to get bumped for something else.

Royal Botanical Gardens

However, during the tale end of the pandemic, we finally made the journey, and we had one of our best family trips ever. Partially because of Madrid and all it has to offer but also because our son was very well-behaved. We booked an Airbnb for 4 nights and took a train from Barcelona.

It was a high-speed train and inspired us to take more train trips in the future. Although flights are cheap, we spend over 100 euros on taxis just to get to and from the airport.

Royal Botanical Gardens

As always we travel to eat, so we decided to stay in a part of town that was safe and near many vegan restaurants. We were a short walk to shopping and the Puerta del Sol. Right up the street from a local train station and many grocery stores and shops.

Lots of Bonsai trees at the Royal Botanical Gardens
Just a father and son going for a stroll – Royal Botanical Gardens
Madrid Rio

I have to say that whoever planned and continues to plan Madrid has done an excellent job of ensuring many parks and gardens. I don’t think I have ever visited a city that had so many green spaces. unfortunately, developers often trade parks and gardens for over building, densely populated areas that quickly become depressing.

Museo Nacional del Prado

This museum is a must visit with some of the most striking paintings I have ever seen. Of course, most art lovers bee line for the Francisco de Goya’s and the Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch. The latter being one of the most beautiful and detailed paintings. It’s quite common for visitors to spend at least 10 minutes in front of this painting and maybe taking a second look on their way out.

Some museums and galleries allow patrons to take photos as long as they don’t use a flash. Sadly, this is not the case with the Prado. I asked and was told that I could enjoy the photos of the paintings online which is hardly the same experience. I understand that the museum may have its zero photo policy for a reason but I don’t think it makes sense.

Why? well, most of the visitors to these museums are not art lovers and don’t know anything about who, how, why or the significance of any work of art.

They are paying their admission fee for their personal experience. To say, I saw that work of art. I was there, and this is what I remember of that day.

From the art to where they ate lunch, to some funny anecdote or deep thoughts, the experience is not for the gallery or the curators or the staff, it’s for the patron.

In turn, for allowing people to create their travel memories, the museum gets paid, and the art can be kept safe or restored and be available for the true art lovers and future generations. Not to mention the number of businesses and services nearby that rely on visitors’ curiousity to these museums for their own livelihood.

ZigZag Kids C. de Barbieri, 26, 28004 Madrid

We visited this shop a couple of times as our little boy was crazy about the toy cars. The owner is friendly and offers a variety of children’s items from books, puzzles, toys to backpacks and beach items. If you’re looking for a nice gift for the littles in your life – this is the place!

Although we ate at many vegan spots, I’ve only added two here, Avocado Love and Pizzi & Dixie. The food, service and ambience were great in both places and I would eat there again. Overall, we enjoyed our vegan dining experiences in Madrid and found the prices to be reasonable.

However, much like other cities there seems to be an influx of vegan burger joints and fast food. I think vegan burgers are great but I would prefer to recommend places that are more creative and innovative.

Avocado Love  MarquΓ©s de Santa Ana 34, Madrid, Spain

Avocado Love has found creative and delicious ways to re-imagine the avocado from main courses to dessert. The service is friendly and the ambience is very trendy with high ceilings, fern wallpaper, and wicker furniture and finishings. Although this restaurant is not big, it would be a nice place for a business lunch of long meal with friends.

Pizzi & Dixie Calle San Vicente Ferrer 16, Madrid, Spain

I’m obsessed with this restaurant and often reminisce about our delicious vegan pizzas. The crusts were big and fluffy and the toppings were vast and tasty. I had the Mortadello with pesto which is not easy to come by in a vegan version. I believe my husband had the Dixie which had loads of arugula on top. Again, excellent food, service and decor.

So this is my experience of Madrid in a nutshell. We did a lot of walking and managed to see the Royal Palace, Puerta del Sol, and walk through Madrid’s many unique neighborhoods.

I would definitely recommend a visit to this city and I’m sure it’s a wonderful place to live -especially for English speaking expats.

Be warned, if you want to learn Spanish, Madrid might not be the best place. I heard so many people speaking English on the streets as well as the shop and restaurant staff.

Otherwise, Enjoy this wonderful city!

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