Once upon a time in 2019 it was a game to see which Scott’sCheapFlights emails were the most tempting. It was an avenue to book great spontaneous trips. Mohit saw an unbelievable deal from Atlanta to Madrid for $247 per person on basic economy. Then he suggested why don’t I travel with my mom on a quick mother daughter trip wed-wed. I called my mom and told her she had 3 minutes to decide if she wanted to go to Spain. We ended up with a 6 hr layover coming back because I couldn’t book the ticket in 1 minute, still worth it to me! It was a random week and time, perfect for her work schedule and suddenly we had tickets to Madrid for Oct 16-23. Read on to find out why it is worth your time to spend 6 nights in Madrid.

This is not the usual blog post style you’ll see. I want to present you with a condensed and highlighted version of our Madrid trip with our favorite memories. I’ll list attractions that are not on the top of everyone’s lists. This way, after you’ve scoured the internet you can view this post and get random inspiration. Follow along if you are a food lover who likes to explore the nooks and crannies.

Basics:

  • 7 day trip with 2 travel days
  • Base Madrid with 2 day trips
  • Public transportation only
  • SIM card purchased at airport for 25 euros
  • Backpack and carry on only for luggage
  • Style of Travel: budget accomodation but moderate spender for food and activities. $150/day for 2 people, all costs including flight!

Highlights of Our Trip

1 – Madrid

Two Thoughts:

  • Often overlooked as a destination to spend 6 nights in compared to other “top” European capitals, Madrid is definitely worth it for the art, food, and day trips
  • October is a great off season time to get to know Madrid slowly

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Cacao: Venezuelan restaurant with a few Spanish twists, had our first gambas here!
  • Astor Gastro Place: upscale but not budget breaking internationally influenced cuisine
  • Taberna La Concha: famous for vermouth, we came here twice for their beef in curry sauce (no it did not taste like curry but it was delectable)
  • Tinto y Tapas Bar: casual, very budget friendly for drinks and food, and filled with creative toast options
  • Sukaldea Atotxa: get a taste of Basque country at this casual and fun pintxos place near Atocha station

Favorite Attractions:

  • Calle de la Cava Baja: La Latina is a wonderful neighborhood to stroll and eat tapas right next to busy tourist areas
  • Tabacalera Modern Museum: you already know the famous museums but check out this old converted cigar factory for unusual modern art and graffiti
  • Sorolla Museum: an artist’s house converted to a museum with his vibrant works and a must visit if you like small museums, free on Sundays!
  • Archaeology Museum: a world class museum for 3 euros, 2000 year old artifacts, and not filled with people

Housing Tip: this Airbnb is a great budget option located next to public transportation if you can stand to stay 15 minutes away from the action

Mom and I
Outside courtyard at Royal Palce Madrid
No photos allowed inside at Royal Palace of Madrid

2 – Segovia Day Trip

Two Thoughts:

  • Day trips can feel rushed but this an excellent tiny city to visit for the day to see a unique castle and piece of roman history
  • Go on a weekday if you can and awe at one of the most well preserved Roman aqueducts  which is nearly 2000 years old and feels transplanted from the past

Favorite Restaurants:

  • We slept in and arrived later in Segovia, so we did not have time to experience a gem of a restaurant; use google 🙂

Favorite Attractions:

  • Alcazar de Segovia: a small renovated dreamlike castle on a hill with humble origins from the 1100s from the times of the Berbers
  • Roman Aqueduct: your jaw will drop as you get off a bus at the city center
  • The ~1 mile walk from the aqueduct to the castle is also an activity itself: there are old churches, squares, alleys, and of course food souvenir shopping
Aqueduct viewpoint
It was a chilly sunny day in October
Alcazar de Segovia viewpoint
I loved Alcazar de Segovia
Segovia architecture
Bird shot

3 – Toledo

Two Thoughts:

  • Way larger than Segovia and frequented by tourists, I recommend you visit this charming city for 2 days instead of a day trip because there was much we missed!
  • Perched on a hill, a lot of little streets, an old capital of Spain, think of Toledo as a mini Grenada substitute

Favorite Restaurants:

  • Meson La Orza: save your budget for this “Michelin recommended” restaurant for lunch, the artichokes and roe were life changing

Favorite Attractions:

  • Mosque of Cristo de la Luz: perfect for museum fatigue, very tiny and the view from the garden is worth it
  • Museo de Santa Cruz: checked out a Greco painting (not into it) but loved the exit garden Moorish castle vibes
  • Toy Train Ride: we wanted to see all the views and this was a cheesy fun option, try to get a seat on the right side
Toldeo viewpoint
The toy train ride was worth it!
Museum courtyard at Museo de Santa Cruz
Reminds me of Grenada
Food at Meson La Orza
Those dreamy artichokes

Lessons Learned

  1. If you’re backpacking or have minimal luggage then take the Airport Express bus 203 for 5 euros and the bus stops at the main Atocha station
  2. Renfe high speed trains to Toledo and Segovia were convenient and buying tickets online was easy
  3. Remember to account for travel time from your Madrid housing to train station(Chamartin or Atocha) to catch the Renfe, and bus into the cities from Toledo/Segovia train arrival stations if you’re doing a cheaper travel style
  4. During the weekend in Segovia, bus 45 from the train station runs less frequently, so don’t cause panic to your mom by scrambling to make that bus 
  5. The metro network in Madrid is way easier to navigate than Paris, London, or Tokyo metros 🙂 buy your multi card with 10 trips and explore away
  6. If a Spanish restaurant is full, rather than telling you how long the wait is, the restaurant will turn you away
  7. “Agua del grifo” is how you ask for tap water at restaurants 
  8. Go to tapas bars at odd times to eat like 6:30 pm if you want to enjoy a peaceful uncrowded meal
  9. Mercado de San Miguel is just too crowded and pricier, just take a walk through it when it opens and go to Mercado Anton Martin instead
  10. Cheese is so high quality and budget friendly at corner super markets
  11. Do not line up on a empty stomach for free entry into Reina de Sofia Sunday 1:30 pm – 7:00 pm
  12. Madrid did have a lot of great free activities

Suggested Itineraries

One Week in Madrid

  • Day 1 – Madrid
  • Day 2 – Madrid
  • Day 3 – Toledo
  • Day 4 – Toledo
  • Day 5 – Madrid
  • Day 6 – Segovia Day Trip
  • Day 7 – Madrid

Favorite TTM Cards for Trip

  1. Do an almost splurge meal: whatever splurge means to you!
    I wanted my mom to experience one fancy schmancy meal on our trip. The kind I always chase on trips with Mohit. I picked Meson La Orza in Toledo. I got us lost right near the restaurant and made us climb extra stairs which were not appreciated. We devoured that meal so happily afterwards.
  2. Wear your most comfortable shoes today
    The only shoes allowed were sneakers on this trip for the 6 miles we would walk a day. One night our sneakers got completely soaked when we got caught in the rain. I still remember hair drying my sneakers late at night in the Airbnb hostel and my mom fretting over sneakers too.
  3. Research a local dish and seek it out
    We went to Spain and I wanted to order paella for my mom to try. She ate more of the rice and less of the seafood. That’s still a win in my book. Her favorite though was getting a frothy milky coffee and croissant in the mornings.
  4. Revist a place you loved This visit to Spain was my third one. I’ve been so fortunate to explore different regions of Spain and cannot wait to go back with Mohit. My mom said I need to take her to a new country 🙂
  5. Support an obscure museum There are an overwhelmingly number of museums in Madrid. The best decision was checking out the artist Sorolla’s house and gallery. It was in a quiet residential area and my mom loved the artwork

Questions?

Please leave a comment below or email me. I’m happy to help!

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