Planning one night only in Madrid

The Communications building in Madrid at night

Our epic trip to Spain started off in Madrid with CJ leaving his wallet on the airplane!  Fortunately, the helpful United Airlines staff members were able to recover the wallet, but not without taking a 40 euro cut!  Let me clarify, the wallet was left in the compartment where the safety information is stored so a passenger leaving the plane would not have dug into the pouch as it would not have been noticeable.  Either way, we were happy to have the wallet back. We needed to get some rest at the hotel so we could begin planning the rest of our day!  With only one night in Madrid there is no way to see everything!  Madrid has a lot to offer.  It is important to prioritize and research attractions for a clear plan of your night before leaving your hotel.  Fortunately, many of the tourist attractions are near each other!  The subway is also very easy to use, once you understand how it works.

Tips for the Madrid Subway:

  1. There are people there to help!  We arrived in the Avda. de América station and we knew that we needed a ticket.  There are machines to purchase your ticket and a bonus is they are in both Spanish and English! (Just so you know the word for language in Spanish is “Idoima”.)
  2. It is necessary to purchase a card, but it is acceptable to use the same card for more than one person!  We had a little trouble understanding that when the machine asked use about a card it meant “Hey! buy a subway card or bring a card!”  Therefore, I refer you to step one because someone saw us struggling and offered to help.
  3. Before purchasing your ticket(s) be sure to know the full name of your destination stop.  This is especially important if you are headed to the airport because you have to select the exact terminal when you purchase you subway ticket.

The next most important part about planning your night in Madrid is knowing the best places to visit in the evening.  Remember that Madrid is a city and it’s important to be mindful of your whereabouts especially after dark.  We had a list of places that we would have loved to visit and see but we had to narrow it down a bit.  We took into consideration closing times and lighting since we would be seeing most of the attractions after dark.

Places on our list:

  • Fuente de la Cibeles
  • Palacio de Comunicaciones
  • Banco de España
  • Edificio Metrópolis
  • Puetra de Alcalá
  • Parque del Retiro
  • Plaza Mayor

**I had also really wanted to see the Cathedral de Nitra. Sra. de la Almudena but due to lack of time we ended up deciding that it was either Parque del Retiro or the Cathedral but not both.**

Before setting off to explore the city we had to get something to eat.  There was only one solution we were willing to go with…free tapas!  In many bars throughout Spain when you order an alcoholic beverage you receive a small bite to go with your drink.  There are different stories presented to explain this tradition.  One story explains that the King of Spain needed a piece of ham to cover his drink from flies.  Another story presents it that the people around him would feed him so that he did not over drink.  More on the history of tapas can be found here.  Today, you can still easily find tapas in many cities throughout Spain.  We decided to find tapas in Madrid and since I was trying to be budget conscious this website recommended Restaurante Petisqueira as a option if you had less than 10 euros.  It was a great success!  CJ and I spent 14 euros on dinner with drinks for two!  Another piece of advice: Tipping in Spain is not as essential as it is in the USA.  One of the staff members at a hotel told us one or two euros is fine for a 10 to 20 euro meal.

Fuenta de la Cibeles, Palacio de Comunicaciones, Banco de España, and Edificio Metrópolis

After eating we headed straight to the heart of the city!  We walked down along Gran Vía street.  (For some reason we kept seeing people on roller skates and roller blades.  We later learned that it was Madrid Friday Skate Night.)  We did most of our site seeing from a distance since we were not able to go into most of the buildings after dark.  The first building that caught my eye was the Edificio Metrópolis or Metropolis Building.  Of course the real reason we headed down this street was to see the Fuenta de la Cibeles.  The Cibeles Fountain, is considered one of the symbols of Madrid.  (Fun fact: a bronze replica is located in Mexico City!)  The one in Spain is located directly in front of the Palacio de Comunicaciones.  Also sometimes called the Palacio de Cibeles serves as the City Council for Madrid.   The Bank of Spain is an impressive building located between the Metropolis Building and the Palacio de Cibeles.  When we first saw the bank CJ and I immediately thought it was an important government building because it has a large presence on the street.  We were moderately disappointed when we realized it was the bank instead.

Retiro Park and the Arch

We snapped a bunch of photos of the beautiful buildings in center city Madrid continued on the path to the Parque del Retiro.  I had been so excited to see this park after seeing photos on the internet of the lake.  CJ and I love paddling so I pictured we would fly into Madrid head straight here to paddle the day away.  Clearly, that is not how our day went.  I forgot about that thing called jet lag.  Nonetheless, I was thrilled that we could still head to the park even after dark since the gates are open till 10 pm in the summer.  We first passed the Puetra de Alcalá, a gorgeous arch near the main entrance of Retiro Park.  It was lit up in the night with accent lighting and it made a fascinating sight.  It sits in the middle of a traffic circle and the cars just swirl around it.  I wish I had thought to bring my tripod this evening because it would have been fun to get some photos with the car headlights circling the arch. (Oh well, next time!)

Another nice thing about the park is that there are public restroom facilities!  We had been walking around for a while without stopping in any buildings.  Unfortunately, we both realized that we had a problem right as we were entering the park!  Finally, we made it to the lake with the massive sculpture.  The lake was smaller than I thought it would be from internet photos I saw.  However, the sculpture of King Alfonso XII lived up to its grandeur.  The semi-circle of columns that surround the sculpture help to magnify the presence of the king on his horse.

Plaza Mayor

Our last stop of the night was to Plaza Mayor.  The crowds in the park were diminishing because the park was closing soon, but you would never have known this from the Plaza Mayor.  The little square was hustling and bustling.  Dinner hour is usually from 8 pm to 11 pm depending on the restaurant.  This took a little while to adapt to but it was nice that we got to experience more of the cities at night.  We did not hang around too long in Plaza Mayor.  We did not need dinner and we wanted to head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.  That jet lag thing still had not worn off.  We walked around the square for a little bit and only stopped because we could not resist our favorite sweet treat.

Let’s Chat:

  • If you found someone’s wallet what would you do?
  • What additional tips do you have for riding the subway? (In Madrid or in other cities)
  • When you only have one night in a city, what are you priorities?

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