5 Hours in Madrid
That is right, only 5 hours in Madrid and it was worth it.
Not that long ago, me and my family were traveling from Seattle to Lisbon with a stop in Madrid. Since flights from Seattle to Madrid and Madrid to Lisbon were booked separately on completely different airlines and could not be connected, it allowed us to pick different time for layover in Madrid.
I didn't really want to spend anytime there and just wanted to get to final destination as soon as possible but my wife convinced me to spend at least several hours in Madrid.
So, I have started to research, regarding how could we possibly visit Madrid and only have literally 5 hours for it.
According to wikipedia, the population of Madrid is almost 3.2 million with metropolitan population of around 6.5 million and is the third largest city in European Union. The city has no shortage of various tourist attractions including historic neighborhoods, theaters, museums, palaces, squares, parks and sport venues.
In other words, hundreds of different choices to visit and only few hours to spend.
After spending some time trying to pick places to visit in Madrid, I have chosen 3:
Madrid's Royal Palace
The Teleferico, Madrid's Cable Car
Let me give you a brief description of each of my choices.
Madrid's Royal Palace
It is Madrid's largest building and perhaps the most beautiful. It may come to a surprise to you but it is the largest Royal Palace in Western Europe, which was built on the site of the old Alcazar, the Moorish castle destroyed by fire in 1734.
Believe it or not (I don't), according to the Guinness Book of Records Botin Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in the world dating from 1725.
COME ON!!! THE OLDEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD IN MADRID, SPAIN?
I truly believe that folks at Guinness Book of Records did mess up this record because they were not able to find any restaurants older than 1725 in cities like Rome, Athens, Cairo or even in Jerusalem.
The Teleférico, Madrid's Cable Car
Although the entire ride is only 2.5 kilometer, cable car carries people over the city and many famous attractions can be seen from different angles. More information about cable car and the exact days and times of opening may be found on the Teleferico website.
Often, when I prepare for a trip to a certain place, town or city, I try to research and plan all my actions precisely as much as possible but very often plans don't turn out as expected, especially when you travel to foreign county on a different continent. It was exactly the case with our stop in Madrid, Spain.
My ultimate goal with sharing this travel experience is to inspire you to travel more regardless of circumstances like not enough of time, language barrier, safety concerns or any other reason.
Let me continue on with sharing our story.
When we landed in Mardrid's airport, we picked up our luggage, passed customs and were ready to go to explore the city. But not that fast.
My suggestion to everybody that has long layover in unfamiliar airport and who has to fly out with different airline:
As soon as you get your luggage and pass customs, figure out where exactly you are flying from next (Which Terminal, Which Gate number and how far it is from where you are). I have heard some pretty weird stories, that some people even had to travel to different airport to continue their travel.
The bigger the city, more airports it has. For example cities like London, Paris, Tokyo and New York have 2, 3 or sometimes every more airports.
Well, in our case we were flying out from the same airport but different terminal which was very far away, so we went there first to make sure that was the correct terminal that we were flying from.
From my experience, usually the best source of information regarding figuring out correct terminal, gate or how to get from the airport to a city center or other city's attraction is the Information booth that is available in most airports worldwide. Most of the time people inside those Information Centers speak English and are very knowledgeable regarding this matter.
So that's exactly what we did at that time. We asked a person inside the Information booth which terminal we were flying from next, how to get to it and what was the best way to get to those particular places in the city that I was planning to visit.
Based on the information we got, it turned out that it was impossible to visit all 3 places on my list in 5 hours.
So, we decided to visit just one of them:
And it turned out to be the best possible choice because the Botin Restaurant is right in the middle of Central Madrid with hundreds of interesting places around it.
To get to Central Madrid, you need to take a Subway from Airport's Terminal 4 "Pink Subway Line 8, Station "Aeropuerto T4" and go to the station "Nuevos Ministerios", then make a transfer to "Dark Blue Subway Line 10" toward station "Tribunal", make a transfer to "Blue Line 1" toward station "Sol". Get out at that station and you are going to be right in the middle of the best Madrid offers: Plazas, museums, shopping, restaurants and much more.
We were blown away by the Madrid city center as soon as we walked out of the subway. So many places to see, so many things to try and buy, so beautiful and so interesting.
But remember, we only had 5 HOURS and our main goal was to take a loot at that oldest restaurant which is one of many many attractions Madrid boasts about.
Although the restaurant itself was only about 15 minutes walk from "Sol" subway station, it took us about 2 hours to get there with so many beautiful "distractions" along the way.
Eventually we got there but we absolutely had no time to eat there.
Here are some photos we took while walking in Central Madrid around "Sol" station:
After spending little more time in Central Madrid, we walked back to "Sol" subway station and successfully got back to the airport and continued our trip to another destination.
The time we have spent in this wonderful city was filled with wonderful memories and new impressions and we are definitely planning to visit Madrid again and dedicate more time than just 5 hours.
There are so much to see, to experience and to learn about country of Spain and about its capital - the magnificent city of Madrid.
If at any point of your travel you will have a few hours between flights in Madrid airport, don't hesitate and just go to city's center subway station "Sol" and you won't be disappointed.