Monday, October 17, 2011

Madrid | Parque Retiro, El Rastro & Plaza de Toros

A park, a flea market and a bullfight round out the top things to see and do while visiting Spain's capital city. In five days we managed to fit in all the rest and then some, without sacrificing the other things that make vacation and time away from work so special - leisurely meals, late nights and sleeping in! The late nights and as a result, the late mornings are somewhat of a normal routine for the Madrilenos. The laid back ebb and flow of the city is easy to become accustomed to. I'm telling you, the Spanish know what's up! So without further a due, my final post featuring Madrid in all her glory.

Parque del Buen Retiro | Park of the Pleasant Retreat
Madrid's hallmark green space provides a city dwellers and visitors with a peaceful urban respite. Situated behind the Prado Museum at the edge of the city center, it is the largest park in Madrid measuring 350 acres. From strolling along magnificent and well maintained promenades or getting lost on shaded plots and paths among burly chestnut trees, this park lends abundant beauty. Retiro is home to several sculptures, monuments, fountains, a boating lake and even a crystal palace! The centrally located Palacio de Cristal is a pavilion made almost entirely of glass set in an iron framework. It was formerly used to house international exhibitions and is frequently (although empty when we visited) used as a local art gallery. Still, a walk around the outside is something to marvel at. The Paseo de la Argentina is one of the popular streets in the park, known as the Paseo de las Estatuas or "statue walk", it is lined with sculptures of Kings past. The Estanque del Retiro or Retiro Pond is a large man made body of water located close to the northern entrance of the park. You can rent a row boat in 45 minute intervals. Rowing in the hot sun didn't appeal to us at the time, but those on the lake seemed to be enjoying themselves. We did spend some time hanging out in the sun along the ponds marble and bronze banks by the prominent colonnade which surrounds the Monument de Alfonso XII. Exuding a calming European charm, Retiro Park proves a pleasant retreat indeed for locals and travel minded a like. If you visit Madrid, you likely won't want to miss it!

El Rastro | The Trail
A quintessential Madrid experience fusing traditional and modern, El Rastro is a popular open air flea market that takes place every Sunday morning from 9am - 2pm in the Barrio de Embajadores along Calle Ribera de Curtidores and off shooting streets.
It dates back to medieval times and is one of the oldest running markets in Europe. The streets of this barrio are rather enchanting with low hanging lofty branches set to a backdrop of earth toned buildings. Intricate iron balconies are prominent on one block, while graffiti ridden facades are displayed along the next. The graffiti is actually typical throughout all of Madrid, not just this neighborhood. I really enjoyed this aspect of the city streets, in case you couldn't tell from this post!We soaked up the vibrant atmosphere, surveying a parade of booths selling just about everything you can imagine, both new and used. From antiques and household trinkets, to books and paintings, to clothing, scarves and fans, to tourist paraphernalia, it's all here! In between strolling we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of caffe con leche, zumo de naranja y toastata at a cafe in a nearby park.
El Rastro is the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in Madrid! Even if you're not in the mood for shopping, just browsing and people watching is a unique experience to good to pass up.

Plaza de Toros | The Bullring
Plaza de Toros de las Ventas is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious bullrings in the world and the home of bullfighting in Spain. Located in the barrio Guindalera on the east side of Madrid, we took the Metro to Las Ventas (lines 2 or 5) to witness a deeply rooted Spanish tradition. Bullfighting season runs from March to December, and although my previous research indicated shows ran every Sunday evening, a quick check in with our hotel front desk staff (I'd recommended this) revealed the show that week was on Saturday night at 8:30 pm! We purchased tickets at the window upon arrival to the grand neo mudejar stadium which is stunning encrusted with colorful pottery.
The arena has a seating capacity of 25,000 so you need not worry about arriving super early or purchasing a ticket in advance. Give yourself just enough time to grab a beer, rent a leather seat cushion and settle in for the action! Exhilarating, thrilling and highly entertaining, the interaction between the torero (matador) and the bull will leave you at the edge of your arched stone seat. (Those cushions are a must!) This spectacle is highly regarded as an art by followers, and on the contrary, a bloody sport by its detractors. There is no element of competition, but rather, a performance whereby formal moves are executed with precision and adeptness. Witnessing a bullfight is truly a captivating as well emotional sight to behold, and I must say I enjoyed it a lot more than I initially thought I would. A trip to Madrid is officially complete with a visit to Las Ventas.

Other Indulge Inspire Imbibe posts re-capping Madrid:
Discovering Madrid: Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor & Palacio Real
Madrid | Eat Like a Local
Madrid Museums | "Is That One Famous?"
Madrid Nightlife | Plaza Santa Ana
Chocolatería San Ginés
Silent Madrid | Graffiti to Grand Via

Farewell Madrid and onward to Barcelona. I'm far from done with Spain, if you can believe it, there's more! Lots more.


  1. I must have food on my mind because those trees look like adorable broccoli!

  2. Aaah, I need to go to Madrid! I miss pretty European streets.

  3. Great Madrid recap- I have forgotten how amazing that city really is! Never saw a bull fight while I was there, but you managed to get some amazing pictures! Cannot wait for your Barcelona recap!

  4. ummm wowzers! And those awesomely shaped trees, where can I get one?

  5. wow the Palacio de Cristal looks absolutely stunning. Is it weird that whenever i see bull fighting all i can think of is Madonna's take a bow video?

  6. I love how colorful everything is!

  7. ooh, yes, I'll take a cushion and a cerveza. Can't wait to see what else espana has in store!

  8. Cute dress! And wow, I can't believe how much stuff you guys did. And I am so jealous you got to see a bullfight. That was the one thing I really wanted to do when I went to Spain, but it was the off season.

  9. i never saw the crystal palace in parque de retiro! when i was at the bullfight, everyone through their seat cushions into the ring in protest because the presidente didn't give the last matador an award!

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