Madrid, Spain — in the Rain!

by Jan 21, 20212 comments

Since we are still not able to travel far it seemed like a good idea to visit the archives! This is a trip from 2016 that I never got around to sharing.

This trip to Madrid was part of a girlfriends’ trip to Spain in 2016. We are visiting Madrid as part of a pre-trip before joining up with an organized garden tour of southern Spain. Thankfully, we were all seasoned travelers and up for seeing everything no matter the weather. I think it rained every day we were in Madrid. But we still went out and had a blast!

Our band of three are all artists and gardeners, so finding things to do together was super easy — art galleries, public art, gardens and art museums topped our list of things to do. We made a pretty comprehensive plan so we didn’t miss anything, with the idea that it was flexible so we could make changes for weather, and other unknows (that always show up along the way).

Sorolla Museum, Madrid

After dropping our bags at the nH hotel in Madrid we started our first day with the Sorolla Museum. Joaquín Sorolla built this home at the peak of his career. He had a studio in the house and also designed the garden. Sorolla is best known for his formal portraits, landscapes, and use of light. The property has a large home, cozy garden, tile accents, and creates a quiet oasis in the busy city.

Love Notes for Valentine's Day

New Love Notes for Valentines Day!

Love notes are perfect for sending personal messages to the ones you love. Red envelope is decorated with heart cutouts that fold around a white note card with single heart cutout. Look for them in the Footprints And Photos Etsy store.

We have plans to visit Toledo at the end of our Madrid trip, and were delighted to find a preview in the form of a painting of Toledo in the Sorolla Museum!

It was interesting to see all the artistic touches on the streets, patios and walkways. There is always some kind of tile or stone design on the edges or filling the whole floor.

 Get Rick Steves guide book to Madrid

We are all big fans of Rick Steves travel books. They have great maps, ideas on what to do and when to do it. His self guided walking tours are fabulous! He suggested that we take a local bus to see center city, so we took the bus down and the subway back. It was a good opportunity to sit down and catch our breath!

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

Ask for directions — you’ll meet great people and find new stuff

There are tourist information offices all over Madrid, and eveyone who works there speaks fluent English. At the tourist office in Plaza Mayor we lucked out with a young man who loved art, and seemed pretty interested in our trip, and what we wanted to see. He asked about our interests, and marked our map to be sure we saw some less famous sites, and suggested that we don’t miss the local markets for meals or snacks (best suggestion ever!).

Our information guide also had a suggestion for a sunset view (we were intrigued by this since it did not appear that there was a view from anywhere near where we were).

We checked out our first market immediately and got some wine and a variety of tapas for lunch. Soon we were feeling like locals as we watched the street scene outside of our window while we toasted the start of our trip!


Betsy, Karin & Katie discovered on day one that local markets were great places for a quick meal and drink — Mercado de San Miguel near Plaza Mayor
The market had some great things on display including this incredible fish head!
Last night while investigating our second market for dinner we found Fit Food. How can you not go back to a place with the tag line “look good naked”? It turned out to be the perfect place to get breakfast in the morning. It was close to the hotel and we enjoyed chatting with the sales girl, and the smoothies were amazing.

So far we are finding the Spanish people friendly and eager to help us when we have questions. We fuel up with smoothies and some protein snacks, and are ready for another day of exploring Madrid in the rain.

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

Park of the Pleasant Retreat — Who can resist that?

The Parque del Beno Retiro is 350 acres and is one of the largest parks in Madrid. We saw gardens, walkways, sculptures, fountains, and even ruins! The name of the park literally means “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”.

It was a fun surprise to find the Ruinas de San Isidoro. This is what is left of a Romanesque church from the eleventh century. The ruins have been moved a few times and were reassembeled in the park in 1999.

It is raining off and on, but we are not deterred. We have two gardens on the schedule for today. We hope to get them both in before the rain really hits. Turns out that the Retiro and Botanical gardens are close to each other. Our luck holds out and it just mists, or lightly rains, as we spend the morning exploring both of these gardens.

Spain has some lovely outdoor gardens, tree-lined streets, and interesting public art. This dose of nature and art really takes the hard edge off the concrete, traffic and noise that are part of every city. It is nice to see so much attention paid to the decoration on the buildings and walkways.

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Travel Merit Badges

Look at me!

We found an enclosed garden within the Retiro filled with peacocks. They were stunning! It appears that it is mating season — the boys were all out in their finery while the girls ignored them!

Besides having their fan of colorful feathers on display, some of the gentlemen were shaking their tail feathers at the ladies. It was an incredible show!

There is color and texture everywhere — in the tiles, the stonework, doorways, ceilings, archways — it is pretty amazing!

Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

Madrid is packed with art and architecture

The Crystal Palace in the center of the garden looked like the perfect place to house a tropical garden, but today it was being used for an art gallery.

The Royal Botanical Garden is right next to the Retiro and has 20 acres of wonderful plant displays. Even though the blossoms were heavy with rain, the colors were still vibrant and welcoming.
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

We finish up in the parks just as it really starts to pour — seems like a good time to move inside!

Time for the museums of Madrid

Our first cultural stop for the day is the Reina Sofia, a contemporary art museum featuring Spanish artists. The collection here was wonderful and well laid out and included many works from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. The museum had lots of variety and an unusual addition — there were films in each gallery playing a movie from the time frame of the works on display. It was a nice touch. We had a relaxing lunch with wine in the museum cafe. So far the food and wine has been really reasonably priced and very good!

We also went to the Prado Museum. This museum is known for the great masters and you could probably spend a whole day here. By now a little art-viewing fatigue was setting in. Ideally it would have been nice to have alternated between the gardens and the museums to keep us fresh. But with the weather we had to do both gardens back to back. If you are an early riser you can get a jump on the day by going to the park before anything else is open. We took a break and got some cappuccino. Both a great and awful idea! We needed the boost, but we were up until past midnight!

Madrid is a great walking city

I have to say that the public transportation systems in Europe are great. Most cities are set up well for walking and with a good subway system you can get just about anywhere. We bought day tickets so that we were flexible and could use them for mulitple trips. It was nice to not have to deal with renting a car, navigating internation street signs, and parking in these tight streets. Madrid is really easy to navigate on foot. And we really wanted the exercise so that we could sample all of the food markets!

We did have some hysterical moments on the subway today (we’re blaming the jet-lag mixed with the caffeine)! Somehow we got turned around and got on the train going in the wrong direction. We wondered how the train could be going both ways on both sides of the track, not realizing that the signage was directing us to another line — duh. Thankfully, we realized are mistake right away — and the stations are only minutes apart! Gotta love that the ticket works all day!

On the way to dinner we went to the Plaza de Espana Metro to visit the best spot to see the sunset in Madrid. We had our doubts as there did not appear to be a view point anywhere. Also the weather had been socked in and overcast all day.

There was a gap in the clouds and we thought if we just hung out for another 15 minutes we might be rewarded. But first we were tested — it got darker and the wind came up. Then it rained. And then … well, the angels sang, the sunlight shone directly on the cathedral, and there was … wait for it … a double rainbow (in the photo you can just about see it on the right side of the cathedral below the clouds)!

Katie & Karin are wondering — is it art or is it a seat — we think, yes it is!
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz
Image courtesy of Betsy K. Shulz

We start our last full day in Madrid with breakfast at Fit Food — we are starting to feel like locals now!

Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace was so incredibly over the top! While it is amazing to see, it is hard to imagine living in such overdecorated places. No one lives here now, but it is the offical residence of the Spanish royal family. The palace has 3,418 rooms! The palace contains lots of art — paintings and sculpures. Not to mention the artistry of the contruction and decoration fo the palace itself. The armory is worth taking a look at as well!

We have lunch at Thyssen museum. Great food, good museum self tour. English audio tours have been available almost everywhere. They are a wonderful way to set your own pace and get a little more background on what you are seeing! I highly recommmend taking advantage of these tours if you come across them.
It is just incredible to get to look at original paintings by  artists you have studied in books. The paintings are so much better when you can see them in person! We saw original works by Vincent Van Gough, Jackson Pollack and Salvador Dali. It has been quite a trip and we have only just begun.

Make your own footprints…

Take an interest you have and run with it

We love gardens and art so we seek them out everywhere we go. It was surprisingly emotional to see original artworks that we had studied in school. And they aren’t under glass — you can get close enough to see the brush strokes!

If you have a favorite hobby or activity create a trip around that. I know someone who loves baseball and is visiting all the baseball stadiums in America.

On this trip we also did a day trip to Toledo. Then we joined an organized trip to see the “Romantic Gardens of Spain”. Keep an eye out for those posts.

Enjoy the journey!


Karin H Wilson

Karin H Wilson

Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller

I'm Karin and I just love to share a good story — preferably with snacks! I’m particularly interested in capturing the world’s beauty and wonder in photographs.

Recently I created Photos for Artists, packs of images for artists to use in their collage and art projects. You can find a detailed description and photos on my Footprints and Photos Etsy store.

Besides my blog, Footprints & Stories, you can also find my images on Zazzle products. I have two stores — one with Gifts for Travelers and Nature Lovers, the other with Gifts for Gardeners and Lovers of Flowers. Items include wedding invitations, tote bags, mugs, journals and more. Every product is backed by the Zazzle guarantee.

Please use the links provided as it helps me buy better snacks (and funds the website)!