Arrived at the huge Barajas airport and some how managed to get lost finding our way to the baggage hall. After locating our loan bags from the caracole, we decided to tackle the metro to get into central Madrid to our Hostel. The metro was quiet and civilised, due to it being a national holiday (9th November) to celebrate Virgen de la Almudena. We didn’t realise how important this celebration was until we arrived at Puerta del Sol and walked straight into a parade with a full brass band playing. The focus of the parade was to carry the statue of the Virgen de la Almudena from the Cathedral through the streets of central Madrid and back to the Cathedral, where people could make an offering of flowers.

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The women were all dressed in black with traditional headdresses, it seemed each part of the city was represented within parade, the lead person carrying the flag for each area. The streets were lined with Spanish families all trying to catch a glimpse of the Virgen de la Almudena which was the main spectacle of the parade. There was a wonderful warm atmosphere on the streets everyone with smiles on their faces and many spanish families having a day out.

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In Plaza Mayor and the surrounding area there were also some brilliant street performers and artists, the best I have ever seen: they ranged from people mimicking the famous statues to groups of flamenco dancers in traditional dress.

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The restaurants’ and cafes were all full and offering set three course lunches for 11- 12 Euros including a beer, wine and coffee. However we decided to opt for the spanish version of fast food, the famous bocodillos which consisted of deep fried calamari stuffed into a white roll and washed down with a glass of beer.  We ate spanish style standing at the bar: it was quite a feat, due to the amount of people crammed into the tiny eating area. It was extremely filling and heavy on the stomach however satisfied us until our later dinner at 10.30pm.

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Other eating options included the famous Museo de Jamon which there was actually not just one, but several. We were trying to work out which was the original; they all looked the same with numerous legs of cured ham hanging in the window and behind the counters.  Each Museo was heaving, with people queing to get their portion of jamon. It was possible to get a very economical lunch from these establishments: a jamon roll,  a piece of fruit and a can of Amstel beer for two euros.

In the center, around Plaza Mayor, there are many tapas restaurants: for something special visit Mercado San Miguel which has a huge selection of fish tapas, it has lively buzzing atmosphere and a great selection of wines. It was surprising to see so much fresh fish on offer considering Madrid is not near the coast. I discovered later that due to the huge demand for fresh fish it comes in daily fresh from the coast, so there is no need to have any worries about freshness.

We would recommend the following walking tour which takes you round the following sites:
• Plaza Mayor
• Palacio De Sta Cruz
• Plaza De La Villa
• Palacio Duques de Uceda Viaducato
• Catedrale La Almudena – ( Festa 9th November)
• Palacio Real
• Teatro Real

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Due to time limitations and where we were staying we didn’t visit any of the many museums located around Banco De Espana. However we still enjoyed our glimpse of Madrid and felt we got a taste of the city and loved soaking up the atmosphere. Madrid has a lot to offer and we will definitely be returning soon. Check out our Madrid Essentials below and if you have any further information on the city please add it to the comments section.

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Madrid Essentials

Budget per person per day 50.00 euros
Travel – Fly Ryanair under 50 Euros within europe
Eat –  Bocodillos (deep fried calamari in white roll)  2.30 euros
Drink – Sol Beer 2.00 euros
Stay – Hostel Madrid – 36.00 euros – double room private bathroom – clean basic hotel good location. (avoid rooms behind the reception as very noisy)
See – Plaza Mayor, Palacio De Sta Cruz, Plaza De La Villa Palacio Duques de Uceda Viaducato, Catedrale La Almudena, Palacio Real, Teatro Real.
Do – Walking Tour (see map above)
Something Special – Mercado San Miguel sample some authentic tapas with a glass of red.