Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dulcinea's Best of Madrid Exploration Kit: Top 10

1. Best Map of Madrid
Knopf City Map Guides: Madrid. The City in Section-by-Section Maps. After trying several other maps, this one was my favorite. The pocket-sized book contains all the main sights of Madrid, along with useful suggestions for each part of the city. Museums are marked.

The maps are very good, but a compass is my secret weapon.

2. Best Small Museum
Sorolla Museum. The painter Sorolla's 1920s home and studio, with a lovely garden outside. This is a good stop for all ages.

Fountain in Sorolla's garden

3. Best Place for Frugal Travelers to Find a Quick Snack
The cafe chain 100 Montaditos. Dozens of locations in Madrid.  Home of the 1-Euro cafe con leche, the 1-Euro beer, and over 100 types of sandwiches on tiny rolls.  Spaniards flock here as well---price/quality ratio is good.

4. Best Souvenirs 
Football memorabilia... from Real Madrid or Team Spain.
Leather jewelry... from the whimsical store Tierra Madrid, located on calle Gerona, 10 (just off Plaza Mayor).
Jewelry from Tierra (items pictured: 4 to 15 Euros).
Spanish fans... 
Postcards from museum gift stores...
Espadrilles from Antigua Casa Crespo (in business since 1863; calle Divino Pastor, 29; metro: San Bernardo) or Casa Hernanz (since 1845; calle Toledo, 18-20; located one block off Plaza Mayor).

Espadrilles from Spain

5. Best Places to Take Small Children
Railroad Museum.  Room to climb (on antique train cars) and relax (in an elegant dining car from the 1920s).

...or big children.

Retiro Park.  Rowboats, buskers, ice-cream stands, fortune-tellers, fountains, a Crystal Palace, and turtles sunning themselves in a pile nearby. Just a few of the pleasures of this park behind the Prado Museum.

Learning to row in Retiro

6. Best Store for Cheap, Useful, Attractive Odds and Ends
Tiger. Art supplies, toys, kitchen wares, reading glasses, notebooks, greeting cards, and other things you didn't think you needed, all with a hint of Scandinavian design. A cross between Ikea and the five-and-dime.  Various locations around town.

7. Most Intriguing Experience
Buying sweets from the Convent Nuns. (See Adventure in the Cloister)

8. Best Outdoor Running Track in Madrid
Located at Parque de Santander (also known as Green Canal) in the the Chamberi neighborhood of Madrid, at the corner of Avenida de Islas Filipinas and Avenida Pablo Iglesias.  Closest metro: Canal, Rios Rosas. Run past blooming lavender bushes, fountains, wisteria vines, and families out for a stroll.  Restrooms and water fountains provided.  Free access to track and park areas; other sports facilities can be rented on a fee basis. Track open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Rubberized 1200-meter running track in Chamberi district

9. Best Exhibition Space
Sala del Canal de Isabel II.  Located in an old water tower that has been renovated for temporary art exhibitions. Check website for current listings. Don't forget to bring passport. Entry is free, but because the tower is located within the headquarters of the city water utility, there is a security checkpoint. Located at calle de Santa Engracia, 125 (metro: Rios Rosas).  Hours: Tues-Sat: 11-2 & 5-8:30; Sun: 11-2; Closed Monday.

Sala Canal de Isabel II

10. Best Free Art Exhibit Venues in Madrid

Consistently top-notch:
Fundacion Mapfre. Paseo de Recoletas, 23.
Caixa Forum Madrid. Paseo del Prado, 36.
Juan March Foundation. Castelló, 77

Juan March Foundation. Ground floor has exhibit space.


  1. Very interesting your blog and this post, I am from Madrid.
    Kindest regards.

  2. Thank you Manuel. I'm back in the U.S. now, and missing Madrid so much.

  3. Love this post and your blog in general. You certainly did some great sleuthing and blogging in your year. ¡Bravo!

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