We travelled by high speed train from Sants Barcelona with Ouigo to Atocha in Madrid, for a 3 night stay from 26th to 29th December 2021. The double decker train was really comfortable with XL reclining seats. We booked the 2nd carriage and upstairs. Shortly after departure the OUIbar opened upstairs in carriage 4, you could either stand / sit in this area or take out back to your allocated seat. The journey was quick and quiet, the only downside was that the onboard WiFi wasn’t available. We had 2 stops on route and the journey time was 2 hours 52 minutes to cover 600km.

Our hotel was the INNSiDE Madrid Gran Vía, just a short 3km taxi ride from the station. We were held in the hotel lobby until reception was available on floor 7, then allocated a room (602) which had a small balcony and was situated over the entrance. We had booked an innside room including breakfast. The room was modern in style and quite simply furnished, we had a double bed and walk in shower. Basic toiletries of soap, body lotion and hair shampoo/conditioner are included, as well as a mini bar with 2 cans of water.

The weather was cold and raining so we just ventured out to find somewhere to eat. We happened upon the Chila Madrid restaurant by chance and had our first taste of Hunan Chinese cuisine. The pincho de gambas frescas was a large portion of prawns in shell on skewers. Our favourite was the beef dish, ternera ahumada con guindillas y soja negra fermentada. We were asked how spicy we like our food and Mike replied madras level! The side of fried rice arroz con verdura ácida y carne ahumada was also delicious, we could have eaten that as a main course.

On Monday 27th we caught up with work, had breakfast and headed out into Madrid to do some shopping. As online shopping is now difficult since Brexit and we can be limited for choice within the Canary Islands, we tend to use our city breaks to purchase items on our wanted list. Dropping off our shopping, we headed back out into the sunshine for a walk to Plaza Mayor to see the Mercado de Navidad (Christmas market) which had 104 stalls, although many repetitive ones.

For lunch we visited Cielo the SkyBar on the 26th floor of the Riu Plaza España hotel. It’s a fabulous location with 360 degree panoramic view of Madrid. For non guests, there’s an entry fee of €5 per person in the day, or €10 at night. The lift up carries around 10 people, so there was a bit of a queue on arrival. We found a table with comfy chairs so ordered drinks and food first before taking a look around. There’s two glass panel areas with a drop to the street level below. At 117 m (384 ft) this historic building is the 8th tallest in Madrid. We enjoyed the chill out music and ambience. There’s also an indoor restaurant, El Edén.

There was a Naviluz bus tour available at €6 per adult bookable online in advance via the Alsa website, departing from Plaza de Cólon, with loads of options between 18:00 – 22:50, lasting 40-50 minutes. However, we decided to walk our own route starting from Parque de El Retiro where we did a lap of the boating lake to see the multicoloured trees. From there we crossed over to Paseo del Prado to find the Menina Gigante situated between the Fuente de Neptuno and Fuente de Cibeles. Las Meninas translates to ladies in waiting and in reference to the painting by Diego Velázquez created in 1656, which is housed in the Museo Nacional del Prado. La Menina Gigante is 10m in height, with more than 37,500 lights on an aluminium structure weighing 1.3 tons. The Palacio de Cibeles was lit up with colour changing lights, and the fountain had a rainbow around the base. A short distance away on the junction with Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía the Gran Bola de Navidad could be found, in front of the Metrópolis building. This 3D light ball is 12m in diameter and has 43,000 led lights with a synchronised display. Continuing on C/ Alcalá the Four Seasons hotel had an impressive Christmas decoration on their corner. In the distance we headed towards the vibrant blue of the Christmas tree in the Plaza del Sol, close to El Oso y el Madroño bear sculpture. We cut through the Plaza Mayor to see their Christmas tree and Mercado de Navidad, before queueing at the Chocolatería San Ginés for a cup of hot chocolate & churros. Finally, the last light on our route was the gorgeous heart on Calle Preciados, just off the Plaza del Sol. We had been wowed by these Christmas lights in Madrid, this small section of the city can been viewed easily within a 4km walk.

steps 19,907 (13.91 km)

We didn’t do much on our second full day in Madrid as we spent a lot of it working from our hotel. For lunch we acted on a tip from some foodie friends and booked a table at Kai Thai, just off the Plaza de España. It’s a good job we booked online in advance as every other table was full / reserved when we arrived at 14:30. This Thai restaurant has a menu del día priced at just €13.50 per person which was very tempting and excellent value. In the end we decided on the Krabi tasting menu at €32pp. We really enjoyed our taste of Thailand, which was served with Singha beer. After a stroll to walk off our lunch, we received a notification that our click and collect parcel from Amazon was in the locker. Could we find the collection point – no! In the end we asked at a hotel in the general location and they informed us it was underground in the car park!

steps 8,590 (6.17km)

Madrid at Christmas

In summary Madrid gave us a festive wow factor with their fabulous Christmas lights. The capital was very busy, Covid mask compliance was 99% at all times and we didn’t require a Covid pass to dine inside. This trip had reminded us why we like Spain’s capital city, Madrid has everything we want from a city break in terms of cuisine and shopping. It’s also a great hub for connecting flights from the Canary Islands to the rest of the world.