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The first time I went to Spain, I included Madrid as part of my plans because the guidebooks said it was a must, not because I wanted to go there. I did a fair amount of reading on the city and came up with exactly one thing I wanted to see there (Palacio Real de Madrid), and yet came to the conclusion that a few days in Madrid was still worthwhile because everyone else liked the city so much.
Unfortunately, while I was there, I found that Madrid was just not the most interesting place for me to visit, though I tried to make the most of my time there anyway. However, when 2012 rolled around and my husband requested a one night stopover in Madrid, I decided it was only fair to give Madrid a second chance.
I went into this second visit with a whole different outlook. This time, I decided not to force my visit in Madrid to fit my top interests and instead I’d focus on what Madrid does best: food, drink, and nightlife. Officially, our original plans also included a Real Madrid futbol game, but the combination of a flight delay, sheer exhaustion from running ourselves ragged in Morocco, and my husband’s unfortunately-timed illness meant we squeezed in an afternoon siesta rather than a soccer game.
After a rest, snack, and some time to get fashionably dolled up, we headed out for the evening. It was still early – by Madrileno standards, at least – so our first stop was to the Christmas markets.
I’ve wanted to visit European Christmas markets ever since I realized they existed, and this was a great opportunity to see one of Spain’s. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed, expecting more of the traditional offerings and less of the tacky made-in-China trinkets bombarding us everywhere. We browsed for less time than I anticipated and I’m glad we went to check it out, but I personally wouldn’t return.
The rest of the evening was spent wining and dining, something I’m quite fond of doing. We stuffed ourselves silly on a tapas crawl and I can honestly say that it was a fun night. However, I left Madrid still feeling underwhelmed. It was nice, but not special. I made my stopover into a good one, but looking back, I can’t say that Madrid improved the quality of my overall vacation or provided a meaningful experience.
Madrid falls onto my list of “one-day wonders”: places I’m grateful I’ve visited briefly, but not places that I feel deserve much of my time. Millions of people love Madrid for various reasons and there’s a really good chance you’d love it as well…but it wasn’t a good fit for me. It’s important to travel the way you want to: you’ll never be able to see and experience the whole world, so it’s best to pick the places that will resonate most with you.