There is always plenty to do and see in Madrid especially while on tour. If you ever get that inkling to take yourself out of the tour or find you have some spare time and catching up on some much-needed z’s is not your bag, check this out.
Take a stroll through Retiro Park
El Pargue de Retiro is only a skip from most of the tourist attractions. The Prado Museum is right next door, giving you a reference point.
Throughout the summer paddle boats and horse-drawn carriages are an option to relax, you may even catch a concert or book fair as they are prevalent in the park during summer.
Seeking a little history of the park? The royal palace of King Felipe IV once stood on the park grounds, but no longer. As a private playground for royalty until the 1700’s, or thereabouts, bullfighting and mock battles were once entertainment to the royal guests. If you visit the park you’ll notice the Crystal palace built around 1887 as a greenhouse, but is now used for events and exhibitions.
The half-moon colonnade is a tribute to King Alfonso XII.
If you go, why not grab a sangria or cerveza from one of the local vendors set up in the park? You can find a great view sitting and sipping. Then, either before or after, why not float around in a rowboat? It’s only 5.80 euro for a forty-five minute relaxing float session. The lake is not huge. It’s not even big. So finding yourself unable to row back to shore is a non event. If the weather is right, a casual row of the boat might be just the thing to recharge.
Stroll over to Cibeles Square, Plaza de Cibeles, as the locals refer to it. The huge cathedral-like building is actually City Hall, built about 1909 as a post office. In June, just off the square you’ll find local artists displaying their wares. It’s a pleasant time. You won’t find any tourist T’s, as in t-shirts, here.
Puerto Del Sol
Grab a bottle of wine in the early evening and find a place to sit and people watch in Puerto Del Sol. You are half way between the Prado and the Royal Palace. Sol is the main square in Madrid, and it is huge. This is a great place for some mindless inactivity. You’ll see statues, err… not really; more like people posing as statues, creatively. If you are there at the right time, you might dance with a mariachi band. They pop up randomly.
Maybe you’ll be witness to a protest. But not to worry. Spaniards protest in a much more civilized fashion than Americans. While we use our protests as a reason to tip over cars, burn them, and destroy others personal property in a violent way, Spaniards keep their anger properly placed and use a demonstration to voice an opinion, accepting the outcome of the most.
These are three great alternative activities for you to do while visiting Madrid and finding yourself with spare time.