For a culturally engaging holiday rich with sensory experiences, history, great food and fantastic art and architecture (to name just a few!), head to Madrid, the capital and largest city of Spain. But instead of hitting just the big tourist attractions, sidestep the main drag and check out some of these sights off the beaten path:
El Rastro Flea Market Every Sunday and public holiday, this offbeat market is held between the Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. This local bazaar has been a tradition of the area for five centuries, and is an absolute maze of every kind of knick-knack you could hope to find at a flea market. From old records to antiques, grungy T-shirts and even electronics, you can spend hours searching for treasures at this lively and massive market.
Parque de Buen Retiro Whether you prefer to stay in luxurious hotel accommodations or budget hostels, you can guarantee an afternoon of pure elegance and relaxation in these beautiful gardens. They used to be the spot for the Royalty to relax in past times, but today are open to the public for everything from picnics to enjoying street performances and even taking a solar-powered boat through the lake to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the park.
Sala el Sol This is one of the best venues in Madrid for enjoying live music, especially ‘70’s and ‘80’s jams with a ribbon of soul and funk weaved in. It’s a guaranteed lively atmosphere where you can groove to the live performances by musicians from all over the world. Live music usually begins each night at 11 pm, but sometimes as early as 10 pm.
Go Rock Climbing If scaling the slopes to head-spinning heights sounds like your thing, there are plenty of great opportunities to go rock climbing in Madrid (and incredible views if you’re on the fence!) Reasonably fit travelers can sign up for a 5-hour expedition, which includes instruction and gear rental. Or you can opt for a full-day guided hike up the mountains on the outskirts of the city as another option for vertical ascent.
Taste Sherry at the San Miguel Market The lively open-air markets are such an important part of Spanish culture, that another one makes the list! But head specifically to The Sherry Corner on San Miguel Street, and you’ll find a comprehensive guided tour of the wine industry, covering the history and process of making Sherry wine. You can get the tour in 8 languages, and the tour menu includes great Spanish tapas along with its wine tastes.