Post Title: Welcoming 2016 in Madrid, Spain

This trip to Madrid felt it took forever to finally happen. I guess that's the problem with booking travel 9 months in advance. In fact, I managed to purchase and complete all of my other 2015 travel in between!

I generally know where I'll be around the holidays, making it easier to plan far in advance and hopefully save some money in the process.

Since my plan was to spend Christmas in the UK, but ring in 2016 in Madrid, I booked an open-jaw ticket. An open jaw is when you fly into one city and return from another city. In my case I booked the following on American Airlines:

  • New York JFK - London LHR
  • Madrid MAD - New York JFK
If possible, fly into the UK but try to depart from another European country.

It can often times be more cost effective (and time-saving) to do this. In my case, it saved me having to book a round trip to/from London and then booking another round trip from London to Madrid in between. Open jaws are great for UK travel in particular as it enables you to avoid the hefty departure taxes they charge. If possible, fly into the UK but try to depart from another European country. It's a tactic I used twice in 2015.

There's a ton of afforable travel options intra-Europe so I found a cheap one-way from London LCY - Madrid MAD on British Airways and I was all set.

Getting to Madrid

  • Cloudy day at small London City Airport (LCY), planes all lined up in a row as I walk onto the runway to board the flight.
  • Close to landing in Madrid. Given the blue sky above I almost wish we didn't have to descend into the clouds.
  • Unfortunately, Madrid was just as cloudy as London when we landed. Spanish airline Iberia had a plane at the gate next to ours.
  • Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas Airport (MAD) is gorgeous.
  • The flight attendents walking away in the background match the yellow roof in this part of Madrid Airport.
  • Our executive room at the Westin Palace Madrid. Pretty spacious by European standards.
  • Our bathroom at the Westin Palace Madrid was also larger than I expected.
  • We overlooked a nice (but closed for the winter?) rooftop from our room.
  • The Westin Palace Madrid was full of amazing artifacts like this. Look at that roof in the background!

After landing and clearing immigration, we bought a 5 day pass on the Metro and rode it to our hotel: The Westin Palace Madrid. Some shots of our room are included in the gallery above.

(Madrid is) truly jaw dropping at sunset.

Madrid is a beautiful city, even when it's cloudy. But it's truly jaw dropping at sunset. The city's lights really make for some incredible shots as you can see below.

Madrid at Sunset

  • The exterior of our hotel, The Westin Palace Madrid, around sunset.
  • The building to the right of our hotel also made a great backdrop.
  • Congreso de los Diputados at sunset.
  • The streets around this fountain on a roundabout were closed, so I took the opportunity to grab this shot.
  • In front of the Templo de Debod (Temple of Debod) at sunset.
  • The view from the park behind the Templo de Debod at sunset.

We also explored quite a bit of Madrid during the day and at night too. :)

Exploring Madrid

  • Plaza Mayor felt like the Times Square of Madrid.
  • Madrid was still incredibly green for late December.
  • Madrid clearly has a thing for grand roundabouts.
  • Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid is another grand structure.
  • Goya statue outside of Museo del Prado. Finally, a hint of blue sky!
  • The entrance to Museo del Prado.
  • One of the rooms in the Museo del Prado had this amazing roof.
  • Many squares had tree-like structures for the holidays.
  • Puerta del Sol and its tree was the epicenter of New Year's celebrations.

On New Year's Eve, we attempted to get back to Puerta del Sol, but it was pretty crazy. When we walked through just a few hours earlier, it had been pretty quiet but by the time we attempted to return, it was packed and there was no way we'd make it to the square itself by midnight.

So instead, we embraced the infectous energy around us and welcomed 2016 surrounded by tons of people on the streets of Madrid around the square before heading elsewhere to continue celebrating.

Overall, Madrid felt like a great city, not only to visit but also for the locals who live there. It was lively and the people were friendly. I struggled a bit with my Spanish but it was certainly better than my French! It was very different from Barcelona which I visited in 2014. Granted that was during the summer instead of winter as well.

One thing is for sure though, exploring more Spanish cities is definitely on my to-do list.

If you're looking to visit Madrid, here are some tips:

  • It's an easy city to get to. As it's a capital city, both international and intra-European flights are plentiful.
  • Skip the multi-day metro pass. The city is quite walkable. We probably took the metro 4 times over our 5 days there.
  • If you're going to Museo del Prado, get tickets in advance or be prepared to wait.
  • Siestas are real. Expect most things to shut down in the afternoon before becoming lively again at night.
  • Use it as a chance to nap and re-energize for the night ahead. It was crazy how busy it became again after 10pm.
  • Don't try to plan everything, we just happened upon tons of amazing places as we explored the city.

Wherever you rang in 2016, I hope you had a ton of fun!