Madrid boasts famous museums and lively nightlife. Barcelona offers gorgeous beaches and beautiful museums. Both are some of Spain’s most sought-after cities and absolutely worth visiting. Now, you can even get from one city to the other in just a few hours via high-speed train. We asked our Sidekicks to share their secrets for how to get the most out of a trip to their hometown.
1. Get a Secluded Bird’s-Eye View of Barcelona
The Bunkers del Carmel were once a site of defense during the Spanish Civil War. Now abandoned, these concrete platforms offer 360º views of the city. Plus, entrance is free and they’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There aren’t very many shady areas at the top of the hill, so we recommend visiting during sunset.
2. Skip the Lines at Barcelona’s Best Museums
The Barcelona Art Passport gives you access to the best 6 art museums in Barcelona for 12 months for only 30€. Plus, you can skip the lines. If you’re traveling with kids under 16, the pass gives them free access as well. It can be purchased here.
3. Take Madrid’s Metro. It’s Surprisingly Easy.
If you normally find public transportation confusing, you’ll love Madrid’s metro system. There is only one train on each track, which makes it hard to get lost. There are 300 metro stops which means you can get pretty much anywhere in the city and all of the lines are color-coded making it super simple to navigate.
4. Always Know Your Siesta Times
Family-run shops usually close between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. for siesta so plan accordingly. Restaurants and bars usually close from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
5. Visit Barcelona During the Festa Major de Gràcia
From August 15th to the 21st, the usually quiet neighborhood of Gràcia transforms into a giant block party. Residents come together to decorate the entire town, usually with recycled materials. The streets explode with papier-mâché sculptures and bright colors. Dance, drink and enjoy one of Spain’s most vibrant festivals.
6. View the Earliest Map Known to Show America
Around the year 1500, Juan de la Cosa drew a map of the world while on a voyage with Christopher Columbus. In the 1800s, Napoleon stole the map from the Secret Archives at the Vatican. After his fall, it was found at a bookstore by map enthusiast Charles Walckenaer. After Walckenaer’s death in 1853, the map was bought by the queen of Spain, and brought back to Madrid. It can be viewed at the Naval Museum of Madrid.
7. Explore an Ancient, Out-Of-Place Egyptian Temple in Madrid
During the 4th century BC, this temple stood in Egypt’s Nile Valley dedicated to the Egyptian gods, Amun and Isis. Today it’s located in the middle of a pleasant park, Parque de la Montaña, and surrounded by a pool that reflects its image. The temple is a short walk from the Plaza de España metro stop.
8. Don’t Take The Stairs Up To Park Güell
You can, if you want. Or you could get there in half the time by taking the escalators at the entrance on Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya. There’s another escalator on Baixada de la Glòria. Now you can explore the park without being out of breath.