I love a good market generally, so the next day we went to check out El Rastro, supposedly the biggest flea market in Spain. I had heard it was full of tat and not to bother but I have to say I liked the atmosphere and the beautiful tree-lined streets, although it did seem to go on forever! If you look hard enough, there are stalls selling some nice hand-made souvenirs and nick-nacks, so don’t rule it out if you want to find some presents to take home.
Now, I know Flamenco’s origins are in Andalucia but I love the passion and sounds of this art so much that I was keen to get my Flamenco fix while in Spain. I had read about Corral de la Moreria in Madrid being one of the best tablao restaurants to watch a show and have a meal, and the oldest one in the city. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised – I had braced myself for something really cheesy with sub-standard food but the food was good, and the show was beautiful! It felt intimate and the performers were fantastic and passionate. Strangely, as I am typing this away, my ipod shuffle has just put on some flamenco music for me, which has creeped me out slightly, I kid you not! You can get a taste of the show on my video below. If you are not up for Flamenco, you should still check out the location for a spectacular view of Madrid and a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.
The next day, we opted for a free walking tour of Madrid with Sandemans. I have done a fair few of these now and I think they are a great way of getting your bearings round a city, seeing the main attractions and hearing about the history from the locals who know it best. Our pre-tour breakfast that day was churros con chocolate from the famous Chocolateria San Gines, just off Plaza Mayor where the tour started, and a Madrid institution since 1894. The portions were generous but I have to say I found them a little greasy for my liking; perhaps it was just that day though or that it was too early for me, I think they would have been better as a post-dinner treat.
The walking tour itself was 2.5 hours and took us through Plaza Mayor, Catedral de Almudena, lots of squares and a royal palace. These tours are free but you are encouraged to tip at the end – every single Sandemans tour I have done has been worth it with the guides brimming with enthusiasm no matter how hot or cold it is. It is also a great way to get some recommendations for the rest of your trip from locals who know the city best.