We made it – out of the hotel, through the metro, to the train station, on the train, off the train, through a new metro, and to our hotel; and we still have all our baggage, our stroller intact and our little one; and spirits are high all around!
First I must say Spain’s high-speed rail is the best in Western Europe, (or anywhere else maybe). We traveled in luxury on the high speed route from Barcelona to Madrid. Our rail passes were first class rail passes, which are actually the only option for the “family pass;” second class tickets are not an option. This meant that we (whenever available) traveled first class on the trains, which is probably something we would not have done otherwise. If we were to have just bought tickets we would have bought the cheaper second class option. But unfortunately here we are stuck in first class… Seriously, first class on the train is like flying first class. I didn’t even know they had trains like this. After seated they offered us drinks before coming around with head phones for the “in-train” movie. They then brought us a menu to choose out meal from; I got the fish with a glass of white wine. Beyond the service there was ample space for our little one to run up and down the train. Additionally we had enough space to set up the stroller for her nap during our ride. We hit Madrid refreshed and ready to see Spain’s capital.
Our three nights in Madrid flew by, and were it not for all the Tapas bars and toddler in tow, we probably would have run ourselves ragged trying to see all the sights in those three days. Fortunately, both the Spanish way of life and a vivacious young girl encouraged us to stop and smell the roses. We started off the night with a fast trip to the Prado, Madrid’s Fine Arts Museum and best known sight. There were several Museums we wanted to see in Madrid and with a toddler along for the ride you can only realistically try to squeeze in so much museum time. So while the Prado is Madrid’s biggest museum it was actually the one that personally interested us the least. So going in the evening, (for free), to take a high-speed tour and at least see some of it was a perfect for us.
Guidebooks – Since we were traveling light we kept our books to a minimum. For this leg of our trip we used Fodor’s Spain and were very happy with it. We never felt the need for a city specific guide. We have now used it for five trips to Spain and never needed anything more. For European travel in general Fodor’s are my go-to Travel Books.
Transportation – The metro was the way to go. Our hotel was far enough away we had to use the metro to go everywhere and it worked great. The only down side for us was the fact that the metro stop at our hotel didn’t have an elevator which meant that 4 times a day we had to carry the stroller up or down a flight of stairs. That was just poor planning on our part.
Lodging – We stayed at the Ibis Madrid C / Valentin Beato for $75 per night. This was our only planning mistake so far. There was nothing wrong with the hotel and we love Ibis for budget travel but the location was horrible. We were so far from everything and there was no reason to be we could have / should have found something more in the city center – lesson learned – I actually returned to Madrid a year later with just my daughter and stayed at another Ibis, Ibis Madrid Centro which was centrally located and never even had to use the Metro as we could walk everywhere we needed to go and were in a great neighborhood.
Prado – Madrid’s Fine Arts Museum. It is the biggest sight in the city, but how much time you need is going to completely dependent on how much you like museums and fine art. We went on a Sunday night which had free admission and was a perfect fit. I believe they have free admission every evening you would just need to check the website for the hours. Take advantage of this was a perfect fit for us. — Should See