Madrid and Portugal Travel Ideas!

29 May 2024

I've realized that these posts are for me more than anyone - you think you will remember but then 3 years go by and a friend asks you because they are going and you realize how much you have forgotten! So here is a recap and recommendations from our time in Madrid and Portugal. You can also see the videos on Instagram here and here.

We traveled in May 2024 to visit our daughter who has been teaching English at a private school in Madrid. It was so fun to have her as our guide because she knew where to go, how to get there, where to eat, what to buy at market, and had great insights on history and culture from living there and also doing a study abroad with BYU the previous summer! Our dream for traveling! My husband served his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints 27 years ago in the Lisbon Portugal South mission so we could not be over there and not drive over to some of his areas from his mission. So I'm sure that no one will be taking a trip quite like ours but here were some highlights that I would recommend to those traveling there.

If you are renting a car you need to know that you will need an international driver's license for Spain and the rental car agency will charge you for going across the border (like $75) Also, most if not all U.S. auto insurances will not cover international rentals so plan on paying extra for the rental agency insurance. Just a heads up.

MADRID! What an incredible, beautiful city. It blew us away! The history at every turn and the small markets, bakeries, and fruterias on every corner. And the metro was so clean, affordable and straightforward and made navigating around the city a breeze.

Places to visit:

Palacio Real Madrid - amazing! So majestic and beautiful with gorgeous views. Well worth the ticket cost (around $20?)

Plaza Mayor - so fun to walk around and explore and grab something to eat at the San Miguel Food Market (see below)

Just 5 minutes away from the Plaza, you've got to head to  Casa Hernanz for the best espadrilles! You will see espadrilles everywhere but Lauren assured us these are the best. Just take a picture of the ones you want in the window and then at the counter they will get them and you can try them on the bench. I also picked up a basket here that I have on my shelf in the kitchen. ♥ Leave room in your suitcase - you'll want all of them!

Museo Del Prado - so many monumental pieces of art in here! Incredible. We had our own personal guide in Lauren but there are so many museum tours and headset tours at the museum and online. We didn't have time for the Reina Sofia or the Thyssen museums - for next time!

El Retiro Park - we could have spent all day here. Like a Central Park in NYC but even better imo. A perfect place for a run or walk, to bring a picnic, visit the rose gardens, and you've got to rent boats on the pond.

We loved doing some shopping (of course!) around the Puerta de Sol - Primark, Zara, Mango were so fun to explore for fun fast fashion and the little shops and boutiques in my daughter's neighborhood were classy and chic. Did I mention how much we loved Madrid?? Grab some gelato or yogurt and be sure to jump up and touch the bear's bum at El Oso y el Madroño for good luck! If you are LDS the temple was a sweet reprieve so schedule some time there if you can. 

Favorite Eats:
Pez Tortilla - tortillas in Spain are like omelettes and this place is tiny and crazy busy but for good reason. We loved the Parmesan, brie, and original. You've also got to try the croquetas!

San Miguel Food Market - you've got to duck in here when you are visiting Plaza Mayor - what a fun place to get a feel of all the good food in Madrid. It is crowded and noisy and a bit overwhelming but so fun to walk around. Good luck deciding what to get!

Cuzco Lupita - my son is in Peru so we had to give a nod to him. Huge portions - you can definitely share. Try the lomo saltado or chicken and wash it down with some Inca Kola!

Cafetería Restaurante Dados - if you are at the LDS Madrid temple this is a short walk and have wonderful authentic Spanish food. This is where our daughter's roommate wanted to go to have us try Huevos Rotos con Jamon. You will quickly see how much they love ham here and for good reason!! So good and nothing like our ham here. It's more like a prosciutto? I love how you can order a ham sandwich with olive oil on warm, crusty bread at most places. 

Honest Greens is so good in Lisbon or in Madrid!!

Churros at Chocolateria San Gines! Their churros are not as sweet and don't have cinnamon like the ones we are used to but you dip them in the most delicious warm pudding-like chocolate dip and they are the ultimate comfort food! Chocolataria San Gines is the oldest and the best in a charming historical district.

Sushitokyo Chueca - all you can eat sushi! Make reservations and come with an empty, expanded stomach. We were laughing and feeling the pressure that if you DON'T finish a dish they charge you $5 so order carefully. It's actually a brilliant idea to cut down on food waste.


My husband served part of his LDS mission there so we went over to visit some of his areas there and the top recommendations would be:

Palace of Pena - absolutely blew our minds. The beauty, the views!! and you've got to go to the Castelo dos Mouros while you're up there and get your workout and go to the top. So worth it.  It's good to note to get your tickets ahead of time (tickets were gone for the morning we would be there so we just did the outside and that was just as amazing and didn't take as much time) and also that you can't drive up to the castle. We had a car rental so we parked at the Parque de Estacionamento Estacao de Sintra and then just got an Uber to and from the parking lot and that worked really well. 

Belem Tower- we loved coming down here to see this and the Monument of the Discoveries

Cabo Da Roca was beautiful to hit on our way back to Spain! Breathtaking shore views.

If you want a taste of traditional, charming, small town Portugal we loved Evora! See the Roman temple, The Chapel of the Bones, the Roman temple right up there, we loved eating at Tabua do Naldo right outside on the street (try the traditional bacalhau! the pot roast was also so good) and the little shops are great place to buy some souvenirs.

Thanks for coming along!! Feel free to ask any questions!

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