What to see and where to eat in Madrid

I’ve just come back home after a week spent in Madrid, and I’d like to share with you my highlights of the trip; hopefully you’ll get some good insights about what to see and where to eat in Madrid.

madrid, what to see and where to eat in madrid

Team meetup

Since Automattic is a distributed company and we all work remotely, once or twice per year (considering also the Grand Meetup) we meet up and spend some quality time together. My team (that’s made of Happiness Engineers) decided to have our meet up together with a team of developers who work very close with us on a number of products. We all voted to figure out where our meet up would take place, and Madrid was the winner.

What we shipped in Madrid

Having a meet up is not like going on a holiday. Of course we had some activities planned to explore the city, have some fun and build up our team spirit (remember, we see each other a few times per year but we virtually work elbow by elbow on a daily basis), but we also worked on particular projects that could use some ‘human’ contact and attention to be pushed. In a nutshell, we took advantage of the fact that we were all gathered together to sit down and tackle sensitive areas of our work.

I love working remotely, and that is for sure one of the great perks that Automattic offers to its folks, however I quite enjoyed to spend time talking face to face with my colleagues, and brainstorming many aspects of our daily job that you don’t have time to discuss when chatting on Slack or Zoom.

We managed to ship a demo site for Sensei, a plugin that creates courses and lessons, and to start reordering and amend other plugin documentation that needed some love. We also spent time to talk about new stuff that we are exciting to develop and launch very soon.

The flat where we coworked

All of us (me included) had a hotel room where to crush at the end of the (long) days, a part from two colleagues who stayed in the apartment that we rented to cowork. The flat was literally 3 minutes away from our hotel, in the very heart of Madrid. We had really serious conversations in there, especially at lunch time.

Have to say the place we rented was pretty bizarre and eccentric. I felt like I was in one of Zafon’s book, and I liked it!

Madrid – the city

Madrid is a gorgeous city. It’s warm, lively and elegant. The architecture is very peculiar and elegant; old and modern fuse together in a beautiful, elegant blend. Did I say the city looks elegant?

I managed to visit the most important areas of the city, either by bike and by walk. I also went to the Prado museum, where, among the great statues and paintings exposed, I could admire a series of breath-taking Raffaello Sanzio’s paintings I haven’t seen yet. I’m a Raffaello fan, so I couldn’t miss them.

Mention of honour to the Metro Museum I discovered thanks to my colleague Richard, who’s very passionate about all things metro. It’s a 1950 closed metro station that’s been turned into a tiny museum. It was like jumping back to the past and feeling how the metro looked like a while ago. Even if the station is closed, trains pass by anyway and that creates a weird effect. It was funny and interesting at the same time – and the museum has a free entrance!

The activities

We planned some outdoor activities to do together, as well as some free time to let people choose what to see in Madrid.

We had a three hours bike ride across the city which was a lot of fun! Visiting a city on a bike is definitely the most efficient way to see a lot of stuff. Our tour guide brought us also on the highest tower in Madrid (El Faro de Moncloa) from which we had a beautiful overview of the city. It was amazing.

Bike ride tour Fitbit track.png

Here’s what my Fitbit tracked (+13km). The missing lines are because I forgot to un-pause the tracker after a stop.

Of course I felt off the bike twice, but didn’t crush on the ground (thanks, core muscles!)
The first time I felt I was taking a video whilst cycling, so I didn’t save it because this way there’s no proof that I’ve been an idiot!

We also went for a winery tour in the countryside. We visited three wineries and the summer royal residence (only from the outside), had a lot of wine and learnt more about the winery tradition in Spain. It turns out Spanish wines are very tasty and strong. I didn’t get drunk because I was wise enough to bring some food with me and eat a good amount of water between the tasting sessions.

One of the activities I didn’t particularly enjoy was the Flamenco evening. Don’t make me wrong, the Flamenco show we watched was very passionate and impressive (here are two snaps taken from my Instagram stories: Video #1, Video #2), however it lasted only one hour and then we were kindly accompanied out. They also provided a meal (as a dinner) that left me quite hungry. I’d say the value for money wasn’t very convenient, but we couldn’t know that – the reviews were quite good so probably that’s me being too fussy.

The food

Madrid is a foody city. Wherever you turn, there’s a place where you can have a bite. We had a number of very good meals, although we had some troubles to find restaurants that worked out also for our colleague Rachel who’s vegan. Spain is a country that’s heavily meat-oriented, if I you pass me the word :)

This is my top 3 places where to eat in Madrid:

– Restaurante Taj, an Indian place where my Tandoori lamb was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life!

Al Natural, vegetarian and vegan restaurant

La Botega de los Secretos, a bit pricy but the steak I had was gold.

I had mainly no issues with my food allergies, thanks to my colleagues who looked after me ❤️
Macro-wise, I managed to keep track of my nutrients intake, and I indulged only when we had pizza one night (but I compensated having low-carb meals the day after), and of course I indulged a lot with wine :P

What particularly kept me on track was the early breakfasts, where I had scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt with assorted fruits, baked beans and/or turkey ham, and occasionally a couple of wholemeal slices of bread with honey. That kept me full and fuelled my working mornings, while at lunch and dinner I could have some bread, veggies and proteins (steak or tofu) without binge eating. Of course my appetite was huge as usual, but I walked a lot this week and that explains it all!

Fitbits steps over the last 30 days – Madrid is the last 7 days from the left

Overall, my meet up in Madrid has been wonderful. Our very own Donncha managed also to take some nice photo of myself, which is unusual for me! He’s so talented :)

Hope I didn’t miss anything important about what to see and where to eat in Madrid, but if you have anything to add to my list, please leave a comment below!