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Need advice for Madrid (3 days) and Paris (4 days)

Need advice for Madrid (3 days) and Paris (4 days)

Dec 8th, 2015, 12:37 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 40
Need advice for Madrid (3 days) and Paris (4 days)

In April I will be taking my 15 yr. old daughter on her first trip to Europe. We will fly from the US into Madrid, spend 3 days there (my first time in Madrid), then fly into Paris for 4 days (I'm somewhat familiar with the city) and finally to Germany for a week to visit and stay with my parents. My daughter is an awesome traveler, interested in everything from art to history, science, photography and she's somewhat of a foodie. I'm very much looking forward to traveling with her and want to make the most of our time when we're in Madrid and Paris.

What's the easiest and/ or least expensive way to get from the airport to our hotel, 0.6 km from the Palacio Real? Is the metro a safe alternative or better a bus? We will have one backpack each.

What are some "must-sees" in Madrid besides Prado, Plaza Mayor and San Miguel Market, Puerta del Sol, Gran Via, Royal Palace, Museo Reina Sofia and the Parque del Retiro? Is the Zoo worthwhile?

Do the hop-on, hop-off bus tours in Madrid follow the same general route, are there differences between them? Would it make sense to get a 2-day pass and let that be our general guide to the city or would it be better to take the metro on the second day?

Would it be too much to spend two days in Madrid, followed by one day in Segovia or Toledo, before heading out to Paris on day 4? I know we will be jet-lagged somewhat at first.

Any recommendations for reasonably priced places for paellas and tapas?

globalmom is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 12:55 PM
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Though the Metro is the cheapest way in I believe there have been warnings about bag snatchers and pick pockets on them - not unusual in Madrid, one of Europe's very worst cities for street crime.

Last time I rode the metro to and from the airport there was however an armed guard in each car - sign of taking precautions - but as usual if you know there is a potential problem and take precautions you should have no problems.

but be careful in Madrid in general - carry nothing of value in a day pack and money and credit cards in a secure under the clothing money belts. And leave the family jewels at home - I was in the Madrid tourist office on main square and a staffer told an American lady to take off here jewels because of the problem.

That was a while ago but reports are persistent, including many on Fodor's, that this is one city to be extra cautious - not to scare you but I think it is good to know the real problem and then that problem is greatly lessened.

Locals on Fodor's have said there is a problem.
PalenQ is online now  
Dec 8th, 2015, 01:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 468
I love the Reina Sofia, if only for Picasso's Guernica. (The evening visit is free. Check on their website.)
Don't forget the Escorial, an easy ride on the Cercania suburban train.
I don't recall Madrid needing any special attention for pickpockets and the like. The normal precautions should be enough to keep you and your belongings safe.
tonfromleiden is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 01:38 PM
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I think Toledo is an exceptional and extremely worthwhile place to visit for anyone interested in art, beauty and above all history. Toledo takes on special resonance today, I think, as one of the greatest multicultural communities that ever existed anywhere, when Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars agreed to work together to study each other's religions, and built libraries, schools and churches in this visually handsom community.

If you don't want to switch hotels, it is easy to take a daytrip from Madrid to Toledo.

For a short trip with one jet-lagged day, and if you want to include Toledo, you'll need to be very selective of about which sights in Madrid you want to see. Some you will see just moving around, but I recommend that you give up on the idea of "must-sees" and instead, you and your daughter should pore over some guidebooks and decide what you'd be most excited to see. For example, I really wanted to see some particular paintings in Madrid, and all that came ahead of seeing places like the Gran Via or even the Royal Palace, or bothering much with other tourist attractions.

Sooner than the zoo, consider the Temple deBod. I am a bit of naysayer on Parque del Retiro -- for me it doesn't stand out as one of the great capital city urban parks of the world -- but others enjoy it as a break from sightseeing. But only you and your daughter can decide!

If your daughter is very interested in photography, you and she might want t look at this website closer to when you leave and see if there is an exhibition that would interest you. There is also a nice place to eat lunch inside the architecturally handsome Circolo de Bellas Artes to enjoy, and I think a terrace cafe in nice weather


The start of the lunch and dinner hour is much later in Madrid, so you and your daughter might want to work up a strategy for food and meals. There is some useful information in this thread, even though your daughter is the polar opposite of the teen discussed in this thead, and the writing style of the thread is a little hard to wade through. And bear in mind that instead of these recommendations, you might want some "top notch" places to please your more adventurous daughter:


While it's prudent to use a money belt, the "worst street crime" in Europe is still in the realm of pickpocketing, not assault. But you should mind your valuables, in transport stations and in tapas bars and if shopping, and not let yourselves be distracted by strange people trying to engage you in some way.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 02:01 PM
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I think Madrid does have a high level of pickpocketing compared to say, some northern European countries. It is higher, I saw it happen to someone at a cafe and heard someone complain about it (in the metro) at my hotel. And that isn't just random, I've read that also, I think it is true. But my normal precautions aren't a lot of people's normal precautions, so if you don't take any and leave things out in public, dangle bags at your side, carry things in your pockets like wallets, etc., you need to start getting some normal precautions. The one I saw in a cafe was some Asian tourists who all put out their fancy expensive cellphones lying out on the table in public, for example. Not a good idea to carry everything in one place, obviously (ie, all your money and credit cards in one thing that you carry on you). I always leave some cash and a credit card in the hotel safe.

I don't see any problem with spending a couple days in Madrid and a day trip somewhere, I've done that.

AS for must-sees, I wouldn't call Puerta del Sol one of them (or Gran Via), they are just streets or intersections. You'll probably be on them just getting places. I think those things named are the top sights, I really liked the Sorolla museum, also, it's small and intimate (he's one of my favorite artists, also). The Thyssen museum is very good, also. Spend some time in around Santa Ana square. I would never spend my time in Europe going to a zoo, but I'm not a big zoo fan, anyway. It would have to be the best special zoo in the entire world, which theirs isn't.

For airport transportation, I used Aerocity shuttle, it was very good. http://www.aerocity.com/en/
Christina is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 02:05 PM
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Agree with everything sandralist says.

When in Madrid, perhaps also see some top of the shelf flamenco in for example Casa Patas or Cardamomo, just off central Plaza Santa Ana. Flamenco is from the South/Andalucia, but Madrid is now arguably the flamenco capital of the world.
kimhe is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 04:26 PM
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As usual, PalenQ is mixing up cities. It is Barcelona with the big crime problem, not Madrid.
Right, you can skip the Gran Via and Puerta del Sol.
Bedar is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 07:41 PM
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Taxi from the airport to central Madrid is. 30 euros fixed rate.
If you take the metro you will have to change trains ...maybe more than once depending on the location of the hotel. Same with bus.
danon is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 08:37 PM
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There's only 1 metro line that leaves the airport so it's easy, especially with just backpacks....hold your backpacks in front of you when boarding or standing in line....the usual precautions. Can't really tell you the best metro plan/where's best to change lines without knowing the address of your hotel. At the airport you can buy a 72 hour tourist pass that includes airport , or a more encompassing pass the includes suburbs. ....And depending on how many museums you think you can squeeze in you might want to consider the "Madrid Card" which you can also purchase at the airport.

clarkgriswold is offline  
Dec 8th, 2015, 09:57 PM
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With only three days in Madrid, after an international flight, I would look at enjoying the city. There is more then enough to see and do, after you get over your jet lag, and adjust to dining hours. The city in April is quite beautiful.

As far as getting to your hotel from the airport, take a taxi. The rate is fixed at 30€ into the city, with no supplement for luggage. A lot faster and more comfortable then taking the metro.
Robert2533 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2015, 01:23 AM
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I don't think you should skip the Gran Via and Puerta del Sol in Madrid just like that.

The history of modernistic Gran Via tells, perhaps better than most other places, about the conflicting ideals of 20th century Spain. The centenary celebrations in 2010 was a major Madrid event: http://uk.reuters.com/article/us-spa...6341VX20100405

Puerta del Sol might not be that much to look at, but it's the heart of the city, the km 0 for all Spanish roads and the place madrileños go for both New Years eve and major political demonstrations: http://mividaen.sampere.com/madrids-puerta-del-sol
kimhe is offline  
Dec 9th, 2015, 02:02 AM
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I don't think I would have enjoyed my stay in Madrid as much as I did had I taken very seriously what other people thought I "should" or "shouldn't" do. Of course I paid attention to suggestions and people sharing with me what they enjoy about Madrid, but visiting Toledo was one of the most illuminating days I have ever spend in my travels in Europe, incredibly rewarding, and has lasted in my mind as a memorable joy. I am glad I made it a priority when I was in the area.

Which isn't to say that you should go to Toledo. But even if you stayed twice as long in Madrid, you would still need to make choices about what few things you should see. Just because you have flown into Madrid you are not obliged to tick off a list of what other people consider a satisfactory tourist itinerary. You can approach this any way you want.
sandralist is offline  
Dec 9th, 2015, 10:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 40
Thank you everyone for your most helpful advice on Madrid! I so appreciate all your specific suggestions and feel much better prepared for our short time there. I do speak fluent Spanish and have traveled to Latin America and Spanish a number of times and I know that often things will present themselves on location that not even the most intensive research in advance of the trip can unveil. We will plan on taking a taxi from the airport to the center of Madrid. That's 30 euros well-spent! Will also take the trip to Toledo. We might never return to Madrid and I wouldn't want to miss this opportunity to see Toledo.
globalmom is offline  

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