We arrived in Madrid at 8am for our first day of a ten day Gate 1 tour of Spain. We arrived two days early to do some exploring on our own before the tour begins. We took a shuttle to terminal 4 where we were able to take the train in to Atocha train station for 5E. From there we walked five minutes to our hotel, the Tryp Atocha on Calle Atocha. We dropped our bags and headed out to catch an 11am free walking tour of the old city, which meets in front of the tourist information office in Plaza Mayor (just up Calle Atocha). Plaza Mayor was built as a market when Madrid became the new capital (Toledo was old capital) in 1561 but was rebuilt (after three fires destroyed the wooden buildings) in 1790 by Juan de Villanueva.
The square is surrounded by 235 ochre balconied apartments and was the site of bullfights, ceremonies and during the Inquisition executions by garroting.
From the square we walked down the shortest street in Madrid, Calle de la Escalera de Piedra (stone staircase) to Calle de Cuchielleros (knife street) to the oldest restaurant in the world, Casa Botin, which has operated since 1725.
We managed to get reservations for tomorrow night.
From there we visited Mercado San Miguel with its original iron support posts.
Today the market was crowded with people sampling everything from calamari to cured meats, olives, wines, and desserts. We will have to come back.
Next we visited the tiny church of Corpus Christi (1700) with an unusual vertical painting of the Last Supper over the altar.
Next it was on to Plaza de la Villa with buildings from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.
Next we walked to the Cateral de la Mudena and the Palacio Real.
We ended the tour in the Plaza del Sol, something like our Time Square were Madrilenos welcome New Year’s Eve.
From here, we headed back to Atocha, walking through wonderful old streets.
We found a restaurant around the corner from our hotel, Taverna Mas al Sur, where we had a fish and prawn dish and a dish with rice and seafood, somewhere between a paella and a bouillabaisse. Jet lagged as we were, we napped for three hours before heading out to sample tapas in Santa Anna square not far from our hotel.