Qype: Parque del Retiro in Madrid

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Monument to King Alfonso XII, Parque del Retiro

The Parque del Retiro is an absolutely stunning space, situated close to the Paseo del Prado in Madrid. Full of winding pathways, huge statues, gorgeous fountains and row upon row of trees, this has got to be the nicest green space in the whole city.

Whether you want to sit and read a book on a bench, take a picnic and sunbathe on the grass, or hire a boat to row around on the huge pond, this is a great place to spend a day. And you would need to entire day here in order to see everything, as it’s an absolutely huge park.

The most striking part of the Parque del Retiro is the monument overlooking the lake, which was erected in 1922 by King Alfonso XII’s mother. It looks like something straight out of Ancient Greece, with its huge columns and statues of cherubs and mermaids, fitting in with the grand neo-classical architecture that’s so popular around the city.

It’s such a shame that the weather wasn’t warm enough for us to just lay about here for hours on end, as this is most definitely a summer place. Probably most like Regent’s Park in London (just to compare it to something in the UK), it’s in actually far more impressive than even the grandest of London parks.

Check out my review of Parque del Retiro – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

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Qype: Centro Comercial Príncipe Pío in Madrid

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Inside Principe Pio

This was the best place we found for shopping in all of Madrid – Principe Pio station is a rather large shopping mall with recognisable names like H&M, McDonald’s and Starbucks plus shops that I haven’t come across in England before, like clothes shops Pinkie’s and Pull & Bear, which are great. It’s fairly small by shopping mall standards in the UK, but was the biggest (actually, the only) shopping mall we found in Madrid.

My favourite random things in the Principe Pio mall were the vending machines – dispensing everything from olive oil to books to bouquets of flowers. No boring fizzy drinks and chocolate bars here, oh no.

As well as the larger, well-known shops, there were also a few little stalls scattered around the mall entrance, selling things like jewellery, handbags and watches. I managed to purchase a gorgeous watch for €6 and a pair of turquoise crystal earrings for €2 from these little stands. Totally bargainous and definitely worth checking out if you’re passing through the station.

Check out my review of Centro Comercial Príncipe Pío – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Kukuxumusu in Madrid

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Kukuxumusu, which translates as “kiss of the flea”, was one of my favourite discoveries in all of Madrid. A fabulous concept for a shop, this place is full of brightly coloured clothing and accessories – all of which bear one of Kukuxumusu’s unique and hilarious designs.

Mainly revolving around animals, these designs are always fantastically funny, usually very cheeky and sometimes downright rude: mosquitoes sniffing sugar like cocaine, a chicken funeral where the hearse is an oven, wolves in disguise infiltrating flocks of sheep, hedgehogs having sex… any bizarre animal-related scenario you can think of, they’ve probably put it on a t-shirt.

At around €18 the t-shirts, they aren’t bad value for money either. If you just like the designs because they make you laugh but don’t really want to wear them, then you can buy most of them on postcards. Or even a pair of knickers, if you’d rather.

Check out Kukuxumusu’s brilliant, off-the-wall designs here.

Check out my review of Kukuxumusu – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: El Corte Inglés – Preciados in Madrid

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El Corte Ingles is THE main department store in Madrid. From the hype in our guide book, I was expecting something akin to Selfridges or perhaps even John Lewis. Alas, this was more like a Marks & Spencer’s meets BHS kind of place – no designer brands or impressive displays.

Strangely, the clothing all seemed to be styled on the late 80s/early 90s and it all just seemed a bit, well, dull. I didn’t buy anything, but neither did I feel the desire to – not my idea of a successful or enjoyable shopping experience.

This is definitely a place for the everyday, rather than a place to treat yourself to a fabulous shopping experience.

Check out my review of El Corte Inglés – Preciados – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Museo del Prado in Madrid

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The main entrance of the Museo del Prado

The Museo del Prado is Madrid’s most famous museum, situated along the grand Paseo del Prado. I was incredibly excited about coming here, mainly because I’m a total ex-art student geek and LOVE museums and art galleries. I love the quietness, the silent respect and the feeling of being surrounded by beautiful things that seem impossibly old.

This is far more of an art gallery than a museum though, with sculptures and paintings from all over Europe ranging from a couple of hundred years BC all the way to the 19th century. There’s a statue of Goya outside the museum and a huge collection of his paintings inside which are just phenomenal.

If, however, you aren’t as enthusiastic about soaking up hours on end of culture, the restaurant in here offers excellent value for money. For €15, you can get a perfectly nice three course meal and a bottle of drink. And if you are like me, unshakeably determined to see every single thing contained within the building, then you’ll need a decent lunch break and a strong coffee in the middle of it all.

Check out my review of Museo del Prado – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Jardines de Sabatini in Madrid

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The Jardines de Sabatini

These immaculately kept gardens are set just below the North Facade of the Palacio Real, which meant we wandered through them into Old Madrid on every day of our holiday.

The sweeping pathways, delicate fountains, rows of statues and impeccably maintained hedges make this public garden a beautiful space either to sit down in with something to read, or to wander through hand in hand while you gaze up at the majesty of the Palace.

The feel of Royal Madrid just resonates through this place – oh, and it’s a great place for a photo opportunity.

Don't you just love how neat the hedges are?

Check out my review of Jardines de Sabatini – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Museo Palacio Real de Madrid in Madrid

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Palacio Real de Madrid from the Jardines de Sabatini

Seeing as we had a view of the Palacio Real from our hotel room down the road on the Paseo del Florida, it was one of the first places we headed to when we landed in Madrid. This stunning palace, built during the mid-1700s, is the official residence of the King of Spain and is the place where all the official ceremonies and engagements take place. The neo-classical-style architecture, all huge columns and grand gates, is absolutely stunning.

Unfortunately, due mainly to bad timing on our part, we weren’t able to actually get inside because of either ceremonial national events or because the queue was so damn long we’d have wasted half the day standing in it. On a four-day city break, that just wasn’t something we were prepared to do.

Still, standing on the Plaza de Oriente, we got to witness the commemoration of the execution of the defenders of Madrid in 1808 (where every type of Spanish guard, police officer and soldier paraded in full costume) and a ceremonial changing of the guards. It was all the royal pomp and ceremony we could have wished for.

Unfortunately, due to our non-existent grasp of Spanish we hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on at the time, but it was impressive nonetheless!

Check out my review of Museo Palacio Real de Madrid – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype