Playing Tourist in Madrid

Seville past view
Two silly tourists in Seville.

This post is part of the initiative 100 cities to home swap before you die from

The trend these days in travel is surely to get as far off the beaten path as possible. Places that were once considered hidden gems are quickly becoming filled with backpackers and traveling hipsters as we travel bloggers spread the word about our favorite secret spots. Yet while everyone is getting lost trying to find what they are not supposed to be looking for, some people have forgotten how to be a tourist.

It’s simple, you may not travel like a stereotypical tourist, some sort of loud, obnoxious person with a money pouch (that is the stereotype of American tourists, right?) but if you are traveling for a short period of time in a place that is not your home, I’m pretty sure that you are a tourist, guide-book in hand or not.

The point I’d like to make today is that there is nothing wrong with being a tourist and doing “touristy things”. While tourist traps certainly do exist, the top 10 monuments on Tripadvisor for a destination are top 10 for a reason– they are pretty impressive! So before you go to Paris and avoid the Eiffel Tower like the plague, or visit Spain without seeing a flamenco show, think about what you are going to be missing out on, and weight that against your aloof, no map for me alter ego that really just wants to grab a beer in the city’s main square!

Not too long ago I had a Saturday free, and Ale and I decided to spend it as tourists in Madrid. We grabbed our cameras and took to the streets with a plan to do some of the touristy things we never seem to make time for. Truth be told we had a great day, totally proving my point that touristy things are touristy for a reason– they’re fun.

Templo de Debod

We started our day by getting off the metro at Opera, a beautiful part of old Madrid. As we walked by the Royal Palace and admired the gardens, we made our way down to a sight Ale had never seen after nearly three years in the capital, El Templo de Debod. This Egyptian temple was given to Spain in the late 1960s after Spain played a role in protecting some of Egypt’s temples that would potentially be damaged due to construction efforts. As a sign of thanks, the Egyptian government sent over this small but stunning temple, three pieces that rise above a reflecting pool.

Templo de Debod Madrid
The gorgeous Templo de Debod in Madrid

Templo de Debod is beautiful at any time of day, but people say that the most impressive moment is surely sunset. We didn’t see the sunset this time, but that leaves us with a good reason to come back to this great spot, perhaps next time with a hidden bottle of wine…

Casa Mingo

We decided to eat lunch at the famous Casa Mingo, known for its roasted chicken and cider from Asturias. Despite all the hype, we’d never been there, and had heard stories of amazing, cheap food, and also of mediocre, expensive food. It was time to find out for ourselves.

When we arrived, the line was out the door– it was a Saturday afternoon afterall. But we waited, and it went very quickly, we were seated within 20 minutes. The menu is very simple, and definitely a bit overpriced for the type of food it is, but it still ends up being among the cheapest restaurants in the city we’ve dined at.

We ordered the roasted chicken, cabrales cheese, a mixed salad, and a bottle of dry Asturian cider. The chicken was very good and moist, although lacking in salt. The cabrales was very good quality, and the cider was also great. The salad was prepackaged as if you’d bought it at the supermarket, and truly mediocre. I also would’ve appreciated salt and pepper, but wasn’t able to get anyone’s attention. The bread was awful– as is common in most of Madrid’s restaurants.

Cabrales Cheese from Casa Mingo
Sharp and delicious Cabrales cheese from Casa Mingo

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal, despite its shortcomings. At around 15 euro per person, I’d return in a heartbeat.

Madrid Cable Cars

Our next stop were the Madrid Cable Cars, a short walk from Casa Mingo. On the way we passed the church where Goya is buried, something I never knew about. We got into the cable car for a short, scenic ride over the city. The trip is only 11 minutes, but the views of the Manzanares River, Royal Palace, and Madrid skyline are precious. After a coffee at the cable car cafe in the Casa de Campo Park, we got back on for the return trip.

Tourist sights in Madrid
Riding the Madrid Cable Cars, lunch at Casa Mingo, the Madrid River from the cable car, and the church where Goya is buried.

La Mallorquina

After our trip through the sky, we caught the metro back to Sol Plaza, the center of everything in Madrid. And despite the fact I stop at the incredible bakery La Mallorquina on a regular basis with Madrid Food Tour, I rarely ever go with Ale or get to sit down and have something in their tea room. Being Holy Week (Semana Santa) there was only one thing to order, a delicious torrija, Spain’s most typical Easter sweet and a kind of cold french toast. Check out my very own torrija recipe to make them at home.

Rosquilla listas
Another great pastry at La Mallorquina are their Rosquillas Listas.

Finally, we were exhauseted and headed home. We’d been good touists, and had a blast seeing different parts of the city. And to those of you out there rolling your eyes, don’t knock it til you try it– you might be surprised!

Do you tend to do the touristy things when traveling or try to get off the beaten path? Why?


  1. Playing tourist? We did that on our last trip to Madrid, by buying a ticket for the hop-on/hop-off bus and letting it guide us all over the city. But oh, my goodness, you visited that Egyptian temple I was drooling over as we passed. I sure hope we can see it the next time we’re there.

  2. Great article! Yes, it’s always good to be a tourist now and again. We lived in a tourist resort in the Canaries for a number of years… and sometimes I miss the shininess. We forget sometimes what we have on our doorsteps… or at the very least we take it for granted. We should all get out a bit more to remind ourselves why people travel so far to visit our home.
    Elle x

  3. Love your posts – and loved Casa Mingo. Last time I ate half a chicken was when I was a student – a very long time ago. We are so enjoying Madrid. Our fourth time in Spain, but first in Madrid. Didn’t manage the Teleferico – but want to try and fit it in somewhere in the next couple of days.

  4. Hi, Lauren, nice blog:
    I landed here to check your pancakes recipe. Surprisily not much different from my moms´

    Actually we in Madrid enjoy visiting these places from time to time . OK, not really often…:)
    From a madrileño: Just DON´t ask for sangría in Madrid . Only tourists drink that horrid thing. Flamenco+paella+sangría = guiris stuff.
    American residents in Madrid usually know this city well, though . Better than many spaniards. 😀


      1. Thank you for the warm welcome, Lauren:
        I would never ask for a sangría+paella –good or bad– in Madrid as I would in a chiringuito in Málaga but well, probably I would if I were a foreigner. 😉
        Sure, I visited recetasamericanas and found a lot of interesting recipes and good cultural references.
        Keep up the good work. Both blogs are stunning.

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