Starting at Berwick-upon-Tweed a hike up the coast up to the English/Scottish border is a must as the beauty of the coastline is just breathtaking with coves, headlands and rocks which look like heads staring out to sea. The walk is generally easy but can be quite steep and dangerous at times because of the path being very close to the cliff edges and sheer climbs. But as long as you take your time and stay vigilant you'll be fine. A pose by the fence marking the border between England and Scotland as well as a photo by the border sign on the East Coast Mainline are both a must. To get to the border sign by the railway follow these directions - once you have got through the turnstile in the fence which has the Welcome to Scotland sign in front of it just turn left and walk across the field and follow the fence up to the stone wall by the railway line and the border sign is opposite to you.
Once you are in Scotland there are clear views down the coastline to St Abbs head. The entire walk from Berwick upon Tweed up to the England/Scotland border takes between one and two hours and clear signposting marks the way along the path so just follow the signs and stick to the path
A walk on the town walls of
Berwick-upon-Tweed provides stupendous views of the North Sea and the coastline south of Berwick as well as of the town itself. There are hidden gems along the route such as the Lion House, watch towers.
Google map: bit.ly/1338TY2
Just outside the train station car park is a viewpoint from which the whole of Durham is spread before you.
The cathedral and castle are both there to admire. I was lucky enough to see them both during the fading light of the sunset (a view I will never forget). Once the sun had gone they were both brilliantly illuminated
Google map: bit.ly/UIGFUQ
It really is a joy to walk by the river Wear and to take advantage of photo opportunities to take photos of Elvet bridge (the recommended starting point), Kingsgate bridge, Prebends bridge and Framwelgate bridge. Stop for lunch here and lookout for the lovely cute birds which inhabit the riverbank just by Framwelgate bridge. The best route to take is between Elvet bridge (follow the signs for riverside path/walk) and Framwelgate bridge
One of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen. Its twin towers dominate the riverbank. The spiral swirls and designs on the interior columns as well as the exteior and interior arches reminded me so much of the mosque I visited in Córdoba in Spain. The Norman architectural splendour is apparent as you look up to the central tower and at the intricate adornments. Sadly photography is not allowed inside the cathedral but you can pause for reflection and take photos in the quieter cloisters of the adjacent Dominican monastery which has it's wonderful original wooden ceilings.
From the cloisters you can appreciate the stupendous views and photos of the central tower and nave. Entry is free but a donation is suggested (£5 is sufficient)
This world famous Madrid institution has been serving its famous chocolate con churros since 1894 and trying it is a must do experience when you are in Madrid. Dip your churros in the hot chocolate. Chocolate con churros is served all day and night (including during the early hours of the morning as is traditional for the clubbers of Madrid). It is a great cure for a sore throat and cold symptoms. A chocolate con churros costs three euros 80 cents which is actually very cheap.
Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11, 28013 Madrid
+34 91 365 65 46
Google map: bit.ly/W6LQtW
These houses are known as casas de malicia because they were designed to deceive.
The story behind this is that when it was decided in 1561 by Felipe II to move the royal court to Madrid, thereby making Madrid the official capital of Spain, there was insufficient space in Madrid (which at that time was just a small town) to house all of the people which made up his royal court. To solve this problem an edict was drawn up by Felipe II which stated that families who lived in houses with more than one floor had to give up one of the floors of their house to members of his royal court. This would ensure that all of his royal court had somewhere to live in Madrid. Naturally this edict was not received by the citizens of Madrid with great joy as they saw this edict merely as an abuse of power by Felipe II. So in order to avoid having to give up a floor of their house many families altered their houses by moving their rooms up to the higher floors of their dwelling, making false floors between the levels of the house, or moving the windows on the outside of the house around thus making it difficult to establish from street level how many floors the house actually had. Unfortunately a lot of the casas a la malicia in Madrid have disappeared but the best two examples still remain on calle del Toro and calle del Conde (both near the cathedral and the viaduct over calle de Segovia)
Google map: bit.ly/UCpxiU
As you go down calle Hortaleza look up at the building at 1 calle Mejía Lequerica and you will notice a sculptured lizard scuttling up the side of the building just underneath the roof. A strange sight indeed in the suburbs of Madrid.
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Exit Tribunal metro station onto calle Fuencarral. Cross the road and in front of you will see the red building which is the museo de historia de Madrid. Take the street to the right of the museum which is called calle Beneficencia. Follow the street to its end where you should turn right onto calle Mejía Lequerica. Go down calle Mejía Lequerica and you will come to a crossroads. Cross the road in front of you (calle Hortaleza) and turn right.
Just before you cross calle Fernando IV look up to the yellow building on your right hand side (where calle Mejía Lequerica and calle Hortaleza meet) and you will see the sculptured lizard on the left side of the building just under the roof - this street corner is the best spot from which to take a photo as the lizard is in plain view.
Cross calle Fernando IV and continue straight down calle Hortaleza and you will end up back on Gran Vía right opposite the
Gran Vía metro station.
Google map: bit.ly/QQr2q0
This museum is probably one of the smallest you will see as it has only one room containing 17th century paintings of Madrid and two large wooden models showing how Madrid would have looked in the 17th century (you will have to use your imagination and geographical knowledge to recognise buildings such as the royal palace and the cathedral as they are not indicated on the models). A video screen taking you on imaginary walks through 17th century Madrid is interesting as it shows you which buildings of 17th century Madrid still exist today and which ones have disappeared over the centuries as Madrid has got ever bigger. Entry is free .
calle Fuencarral, 78
Nearest metro station: Tribunal
Google map: bit.ly/UCsTlX
The Spanish have their own version of the tooth fairy albeit in mouse form and he is known to Spanish children as Ratóncito Pérez. Hidden away in a tiny shopping centre in central Madrid is a cute tiny golden statue of this famous Ratóncito Pérez. Upstairs on the first floor of the shopping centre is a small museum dedicated to the history behind this mouse.
An arch marking one of the main points of entry into Madrid from the western parts of Spain decorated with motifs and topped with regal statues. It is just as impressive as the Puerta de Toledo.
Nearest metro station: Príncipe Pío
Exit the metro station onto Cuesta San Vicente and the arch is on the roundabout in front of Príncipe Pío train station.
Google map: bit.ly/SPctPX
This street really reveals the hidden cafes and restaurants favoured by Madrileños such as La Brocense which is on this street.
Do not miss the 16th century pharmacy on the corner of calle Lope de Vega and calle León. On the outside of the pharmacy there are azulejo tiles and inside at the back of the shop as you go into it is an old till from when the pharmacy originally opened. On calle Lope de Vega itself there is also the convento San Ildefonso (which can be easily missed as it does not stand out from the buildings around it) where Miguel Cervantes is buried (the convent is not open to the public but a plaque on the outside of the building telling us that Cervantes is buried here is what you need to look for). Do not be fooled into thinking that this street is where Lope de Vega lived. The house where he actually lived is preserved as a museum and can be found on the next street on the right called calle Cervantes. Calle Lope de Vega is also a short cut to the Prado museum from Antón Martín metro station. If you follow calle Lope de Vega to is end it will bring you onto the paseo de Prado and the Prado museum is in front of you across the boulevard.
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Exit Antón Martín metro station and turn left onto calle Atocha. Cross calle Atocha and take the next street on your right. This is calle León. Go up calle León
and take the third street on the right which is calle Lope de Vega (you will see the pharmacy on your right hand side on the corner of calle Lope de Vega)
Calle de Lope de Vega, 30, 28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 914 29 00 99
Google map: bit.ly/UCdgcY
This atmospheric town house is the former home of Spain's foremost "Golden Age" playwright - Lope de Vega who lived here for 25 years. A 17th-century gem with delightful gardens at the back, it's well worth the visit. Entry is free.
Calle de Cervantes 11, 28014, Madrid
+34 914 29 92 16
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Google map: bit.ly/SjC5bB
A quieter and more peaceful version of the nearby Puerta del Sol. The cafes and restaurants around the square can get busy during the evening with locals popping in and having meals after seeing a play at the Teatro Español which is on the square. However the cafes and restaurants here are much cheaper than in the pricier Plaza Mayor. Just keep your wits about you at night and an eye on your wallet/purse as thieves do operate in this square and the surrounding streets as police do not patrol this area.
Nearest metro station: Sol
Plaza de Santa Ana is a 15 min walk from the Puerta del Sol and is best approached from calle Principe off Carrera de San Jerónimo
Google map: bit.ly/VBwr4A
This park is in my opinion better than the
El Retiro park in central Madrid. It is more geared towards children and families. Children will love it as there is lots to discover such as ... I am not going to tell you. Go to the park, ignore the plan of the park, lose yourself and discover the many buildings within it for yourself.
I assure you that around every corner you will discover something new. It will feel like you are nowhere near Madrid at all (El Capricho park is in fact right on the very edge of the Madrid) as it is small and showy with colourful roses and sunflowers all year round. The sun brings out the autumnal colours. Take food and drink with you though as unlike El Retiro park there are no food or drink shops within the park itself. Although there is a free tap providing free drinking water within the grounds near El Capricho palace. My favourite spot to stop and sit was on the seat by the artificial lake opposite the waterfall on the manmade island in the middle of the lake. Sadly this park which was previously unknown to many tourists and Madrileños has been discovered and is now very popular and can be busy which is why they have a daily limit of 1,000 people in the park at any one time. This has spoiled the serenity of the park somewhat but there are still some secluded spots left within the park to escape the crowds which is good. If you are lucky like I was you will be treated to some free dancing and acting outside the dance hall in the park (usually between 12.00am and 13.00pm). Entry is free but the park is only open Saturday and Sundays from 9.00am to 21.00pm.
Calle de la Galera, 0, 28042 Madrid, Spain
+34 917 42 97 87
Nearest metro station: El Capricho
The long 45 - 60 min metro journey from central Madrid is worth it I promise you!
Exit El Capricho metro station (there is only one exit) and follow the brown signs which say Parque El Capricho which will lead you across scrubland and past some flats to the park entrance on the opposite side of the zebra crossing.
Google map: bit.ly/TpdqoR
If money is tight and you cannot afford to eat out than Lidl on the Plaza Tirso de Molina is cheap and not much different to Lidl in the UK or anywhere else in Europe as the produce offered is cheap, similar to what you get at a Lidl in the UK and you know what you are getting for your euros. If you have a rucksack ensure that you have a one euro coin with you so you can put your rucksack in the lockers beside the store entrance. But the security guards did not stop me for having a small backpack on my back when I went in on three separate occasions but it is better not to take the chance.
Plaza Tirso de Molina 16, Madrid
Google map: bit.ly/UsEQFh
This street is quiet compared to the bustling Gran Vía barely a block behind it and it has some pretty coloured houses with flowered balconies. Close to the end of the street you will find a calm and shady plaza next to the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The fact that it now houses council and government offices belies the ghost story associated with this building.
It is said that every night the ghost of Elena shows herself on the roof between the seven chimneys. Her sad and extremely tragic plight is this: the mansion was built by a huntsman in the court of king Carlos V for his daughter Elena. More importantly, rumour had it that Elena was actually the mistress of the son of Carlos V - Felipe (who went on to become King Felipe II) and that it was on Felipe's orders that the mansion was built. In any case soon after the completion of the mansion Elena married an army captain. Sadly not long after their marriage Elena's husband died in the line of duty and Elena herself died of a broken heart. Yet just before she died Elena gave birth to a girl. Nobody knows what happened to the baby. The house servants firmly believed that Elena had been murdered because of her illicit and compromising relationship with Felipe. Unfortunately it could not be proved if Elena was murdered or not as her body disappeared from the house shortly after her death. Elena's father was detained and questioned by the police but he was released only to hang himself from one of the rafters of the house where Elena and her husband had lived. Then a few months later a farmer returning home saw a ghostly pale figure shuffling to and fro between the chimneys on the roof of the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The figure pointed towards the royal palace where king Felipe II resided thus condemning the king for having had her murdered and her body hidden thus denying her a proper burial. Some believe this ghostly figure to be Elena herself or the girl she gave birth to wandering alone on the roof with no parents to take care of her. Years later workmen did find a human skeleton under the basement of the house. To add more mystery the skeleton was proven to be that of a female and was buried with 16th century coins with the image of Felipe II on them!
Nearest metro station: Gran Vía
Exit Gran Via metro station onto Gran Vía
itself. Using the zebra crossing cross
Gran Vía and go up calle Fuencarral (immediately opposite Gran Vía metro station). Take the first right onto calle Infantas and on the left hand side of the street just before you just get to the plaza at the end of the street you will see the casa de las siete chímineas.
Plaza del Rey, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/NOlOL8
Everybody notices the statue of Felipe III on his horse in the centre of the Plaza Mayor. But take a closer look at the horse and you will notice that it's mouth has been soldered closed. There is a sad story behind the reason for this. In 1931 a bomb was thrown into the horse's mouth thus busting open its belly. To surprise of everybody tiny bird bones filled the air. Before this happened nobody realised that sparrows had flown into the horses mouth and down its neck in search of food or shelter. Because their wings are too big to enable them to fly back up out of the statue they panicked and were unable to fly out of the horse; and so it was that they became trapped inside it and they slowly died inside the statue. To avoid any more birds being trapped inside the statue and facing a slow and painful death the horse's mouth was soldered shut shortly after this discovery. Another story of the hidden Madrid which tourists do not see.
Nearest metro station: Sol
This street is rarely visited by tourists and the dark bloody history behind this street's name would probably deter them from wandering down this street anyway as in English it is translated as Head Street. Look up and you will notice the street's name written on a plaque showing the heads of a man and a ram together with a dagger - this gives a clue to the history behind the street name. The story behind the street's name goes like this: on this street there was a house in which a wealthy priest lived. His Portuguese servant was very jealous of his wealth so one night he murdered the priest and cut off his head. Leaving the priest's body and head in the house he seized the priest's gold and fled to Lisbon. Years after the murder the servant returned to Madrid in the guise of a prosperous gentleman. One morning he was walking through Madrid's El Rastro market and he decided to buy a rams head for dinner. Putting the ram's head under his cape he made for home. However during his journey home a watchman noticed blood dripping onto the pavement from the beneath his cape. The suspicious watchman approached him demanding to know what was under the cape. The former servant replied that it was only a ram's head, despite this though the watchman was not satisfied so he demanded that the former servant open his cape which he did. To the complete astonishment of the former servant what was revealed was the severed head of the priest who he had murdered many years ago. The watchman promptly led the former servant to jail. At his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Once the execution had taken place the head reverted to being that of a ram. This story is part of the hidden Madrid which tourists do not see. Please avoid this street at night though as it is a dangerous part of Madrid due to drug dealers and thieves which use this street and nearby calle Lavapiés as their hunting ground and police do not patrol this area.
Nearest metro stop: Tirso de Molina
Exit Tirso de Molina metro station onto plaza Tirso de Molina and cross it until you see calle Magdalena (the first street leading off the east side of the square), then turn right onto calle Lavapiés and calle de la cabeza is at the crossroads in front of you.
Google map: bit.ly/VBC9Ud
The square of the Irish - named after the Irish pub in the square and St Patricks college (or Irish College) which backs on the square. During the afternoon it is completely quiet and practically deserted.
Google map: bit.ly/Tusf9y
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