A view from the mountains of Madrid

Spanish capital is full of culture and close to La Pedriza mountain range

SWEAT is dripping from my forehead, my feet are burning and two cows just wandered past into the bushes.

It was a decision made half-drunk after waking up bleary eyed from a bar crawl the night before. But it turns out to be the highlight of the trip.

I am with Gavin, an old friend and my holiday partner in crime, in La Pedriza, an incredible mountain range an hour’s drive from Madrid. It takes serious effort to get there — a long bus journey to Manzanares el Real, a small town to the northwest of the city and an hour’s walk in the heat to the mountains itself. But this is worth it.

On arrival we are met by a sea of giant grey boulders and precariously balanced rocks, making up what is one of Europe’s largest granitic ranges. La Pedriza is an hour’s drive from Madrid’s city centre. It is quite a sight to behold and no Instagram filter could do it justice.

As well as its rocky cliffs, La Pedriza is famed for its natural lakes. Walking up the mountain we come across several pools of clear water. In the sweltering 35C heat, we simply had to jump in. We find a secluded spot among the trees to stop for a picnic and a swim. Apart from our mountain detour, Madrid is well worth the week we set aside to explore its attractions.

And I would highly recommend an Airbnb apartment over a hotel. Ours is in the multicultural hub of Lavapies and within easy walking distance of everything we want to see in the city.

Madrid is home to the Almudena Cathedral and Teatro Real opera house
On Sunday, the weekly El Rastro flea market hits town. The long street of stalls is like a less tacky version of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and far less prone to pickpockets.

Football fans like me will be in their element in Madrid, home to two of the world’s biggest clubs — Real and Atletico. By extraordinary luck we happen to be there while two great matches are on, although the season has finished. First is a Real Madrid vs Ajax charity game, where Real legends such as Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos return to grace the Bernabeu … albeit with slightly larger bellies than in their heyday.

Two days later, we bag tickets to see Spain warm up for the Euros against Georgia, who shock the home fans by recording an historic 1-0 victory. Like all European capitals, Madrid is full of culture. There is a free walking tour, run by Sandemans, which is a great way to see the city in a day.

And hours can be spent walking around the Royal Palace and Prado Museum, which houses one of Europe’s most impressive collections of art. 

For those who base their holidays around food, the tapas crawl along Cava Baja is not to be missed. Order a dish and a glass of wine at each bar and restaurant and you will be well satisfied — and well tipsy — by the end of the strip. After all that, you will need a good rest, so head to Buen Retiro Park, perhaps the most beautiful part of the city. It is easy to get lost among the greenery, but in the centre lies a huge pond with a giant marble monument where you can hire a pedalo or just relax in the sun.

Failing that, there is always the mountains

I am supposed to be on a relaxing city break in Madrid — but instead find myself hiking up a rocky hill 30 miles away.

Source: The Sun



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