Adventures in Madrid

Visiting Spain was in my bucket list for years, so the idea to travel to Madrid came naturally. Even if it was my first time ever in Spain, I always felt I knew the country. After all, we share similar cultural habits, like food and siestas, but we also appreciate a good glass of wine and a sunny terrace! So, I wanted to experience firsthand what Madrid had to offer.

The trip didn’t start so promising for me; I got my period while traveling to Madrid, which in a way brought some distance between the city and my general perception (hormones we oh-so-hate). The weather welcomed us with a beautiful sunshine and a clear blue sky, which was a great start, but also a chance to forget those horrible days of the month.

After meeting my best friends at the airport, we headed to our apartment. It was the moment we stepped out the metro, that my inner Bilbo Baggins started screaming: “I’m going on an adventure!”.


Dinner, lunch and breakfast

In Madrid, as in the rest of Spain, what you need to try is the tapas. Tapas are types of savory dishes that are served in bars; they are usually accompanied by drinks and are the core of the touristic Spanish cuisine. Tapas can be small portions (tapas) of food or bigger ones (raciones). They can be for free or you need to pay for them. Tapas are known all around the world, however, the quality in which we normally find them is far inferior to the real thing – trust me. In Madrid, the tradition is that you are offered a small tapa for free with every drink you order, typically, a small bowl of olives. So, you will eat a delicious tapa either way!

Tapas are not just about the food, it’s also about the way you eat them. It is the whole eating culture that comes with them. You go out with your friends, you find a tapas bar, you sit at the bar and you start eating. You typically order a drink and a couple of tapas plates, and then you order another drink and a couple of more plates. Exactly like eating meze in Greece. I get it now. And you never sit at the same bar all night; you go bar-hopping, visiting several tapas places in one evening.

Seeing for the first time a tapas menu can be challenging, especially if you have no idea what to order – like me. Asking for help and recommendations from the waiter is always a nice solution. Some of the famous tapas are the classic tortilla de patatas, the croquetas and the patatas bravas, but you can also choose from a variety of salad, pasta, fish and meat dishes! There is literally food for all tastes.

During our stay we visited several tapas places; the ones that stood out were the Ojala close to the Tribunal metro station area and the Juana La Loca in the La Latina area. Ojala attracts many young people, mostly due to its hipster interior design. They offer many small tapas, mostly Mexican based dishes. Juana La Loca is modern but it’s also a more typical tapas bar. It attracts people of all ages and the service is quite good. We tried a selection of cold and warm tapas with some Rioja red wine on the side. It was delicious!

A must-go place is certainly the famous open market of Mercado de San Miguel. There are many open markets you can visit in Madrid, but this one is close to the city center and it has a very nice atmosphere and of course, great food options! It has dozens of counters with all types of tapas and drinks. I am telling you, it is a paradise. In the middle of the market there is room where you can sit with your friends while you enjoy the amazing food and drinks! This was for sure my favorite place!

If you feel like visiting a different restaurant, go to the Sobrino de Botin. It is the oldest restaurant in da world (also part of the Guinness World Records), and it is also wordwide famous. You need to book beforehand though, because it is always very busy. I would call their food traditional comfort food and certainly not gourmet. It is typical Spanish food based on very old recipes. It is quite expensive (overpriced I would say), compared with the rest of the restaurants in the area, but its atmosphere is certainly unique. One thing is certain, you will meet people from all around the world there and you will eat a lot! {Check the pictures of their menu in the gallery below to get a glimpse of its food and prices}

While you are in Madrid, don’t forget to try the famous churros with chocolate. We visited the famous Chocolatería San Ginés in central Madrid (in a passageway close to San Ginés church, west of the Puerta del Sol). This chocolatery serves the famous chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and churros) since 1894. They are basically churros served with enough hot chocolate to keep you up all night. They say it’s prefect after dinner, I say it’s perfect ALL-DAY LONG.

La Mallorquina cafe is the best place to grab a quick snack and coffee. It is part of a chain that you can find throughout Spain and they have loads of pastry, savory and sweet snacks to choose from. Pick your coffee, choose your treat and enjoy a quick bite before you start the day. My only problem was the communication, since almost none of the café’s workers understood English. However, they were very kind and helpful with everything we wanted.

Another good breakfast restaurant is the Federal Café, a very modern place (close to the center) which tends to get very busy. We had to wait 20 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it. Their breakfast and lunch options were endless, and their pastry was super delicious. I had a salmon toast with a poached egg and salad and later an amazing chocolate cheesecake (which I unfortunately had to share).

Drinks & Nightlife

Now let’s talk about where to drink in Madrid. That was perhaps the most challenging part for us since we discovered many bars that were not really our taste. But don’t get discouraged! There are countless bars for all tastes to enjoy your drinks. For great cocktails visit the Lamucca de Prado, close to the National del Prado Museum. Other great options for cocktails are the Del Diego Cocktail Bar and the Salmon Guru. If you are not impressed, then check the roof of El Corte Inglés that has an amazing view or go to La Negra Tomasa. To be honest, in every restaurant or bar I visited, they had amazing Rioja (my favorite) red wine. So, even if you crave only a glass of wine, you will find many bars that you can just chill and chat with your friends.

Places to visit/Museums/Art

When it comes to museums and culture, you certainly need to visit the Prado Museum. It has a huge collection of European art, with loads of Goya paintings. On the ground floor you will find Spanish, German, Flemish and Italian paintings from the 15th and 16th century, while on the first floor you will find European artwork from the 17th and 18th century. You must see the fantastically creepy Garden of Earthly Delights by the Dutch painter Jeronimus Bosch, the Raphaels and Titians, but also don’t miss out the Black Paintings from Goya, they are amazing. The Prado is enormous, which means you will have to keep in mind that you will spend at least 2 hours there. There is a lot of art and it is always busy, so plan ahead and enjoy this wonderful museum.

Another must-see museum is the Reina Sofia. Its collection is certainly more modern; it has four full floors filled with art! On the ground and first floor you will find collections on postmodernity with themes such as decolonization, the uprisings of ’68, feminist movements, the economic crisis, the expansion of popular culture and the emergence of other peripheral modernisms, but you can also find several temporary exhibitions. The second floor is dedicated to modernity, with Dali’s surrealist work and Picasso’s famous Guernica, while on the fourth floor you will find post-war works that focus on the antagonism between United States and the Soviet Union. The third floor is always reserved for bigger temporary exhibitions, such as the one I visited, William Kentridge’s multi-layered work, which I had seen before in Amsterdam. The museum currently has an exhibition dedicated to Fernando Pessoa, my favorite Portuguese poet and writer, so if you get the chance, please visit it and I will be eternally jealous!

For a better way to explore the city, you should definitely follow one of the many free tours in Madrid. How it works is very simple: you book online the date you want to join and then you meet up with the group at a central point. After the tour, you are free to give the guides any amount of money you think their work deserved. From my experience, I have to say that their work and insight was great. From those tours you get a general historical and architectural overview of the city, plus you learn the central spots. If you follow or not those free tours, don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Retiro park; the latter we didn’t visit because the rainy weather didn’t allow us.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go shopping in the city, so I don’t have any shopping advice for you! We were busy walking, visiting museums and eating. On out last day the weather was very rainy which didn’t allow us to walk and explore the shopping area. I spotted many nice stores though, that I will certainly revisit in the future!

Practical tips

For accommodation, you can find online small apartments close to the city center, so you don’t have to walk much from one place to the other. We chose an excellent location, close to Puerta del Sol, the very center of Madrid, so that we could have everything at close range. The truth is you will need to use the metro either way, but staying in a central place is always handy.

So, for using the inner-city metro, you need to buy a red card that you then recharge. That was challenging for us, since the English language mode of the ticket machines didn’t actually work. Thankfully my friend knew some Spanish and we could print our card and tickets.

It might get a bit confusing getting the metro and trying to figure out the stops and the lines you need, however, checking the boards they have there and asking the employees of the metro will make your travel easier. Do not use Google maps in any case, because it only confused us (sorry Google).

Useful tip: to reach the airport you will have to use the C1 blue line. If you live in the center, taking the metro towards the Chamartin stop is the easiest option; from there, you wait for the line that takes you to the airport (I took the T4 for European flights).

For more information visit their website.


Click on the links to check the places online.

This post is not a promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above.

(Photos: Canon EOS 1000D, edited via Lightroom with VscoCam & Samsung A5 2016.)


An Italian food week

Italy is the ultimate paradise for people who appreciate good food. Ok, like you didn’t know that already.
From pasta to sauces of all kinds, from chocolate and bread, to cheese (oh yes) meat, wine and pizza, Italy has everything you ever dreamed of, my dear food lover. I kindly warn you for the content of the images that follow. You will drool on your keyboard.

And so my story begins last August, when I had the opportunity to travel to the region of Piemonte, Turin in particular. There, I had the pleasure of experiencing the real Italian food with a real Italian friend! So, next time you visit Turin, these are some of the MUST-EAT places you have to try!

First stop was the piadineria, a place where you can indulge yourself in many types of piadinae. Piadina is an Italian flatbread which is filled with anything you like. In Turin we visited the La Piadineria located at the center of the city (Via Accademia Albertina, 1/BIS), where I had the pleasure to try the “Legend”: piadina with prosciutto crudo and the amazing scquaquerone cheese, which is white, soft and melts in the mouth. All this was served with extra rocket salad. In the evening, it was time for pizza! One of the best places in town is the Le Rondini pizzeria. I treated myself with a different type of pizza, one with scamorza cheese, cabbage, eggplant, spicy sausage and mozzarella. It was really hard to choose; the variety of pizzas was fascinating.





My second day we visited the biggest open market in Europe, the Porta Palazzo. There, we could explore tons of different types of cheeses, a variety of sausages, cold cuts and deli meats, but also fresh pasta. The market also has plenty of fresh vegetables, meat, fish and fruit! We bought some fresh ricotta cheese, which we later ate with some fresh white bread and mortadella.

Later that day, there was time for a break from all this food overload, so we enjoyed some iced ginger-lemongrass green tea at Hafa Café. This café has a distinctive Moroccan decoration and serves many varieties of tea, couscous dishes, salads, desserts and cocktails. Its menu and atmosphere combine in an effortless way the traditional with the modern. The café is located at Via Sant’Agostino 23/c, where most of the bars and restaurants are. In the evening, we cooked some fresh gnocchi with spinach, we added some homemade pesto and ate it with the fresh ricotta and the mortadella on the side.

The next day was time for some focaccia! After walking for hours, it was the perfect time to dive into the gorgeous taste of focaccia. At the Tipica Ligure we had focaccia with spinach and cheese (the rest I don’t remember, since we were too hungry to note the names down). That same evening, we cooked our own authentic caprese salad with REAL mozzarella, you know the one you can never really find in the supermarkets.

The fourth day was dedicated to picnic, since it was a national holiday and we couldn’t do much. But still, we treated ourselves with caprese sandwiches, cheese and bread, but also some great wine. Unfortunately, there are not pictures of the food; it was consumed before I even realized I had a camera.

Around the fifth day, we thought it proper to visit one of the most famous Italian supermarkets: Eataly! If you don’t know it, this is the time to introduce yourself to its products. I beg you, really. This supermarket is even in New York (and in Japan, Turkey, Arabia, Brazil), offering to the world an amazing chance to taste the glorious Italian food. They even have their own cooking school. There were long counters only with cheeses, long counters of chocolate, long counters of everything! It might be more expensive from a typical supermarket, but it is definitely worth it. You can start your visit by dropping by their café and finish the day with some homemade pizza, like we did. You can find all types of Italian food you ever dreamed of. Seriously, google it.

Later that day, it was time for the typical Aperitivo dinner. This ritual starts at around 6pm and it lasts till 9pm to most of the bars and small restaurants. They make their own cold and warm food: salads, pasta, bread, pizzas, oven dishes and much more. You eat ALL you can in those hours and you only pay 6-7 euros depending on the area. Sometimes in the price the alcohol is included. The one we visited was located at Via San Domenico 4 and is called Km5. This time I had a collection of many gorgeous things, but I tried so many that I didn’t even bother taking pictures of them. I drank some Barbera red wine with my food, which I loved.



After walking all over Turin, we dragged ourselves to one of the most fantastic places ever: Cornetti Night. At this place you can find croissants which they fill for you with ANY type of crème: hazelnut, white, dark, milk, almond etc., etc. (this can take hours). I thought I would take something different, so I chose pistachio crema which was fantastic. I mean, did you think it wouldn’t? The day was officially over and our bellies were the happiest they have ever been. It also took a couple of hours to suggest this amount of food, but it was so worth it!




You are probably wondering why I haven’t mention ice-cream so far, the famous gelato. Well, since we ate gelato EVERY SINGLE DAY, I thought it deserved some special attention. We tried ice-cream from many different places, but the one that is known as the best in town is the famous Grom gelaterie. Turin has at least four stores, but the one we visited consistently (I mean every day) is located at Via Accademia delle Scienze 4, next to the Piazza Castello. My favorite flavors were the salted caramel and bacio (chocolate with hazelnuts) ones! It is slightly more expensive, but the texture and taste of their gelato is fantastic.


Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset


My last day I had the opportunity to eat a real Italian dinner, cooked by the sweetest Italian mom ever: Lidia. She had cooked ravioli with ragout sauce and fried veggies, which she accompanied with toma cheese and Dolcetto red wine.




Eating in Italy is not just a need or a habit, it is an experience. People spent time, effort and give a lot of love to what they create. And I can relate to this, since Greek cuisine is also made with love and attention. The difference with the Italian one is that, since it is so popular, you are used to a really low quality of products if you don’t live in Italy. But tasting the real thing has been a revelation to me. Those places I visited and the foods I tried are only a small part of the variety and magnitude of the Italian cuisine. It is vast, amazingly good and easy to fall in love with. Even if you are a food lover or not, visiting Italy should be on your bucket list. That juicy cheese is longing to melt in your mouth; it is created to tickle your palate and make you feel the happiest person alive. Even for some minutes. Because this is why we love good food; it makes us happy. Pack your forks and off you go! Ciao!


Click on the links to check the places online.

This post is not a promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above.

(Photos: Canon EOS 1000D, edited via Lightroom with VscoCam. The pizza picture is taken with a Motorola phone.)