Madrid is a city I’ve always traveled by foot. With a phenomenal metro system and relatively few bikers taking to the streets, I suppose I never thought a leisurely two-wheeled approach to be an option. But today, I learned differently.
Equipped with fancy and absurdly comfortable cruiser bikes, I started the Madrid Bike Tour near Puerta del Sol – the heart of the city (and Spain, too, really) both geographically, but also culturally. With Ninon as our guide, we set off down the balcony-lined streets of Madrid’s bohemian district, Malasaña, slaloming around pedestrians, who cocked their heads and raised their eyebrows, perplexed by our biking adventure.
Making stops along the way at places like the Temple of Debod, the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and more, Ninon shared with us each spot’s history, but also unexpected tidbits about sights both famous and unknown. I mean, did you know that the city of Madrid is still technically considered a village? Or that the Puerta de Alcalá has two entirely different faces? Or that a decade ago, when refurbishing the statue of Felipe III in Plaza Mayor, inside they discovered thousands of small bones and feathers from birds entering a hole and becoming trapped? I sure didn’t.
During our journey, we passed by — and in many cases stopped at — pretty much every don’t-leave-without-seeing-it sight. But after living here five years, what I especially enjoyed was zinging down hidden alleyways and streets, discovering corners of the city most don’t see when wandering the main thoroughfares.
And I appreciated not just the new facts and sights, but the old too, seeing it through fresh eyes and sharing the enthusiasm of both my guide and the other travelers. I marveled with them in the view of Casa de Campo, and giddily snapped shots of the Palacio de Cristal in Retiro Park.
But my favorite part? I saw the best of Madrid — and more — in just three hours. In fact, I didn’t just see it, but rather I learned about it, laughed about it, and grew more curious about it, all while burning enough calories to justify a plate of jamón and a fat slice of juicy tortilla española. Now I just need to get a sweet bike of my own so that I can take advantage of my newfound mode of Madrileño transportation, and perhaps the tasty payoff too.
Photos courtesy of Erin Ridley.
- Erin Ridley