Weekend Trips From Madrid
If you’re subscribed to the weekly newsletter and/or following me on Instagram, you’re probably getting regular updates on where my family has traveled while living in Spain. But in case you missed it, I thought it would be fun to share all of our quick European getaways in one post below.
#1) Zermatt, Switzerland
For our first weekend trip from Madrid, we traveled to what I like to call ‘Heaven On Earth’… Zermatt, Switzerland! It was magical. The landscape is unreal and ridiculously gorgeous. In addition to the most recognized mountain in the world, the Matterhorn, and a gigantic glacier enabling you to ski year-round, you have sweeping mountain plains and the brightest turquoise lakes I’ve ever seen. We’re hoping to go back and ski during the winter.
Chris and I really appreciated the low-key vibe in town too. For example, I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a single person dressed in anything but hiking gear and everyone was very helpful and friendly.
We stayed in one of the apartments at Matterhorn Lodge, which I highly recommend. It was so charming, and we had a big balcony with the perfect view of the Matterhorn. If we had brought Traveler with us, we would have stayed for much longer.
One of my favorite things that we did while in Zermatt was take the 5 Lakes Hike. It is supposed to be a 6 mile hike, but somehow we made it into an 8-miler! While exploring the trail, we stumbled upon the most wonderful restaurant called Chez Vroni. You can see some of the photos from that hike above. It was nothing short of incredible.
For more info on what to do, where to stay, and where to eat, make sure you check out this post!
#2) Amsterdam, Netherlands
Our next trip was to Amsterdam! The entire family really enjoyed this trip. Collectively, our favorite activity was the 2-hour boat tour. It’s a great way to see the city and we had an incredible guide who really made it interesting and share unique facts you wouldn’t get from an average tour guide!
To make this experience educational for the kids, we had them do presentations before we left. Elizabeth did hers on Amsterdam in general and Gage did his on The Night Watch. We went to Rijksmuseum and actually got to see the world-famous painting, which Gage (and the whole family) loved.
Something I noticed about the fashion in Amsterdam is that the women wore very tailored, polished looks. Which I thought was interesting compared to the American fashion scene where everything baggy and oversized is very on-trend right now.
Quick Note On Travel During COVID…
I wanted to touch on the actual travel aspect of these weekend trips. Because of the pandemic, traveling is actually very complex. To get into most countries you have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test. But every country is different and some require much more paperwork. I just wanted to point this out so that anyone who is considering a long trip at this time will know that going everywhere you’re wanting to go, might not be as easy as you think.
#3) London, England
Our next trip…London! I’ve been to London quite a few times in the past… but there was something so special about seeing the city through the kids’ eyes as well as creating new memories with the family. To get to London, we had to take a COVID test before going, and then two days after getting there. So, I’d say it’s not super easy or necessarily ideal. BUT, since there are so many hoops to jump through, there were basically no tourists. It felt like we had all the tourist attractions in London to ourselves and we were able to do so much!
For example, what we were able to do on our first day alone is one for the record books. We rode the London Eye, the double decker bus, visited the Tower of London and saw the play Mouse Trap! If you’ve been to London before you know that the Tower alone has super long lines and you are lucky to see a couple of things there. We saw it all, the crown jewels, the tower itself, the Beefeater tour, ravens, etc.
I’m not sure if you know this about me (or Chris) but we both love theater and musicals! I used to cover Broadway when I worked at WCBS in New York and I often saw the shows in previews. On this trip, we were able to see TWO shows in just two days, The Mouse Trap, the longest running play in London and Phantom of the Opera. Funny story, after eating a really fast and delicious Indian dinner we walked out and saw “Her Majesty’s Theater” where Phantom was playing. Chris and I had the same thought about just checking to see if any tickets were available. Sure enough… four tickets were available (great seats too). I had never seen Phantom and really loved it! Elizabeth was mesmerized. I’m not sure Gage will share our love of theater, but I’m glad he had the experience.
#4) Dubrovnik, Croatia
Have you been to Dubrovnik, Croatia?? WOW. What a special place steeped in history. I absolutely loved it!! Anyone else a Game of Thrones fan… Old Town in Dubrovnik is the actual “King’s Landing.” I could hear the theme song in my mind as I walked the medieval walls. I don’t think I’ve ever been more obsessed with a TV show or a town.
We spent a ton of time on the water in Dubrovnik. We went on the coolest boat tour complete with a blue cave swim and snorkeling as well as “adventure kayaking”. We kayaked for miles in the ocean! Never done that before. P.S. kayaking in a river is MUCH easier ;).
For those of you who don’t know, Dubrovnik is an impressive medieval city. When you think “medieval” you may think of ruins or non-functioning towns. But Dubrovnik is a living, breathing city! I couldn’t believe how historic and lively it was! Another fascinating fact I didn’t realize was that the city was under attack in the 90s and was bombed multiple times. Because of the way the walls were engineered (slightly angled and rounded), the walls held up! How amazing is that!?
Since I know I’m going to get questions about this incredible view and where we stayed, I’m linking our Airbnb here. I loved it, the view, the private infinity pool, the décor, etc. But fair warning…there were 473 steps (yes, we counted) to get to the loft and the road to it was very steep and treacherous (taxi drivers wouldn’t drive down it). But the home itself was beautiful!
#5) Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco has been on my travel list for a while now and I was truly blown away. It’s so beautiful! First, since I know many of you will ask, I want to talk about the gorgeous resort we stayed at…Amanjena was unbelievable. Most of their suites have a private garden, private pool, or both. It’s definitely pricey…but if you’re looking for a really special experience, this is the place to stay. It was about 15 minutes outside of Marrakech and was a nice, relaxing escape. There are also plenty of riads you could stay in in the city. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house. And there are also a ton of really amazing hotels.
Kind of a cool story…we visited La Mamounia, a very famous and exclusive hotel. A few years ago, I had included a photo of a woman standing in between these beautifully tiled columns. I didn’t know the location or the woman at the time but I put it on my board because it inspired me and I knew I wanted to visit a place like that in the future. The last pictures (above) was my recreation of that photo in the exact same spot, in La Mamounia. Isn’t it crazy what a little manifesting can do?? By the way, if you missed my post on how I’ve manifested the life of my dreams, you can read that here.
Now back to the trip…We were only there for two nights but while we were there I booked two Airbnb experiences. First, we did a walking tour and got to see everything around the city…it’s such a cool city! Our second Airbnb experience was in the desert. They picked us up from our hotel, we had dinner, and then we rode camels! It was such a pretty, magical night. Another highlight of the trip was one of our meals. We ate at a really amazing restaurant called Café Arabe…the food was SO good!
#6) Barcelona, Spain
Since Barcelona is so close to Madrid, we figured we should probably take a trip! While we were there, we stayed at an incredible hotel, El Palauet. The rooms are so beautiful and I got to shoot a bunch of great photos for the site (coming soon)! It’s on Passeig de Grácia, one of the major avenues in Barcelona that’s full of designer retailers and famous buildings and architecture.
We booked another Airbnb experience to do a city walking tour (our guide was fantastic!) and walked down Las Ramblas, saw La Boqueria, Placa Reial, explored the Gothic Quarter, and had a lot of amazing food! We also visited many of Gaudi’s famous architectural works like Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, Palau Güell, La Pedrera, La Sagrada Familia, and Park Güell.
#7) Sevilla, Spain
I would say Sevilla was one of my favorite Spanish cities so far. It’s absolutely stunning with a beautiful mix of different architecture influenced by Moorish, Gothic, Medéjar, and Renaissance elements.
We stayed at Hotel Alfonso XIII and it was by far the most fabulous hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It was just magnificent, and I specifically booked the suite we stayed in so that I could shoot a ton of photos (coming to the blog soon!). The hotel was restored and reopened in 2012 so the suite we stayed in was a lot of the old, original building and it was so stunning.
While we were there, we had a lot of great food, did a walking tour we booked through Airbnb so that we could a lot of the city, and we walked around on our own at night and saw a bunch of beautiful Christmas lights. We also walked around Plaza de España and it was unreal…like straight out of a movie set! One thing that really blew me away was the street entertainment. We saw men playing pipes, a person dressed up like an animal making weird sounds, and we saw a man playing piano that literally brought me to tears. His name was Miguel and we sat and listened to him for 45 minutes because he was SO amazing. You should make sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel and follow him on Instagram if you’re interested!
It’s worth noting that we did go at one of the busiest times of the year and there were tons of people which contributed to the vibrancy, but I’ll bet it’s even more magically when it’s quiet.
Last fun fact…many of the streets are lined with orange trees. Not like sweet oranges but oranges for marmalade. I’ve never seen so many orange trees! They were simply marvelous.
We decided to take one last trip to southern Spain to see some of the “white villages” or “pueblos Blancos” in Andalucía. Wow…t’s such a gorgeous area of the country! Ronda is an easy train ride from Madrid. We explored the city and really enjoyed just walking the streets and taking it all in. The streets are lines with vibrant orange trees that really add to the beauty of the city. This is a great 1-2 day trip.
Fun fact: Ronda is the home of bullfighting and you can go see the oldest bullfighting ring in the country!
While we were in southern Spain, we also visited Toledo. It was another really beautiful, history-rich town! And it’s the perfect day trip from Madrid (1 hour drive).
Some fun facts:
1) Toledo is a world heritage site.
2) It used to be the capital of Spain!
3) The town is known for sword-making using “Toledo steel” and they actually made a lot of the swords used in the Game Of Thrones series…so cool!
We’re heading back to the US soon! Which of these places are on your travel bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!
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