I really loved Madrid. It wasn’t that touristy when I was there and it has a great relaxed atmosphere with a ton of culture. As always, here are my tips for Madrid:
- Most museums are free for students or have certain days and times when they are free to the public. Booking in advance can save you some time in museum lines.
- The public transportation is pretty new and functional. Google Maps works great with the transportation system, though keep in mind if you’re going to the airport with the subway there may be an extra cost. Walking is also a great option.
- Stay up late. The hours are shifted in Spain, with late lunches and late dinners (around 8 pm).
- The permanent must sees were: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and Prado for a range of artwork, Sorolla Museum, and Guernica at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
- Nice outdoor spaces: pay a quick stop by Plaza Mayor, check out the park by Rio Manzanares and the art at Matadero, Parque del Oeste and the Temple of Debod, Real Jardín Botánico, and Parque Retiro
- Places to eat: go to San Ginés for chocolate and churros. The Calles Cava Alta and Baja generally have good tapas, as do mercados, or markets. I also had good food at Taberna la Concha and La Rue
- Lots of restaurants will have a menu del dia, or daily menu, which often is three courses and wine for a very reasonable price.
I don’t think I’ll be going back to Bergen before the end of my Fulbright so I thought I’d go ahead and summarize what I’ve learned about Bergen thus far:
- An umbrella is crucial. Also, be prepared to encounter multiple types of weather.
- Most things in Bergen and in the wider Bergen area shut down after August/September or have reduced hours. So, if you’re planning a trip to either Bergen or the surrounding area make sure that everything you want to see is actually open.
- If you plan on doing any driving check the road conditions. If you cross over Bergen’s mountains you’ll encounter a significant temperature drop and, depending on the time of year, snow and icy conditions.
- As for things to do in Bergen, I highly enjoyed Pepperkakebyen (which runs from the end of November to the end of December), Bryggen is nice to walk around, the funicular provides a great view of the city on a clear day, and I’ve heard that the Kode is an amazing art museum.
The next day we decided to stick a bit closer to Bergen. We took the car on a quick drive out to the local stave church, Fantoft. The church was closed but the three of us still enjoyed getting to walk around the exterior. As you can see, the church and its craftsmanship are pretty incredible considering that it was originally built and designed in 1150.
Afterwards, we headed to Edvard Grieg’s house. Kyle had warned me that the museum would be closed, but he also said that it would still be worth walking around the property. So we stopped by, and to our great surprise the administrators of the museum even offered to open up the house for us. We didn’t really want to disturb them so we opted not to take them up on their offer, but we did have a good time slipping and sliding around Grieg’s fairly icy property.
After we had paid homage to Grieg we set off in the car. Chris wanted to check out more of the surrounding Bergen area so we drove out to one of the peninsulas around Bergen past Straume and North towards Ågotnes. Unlike our drive yesterday, there was no snow in sight. I suppose it’s a perk of being right on the water. If you want a better idea of where everything is, it is all pinned on the Map page.
Because it was rapidly becoming dark, we decided to return the car around 2pm and walk around Bergen (sunset was around 3:30). First we stopped by Bergenhus Fortress which was closed (again most things seem to either have reduced hours or are closed after August/September). After that we walked around Bryggen and spent some time in the shops there. Bryggen was definitely not as bustling as it was when I visited around August, but it was also nice not to be surrounded by tourists. Alix has also been trying to convince me for weeks that I need to wear a hat outside. Well Alix finally won the hat battle in Bryggen. The three of us wandered into a fur shop and with some encouragement from Alix I walked out with a wool and rabbit hat. It wasn’t exactly the tourist item I thought I’d leave Bergen with, but I admit that it has kept me warm.