The best moments are unexpected. As my roommates and I approached the nine-story structure, we did not have high expectations. El Corte Inglés promised it all: beauty, technology, books, appliances, apparel, food, and a view. Nonetheless, we decided hours before that a quick trip to the department store for a snack and the sunset would just be something free to do.
We were wrong.
The Centro Gran Vía’s El Corte Inglés is a trip in itself. Each of the nine floors is dedicated to a department that carries nearly every item in the category. You could spend an entire day scouring the shelves to quell boredom, furnish a home, give a makeover, or cook an elaborate meal for 20. The main attraction, however, is the ninth floor.
The Gourmet Experience is free to enter to get fantastic, sky-high views of Madrid. While the store offers countless prepared and made-to-order food options, you can skip the snacks and go directly to the outdoor viewing area. The protective glass around the perimeter of the deck provides viewers with a labeled skyline outline to identify buildings, cathedrals, and towers. Attention was drawn away from the glass guide when the sun began to set.
The views alone made me look at Madrid in a new way. Though you can observe antiquity in the streets, there is an assured knowledge of the age of the city from above. Scanning rooftops and hillsides that haven’t been altered in hundreds of years made me feel like I was sharing the views of many before me, like men in fortress look-outs or church bell towers. The sunset delivered an extra awe, as it always does on a horizontal scene.
After admiring the sunset, my roommates and I wandered through the aisles of “gourmet” food options. We came across the “Taste of America” section, the only place we have found peanut butter so far. You cannot have peanut butter without Fluff, and I’m sure in some American household you cannot have peanut butter and Fluff without PopTarts, but we left the snacks from the States aside and opted for fresh café fare instead. The visit was not over without catching a humorous English/American touch in the corner.
- Do the free stuff. It’s free. If it’s bad, you didn’t pay for it. If it’s good, you got your time’s worth. If you have the time, give everything a try.
- Pinterest! I found the sunset suggestion on Pinterest from Condé Nast Traveler‘s pinned article “10 Best Free Things to Do in Madrid.” Pinterest is great for travel planning, documenting, and viewing. Check out the “Connect With Me” section of the sidebar to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
- Centro Gran Vía’s El Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience
- Plaza de Callao, 2, Planta 9, 28013 Madrid
Paz, Amor, Madrid