Just back from...Madrid, Porto and Paris!

River Seine, Paris, (photo by Tom Stainer)
River Seine, Paris

One of our editors, Tom, has just got back from a holiday to three of Europe's most beautiful cities: Madrid in Spain, Porto in Portugal and Paris in France. Here are some of his favourite pictures from the trip.


Much as I love discovering stunning scenery or lying on an idyllic beach, for me little can match the excitement of exploring a new city. So the opportunity to visit three in one week – Madrid, Porto and Paris – was almost too good to be true. I'd definitely recommend combining these three European gems. If you're coming from London, no leg of the trip takes more than two hours' travelling time, and each place is served by several airlines, including low-cost carriers. If you finish in Paris, as I did, you can round off the trip with a relaxing Eurostar journey home.



I love Spain, but I'd never been to the capital before and strangely I hadn't heard much about it. Once there, I was quickly seduced by the winning mix of imposing architecture, elegant parks, world-class art, irresistible food and hectic nightlife.

I stayed just north of the centre, and every day I walked into town along handsome, tree-lined Paseo de Recoletos. En route I passed the Palacio de Cibeles, below. It was once one of Europe's fanciest post offices; now it's home to Madrid's City Hall.


Madrid tour bus


Gorgeous squares are easy to stumble across in Madrid, and Plaza Mayor is the best of the lot. Its sun-kissed, cobbled expanse was heaving with life at any time of day. More than once I found myself perched at an outdoor table eating tapas and nursing a pint of Mahou, Madrid's local brew, while watching locals and tourists doing their thing.


Madrid square


Calle de Alcalá is a lovely street to walk along, as it's home to some of Madrid's most photogenic architecture – like the Metropolis building, below left.


Metropolis building, Madrid

 Buildings in Madrid


















I left the Madrid sunshine behind for Portugal's second city – though the grey skies actually lent an atmospheric air to its rather crumbling grandeur. And once the heavens opened I had the perfect excuse to go to a wine cellar and sample the port that took its name from the city.

A boat trip along the River Douro under the city's scenic bridges is a must – they depart from the touristy but lovely Cais da Ribeira, pictured below.  


Porto river


Porto's historic centre is compact, so it's great to walk around – but be wary of the steep hills that tumble haphazardly down to the quayside, like Rua São João below left. Dragging yourself back up them can be gruelling. Don't miss the Estação de São Bento, below right, which is pretty special for a railway station. The entrance hall is decorated with Portugal's characteristic azulejo tiles, depicting scenes from the city's history.


Houses in Porto Station in Porto


















Paris was the only one of my three stops that I'd been to before – it's one of my favourite cities, so it was a joy to go back. Especially when I got to witness sunsets like this one.


Eiffel Tower at sunset


One of my favourite things about Paris is finding a moment of calm even in the busiest parts of the city. I achieved that at both the Notre-Dame and the Arc de Triomphe, below left and right. At the cathedral I dodged the hordes of tourists to take this picture of candles under the rose window; while under the Arc de Triomphe I spent a couple of minutes by the grave of the Unknown Soldier, the final resting place of an individual who fought in World War I. It's a strangely peaceful spot, even with Paris's manic traffic roaring full-circle around you.


Rose window at Notre Dame

 Arc de Triomphe
















Although this was my third time in Paris, strangely I'd never walked through Place de la Concorde before: I was overawed at its elegance and scale. I love this picture at one of its fountains looking north, taken just as dusk was falling.


Fountain in Paris


As in many cities, taking a boat trip is a fun activity and a rewarding way to get a sense of the place. We chose the Batobus, which allows you to hop on and off at all the sights. It's pricey but enjoyable. 


River Seine




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