No matter how well we plan our travels, our destinations,
hotel accommodation and how far in advance we book our Renfe-SNCF en
Coopération train tickets, there are just some things we have no control over -
and the weather is precisely one of these. Temperatures rise and fall, sunny
days come and go and we simply have to make do with the fate that becomes us on
those sacred vacation days. Have a good plan however, and rain or shine
(literally), you will assure you and your travel partners have an excellent time
in Paris and Madrid. So here is a list of awesome things to do when grey skies
and slippery streets become the scenery during your great adventures...
Marvel at magnificent masterpieces
The Louvre's museum glass pyramid
Home to many of the most legendary works of art on Earth, Paris’ museums are something you can most definitely not miss out on - whether it is raining or not. If you happen to be in Paris on a day where the skies are a little greyer however, the halls of the city’s most famous museums are a great place to shelter yourself from the outdoor drizzle, while soaking up some of France's most stunning culture, rather than raindrops.
Whether you favor art, science or history, the exquisitely creative French capital has something for everyone. In any case, there are more museums that you will be able to visit, so do a little research first and find out which ones you want to see - from the glorious Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, to the less known Science Museum (great if you are travelling with kids) or even the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, where more than 7000 lifelike animal specimens are displayed, showing the impressive path of evolution over millions of years.
Glass ceiling in Sainte Chapelle's chapel
Built by King Louis IX of France in the 13th century to be used as the palace’s royal chapel, the Sainte Chapelle (Holy Chapel) is one of the most treasured heirlooms of Gothic architecture, located in the very center of Paris, on the Île de la Cité. Although the chapel was vandalized and near destroyed during the French Revolution, the fact that it had been turned into an administration office with filing cabinets rising up to its ceilings, protected the most incredible part of this amazing building. For although the architecture, design and decoration are stunning, the most breathtaking part of this monument are the intricate, sensational and striking color stained windows. 600 square meters (6,458 square feet) of them, to be precise.
Over half a square kilometer of reds, blues, greens and yellows, telling the story of humanity and the bible over the ages, through remarkable works of art on glass depicting over 1100 biblical characters. The sheer size, delicacy and majesty of the masterpiece will overwhelm you and leaving you speechless. Add the pitter-patter sound of the rain hitting against the glass way up above, and you have yourself the perfect rainy-day activity.
Solar light coming inside the Paris Panthéon
Located in the Quartier Latin (the Latin Quarter) in Paris’ 5th Arrondissement, the Panthéon is one of the greatest neoclassical monuments ever to have been built. The building’s original architect was Jacques-Germain Soufflot and was constructed during the second half of the 18th century as a church, under the orders of King Louis XV as his gratitude to God for restoring his health. Soufflot’s vision was to design a remarkably avant-garde building, combining the Gothic style with a classical structure. However, he died before being able to complete the project, and his successor did not exactly stick to his plans. The Panthéon is fascinating nonetheless, with is majestic grace and imposing presence, offering magnificent views over the city.
The church then became a mausoleum during the French Revolution, to bury the bodies of the brave and honorable Frenchmen who gave their lives for their country. Still today it holds a crypt with the tombs of some of France's most famous personalities, such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Marie Curie, as well as the architect Soufflot.
Curl up with a Café au Lait and a good book
Café au lait and macarons in Paris
At times, it seems that the best thing you can possibly do on a rainy day in a foreign city is nothing related to monuments or sight seeing, but simply doing as many locals would on a day like this. Grab your travel book (or buy one in one of Paris’ many bookstores) and find one of those countless quaint and charming cafés that you will encounter on any corner. Sit by the window, order a Café au Lait with a Croissant or some Macaroons, and alternate between devouring your gripping book, and watching the rain hit the windowpanes, and the busy parisians walk through the hustle bustle of this big, vibrant city.
The Golden Triangle of Art
Prado Museum main entrance
Much like Paris, Madrid is renowned for housing some of the world’s most treasured masterpieces fruit of some of most incomprehensibly incredible and creative minds of all time. Of all the brilliant museums who call Madrid home (and there are a lot), there are three special ones who form the so-called Golden Triangle of Art, where some of the greatest works of art known to mankind live. In fact, it is said that there is no other place on earth with as many artistic gems in such a small area. The best part about it (especially on a rainy day) is that the geographical locations of the three museums form a tightly knit triangle - meaning you can easily go from one to the other on a rainy day without getting soaking wet on the way!
The Prado Museums offers one of the most important art collections from the 12th to the 18th centuries in the world. It displays priceless paintings by artistic geniuses such as Bosch, Titian, Rubens, El Greco and Velázquez, including his legendary “Las Meninas”. As for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, it is known to be one of the most valuable private collections the world has to offer, ranging from the 13th to the 201th centuries, highlighting artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Klee and Kandinsky, and many more. Last but not least, the triangle closes with the Reina Sofía National Art Museum, with its incredible contemporary art collection. On its walls you will find hanging Mirós, Dalís, and Picasso’s epic “Guernica”, along with many others.
Indoor Tapas markets
Indoor Tapas bar in Mercado de San Miguel
There are not many things better to cheer up a grey, rainy day than good food - and luckily for those of us who find ourselves in this marvelous city when heavens open upon it, good food is something that is not lacking in Madrid. Spend your afternoon safely sheltered inside one of Madrid’s famous indoor Tapas markets, strolling from vendor to vendor, each with their own stands and tasting samples of this city’s superbly delicious, finest and freshest dishes. You will be able to spend your afternoon delighting over countless types of cured meats (such as chorizo, fuet or jamón), freshly caught fish and seafood dishes (amongst them paella, oysters and shrimp), special cheeses, lip-smacking desserts, and exquisite wines.
There are many of these markets to choose from, among which some of the most recommended are the Mercado de San Ildefonso, the Mercado de San Anton and the Mercado de San Miguel.
Happen to get a lucky, sunny day in between there? Here are some great outdoor markets as well!
The Royal Palace
Outdoor fountain in the Royal Palace
Although on paper Madrid’s Royal Palace is officially the Spanish royal family’s residence, nowadays, they no longer live there full time, using it only for ceremonies and banquets - leaving it open during the rest of the year to us curiosity-consumed visitors to unleash our imagination and put ourselves in the robes of kings and queens for a day. Although the gardens and courtyard will go somewhat unappreciated on rainy days, the palace interior offers over 3,400 rooms to be explored, and an entrance ticket will grant access to hours of roaming around lavish banqueting rooms, dwarfing hallways, lush residential areas, the Royal Armoury, the Royal Pharmacy and the throne room.
The thick, majestic, impeccably decorated walls of this 4 century old palace have experienced everything from epic love stories to raging wars, and still live to tease us with the tales of the hundreds of people who have lived their lives within them. Take a guided tour, or stroll around on your own, soaking up the stories from the information points, - no matter what you do, you are sure to be blown away.
Whatever you do, don’t let a cloudy or wet weather forecast dampen your much needed getaway to the beautiful cities of Madrid and Paris! Get you rain boots and waterproof jackets packed up, and book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train tickets today!