Arriving in a new city, I usually ride the local buses to get a feel of the place.

But on my first visit to Madrid, handicapped by limited time, I decided to take the tourist option and use the hop on hop off sightseeing bus. This highly visible red double-decker bus travels two routes – the historic and the modern – around the city.

Each trip takes around 45 minutes and provides a great overall of places and sights around Madrid. 
On boarding, you are given a red headset that you plug into the seat in front of you for a running commentary in the language of your choice. Be warned, though, not all plugs seem to work. It took me three seat changes before I found my commentator. Luckily, with very few passengers on this run, changing seats wasn’t a problem.

It sure made sightseeing around the city easy, allowing me to discover the location of places that I had previously only seen in pictures.

The bus travelled down the Calle Mayor to the Plaza Puerto del Sol, then on to the Atocha Train Station, stopping briefly at The Prado, skirting the Parque del Retiro and heading back toward the Palacio Real..

Sitting up top, on open air level of the bus, it sure was easy to look down onto the street and observe locals and tourists alike.

It’s a bit voyeuristic really.

I could watch people as they wandered along the streets, stopping at lights, and shopping for food and drink.

And from such an elevated location, there was also a much clear view of the buildings, and in particular the monuments and murals that seem to be commonplace along the streets of Madrid.

Along the way, I also learned some interesting things about buses and sightseeing…

–       getting a good photo shoot when the bus is moving is impossible.

–       whenever the bus stops, you can guarantee that the view will be either blocked, shadowed, or non-existant

–  
     standing up when the bus is moving is not always a good idea.

–       sun burn and heat stroke is a good possibility when sitting in an open air bus.