It’s been almost 4 months since I wake up in the mornings and realize I am away from the city that I call home, my beloved Madrid. Actually, I wrote this blog post between Amsterdam, London and Berlin, which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t avoid feeling melancholic about Madrid. Even though not originally from Madrid, it’s definitely the city that saw me grow up and become the woman that I am today. After having spent half of my life in Madrid, I am very proud to call it home.
Its natural beauty, its history, its people, its food and its climate makes Madrid a perfect destination for a weekend, a few days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. So, if you are hitting your search bar for your next destination away from the beach, you might want to consider one of the most vibrant and alive cities across Europe.
No matter if it’s your first time going or not, here is what I love and miss the most from Madrid:
- Find yourself a nice accommodation located in the city centre; it’s a great investment. This will allow you to walk everywhere, even though to be honest Madrid has one of the best subways across Europe (and quite inexpensive compared to other European capitals).
- Prepare yourself for hot weather, I mean really hot if you are there during July or August. To make sure you take the most out of my charming Madrid prepare yourself to live life like an authentic “madrileño” (one on vacations, at least ;)). Being in Madrid during summer time you will finally understand the reason for the “siesta” (the nap –miss that 😉 -) at mid-day; there’s little to nothing to do at +35 degrees Celsius. That’s why you will see the city come to life around 6-7pm, when the heat is just starting to be bearable. Therefore, if you are in Madrid this summer start by adopting the siesta habit and you will enjoy the animated evening-night (and I really mean late night, up to 2-3am on a regular week day).
- Roam around the city and get lost around its streets. Go to the different districts from Malasaña, to enjoy one of the city’s most alternative culture, or Embajadores, full of young vibe or even Lavapiés to enjoy the mix between urban style and old town. Wander around and discover its small and picturesque streets and bars, monuments and squares. Don’t be afraid to get lost in the city; the worse that can happen is that you’ll discover an amazing building, a little cute café or a great bar to have some food or drinks. There is definitely no better advice I can give you than to allow yourself to get lost, walk and walk and enjoy every second of it. There is little to nothing that won’t make your eyes open widely, your heart beat faster or you just feeling joy and happiness.
You can also consider getting a city tour; there are very diverse city tours –depending on your interest-, but of course you can always consider a bus to hop on and off.
My not to miss spots are the sunset time Debod Temple -take a moment to read why an Egyptian monument stands in the Spanish capital-, Plaza de Oriente –in front of the Real Palace– for a coffee in the afternoon, or visit one of the numerous food courts such as the Platea –my favourite one, close to Colón -, Mercado San Miguel or Mercado San Antón to have a drink/diner in the evening. One particular spot that I love is the gourmet food hall at the top of the El Corte Inglés in Callao to get the most stunning view of the Gran Via Madrileña (by day or by night –night is my favourite one-). Besides this one, Madrid is full of roof top terraces; if that’s what you are looking for my favourite one is the ME Hotel, overlooking the Plaza Santa Ana; but there are plenty of them, all with a different view of the city.
No matter if you’re a fan of the Real Madrid or Barcelona, or any team in the world, take the tour of the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. It’s a great experience and a good break from being outside in the heat. Another alternative is to step in one of the city’s multiple museums, like the Prado Museum or just find yourself a spot at a tree’s shade in the Retiro Park and relax. Close by Retiro you have the Casa Árabe, a great option if you want to understand better the Arab and Spanish culture and history. It also hosts a restaurant. Food is absolutely delicious and at a very good price.
- Enjoy Spanish food. The Spanish cuisine is probably the broadest cuisine that you will discover in a long time. From its several typical breakfasts to their vermouth on Sunday afternoons, it’s a unique experience. So, if you are staying for several days try different breakfasts such as: “barrita de tomate con jamón” or a “pincho de tortilla” and the famous “cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor” (-Cup of coffee with milk in Plaza Mayor– epic moment of our Mayor defending our city for the Olympic Games 2016). And as a matter of fact this year is Plaza Mayor’s 400th anniversary, so throughout the year it will be the stage for multiple celebrations, contests and exhibition. But when sitting in any of the corners of Plaza Mayor take your phone out and read about its history, about how much it has suffered over time and its importance and role throughout its existence. If it does not make you feel goose bumps just imagining the place in its early days I don’t know what will.
Going back to the breakfasts, if you have a sweet tooth you could go ahead with a cup of “chocolate con churros y porras” en la Chocolatería San Gines (or any other; there are plenty of them). And during the day do not miss out on some of the traditional dishes suited for summer, like a “bocadillo de calamares”, some ham and cheese and the famous “tinto de verano” (or sangría).
- During summer in Madrid you will find a dedicated agenda of shows called “Veranos de la Villa” (something like “Summers of the city”). Every year the city puts together an amazing schedule for the summer months to enjoy music, dancing, theatre, art and much more. They use different location -all fabulous and unique-, but my favourite one is definitely the Sabatini Park at the street Bailén (right in front of the Royal Palace). Everything that takes place there is just magical. And the best part is that prices are affordable (which also means you need to be fast as tickets are gone pretty fast). You can find the dedicated website and its programme here (both in Spanish and in English).
- If you have an extra day, or just want to have a sense of something different, go away from the city. Most madrileños go away from Madrid (to escape from the heat mainly) to its surroundings. There are plenty of places to visit for a day trip starting with my favourite one: Segovia. However, equally beautiful is the Escorial, the Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez or some more quiet places combining history and nature such as Buitrago de Lozoya or Chinchón.
Let yourself be embraced by the atmosphere and just set your eyes in the sky during the sunsets. The sky turns itself into a scene of a large range of colours from calm yellow to an energizing orange to a vibrant red. I am completely in love with Madrid’s sky.
What you see today has pretty sure a long, beautiful and interesting story behind; be curious to find out more. For example, did you know that people from Madrid are called “gatos” –cats- (technically those whose 3 previous generations have been living in Madrid)? Well, it all has to do with a historical fact during the victory of Christians over the Muslims who were dominating the part of the country which today is Madrid. Did you know that Muslims dominated part of the Peninsula and Madrid specifically for over 700 years? Or did you know that Madrid was not always the capital? It has changed over the time to different Spanish cities before ultimately ending up being Madrid.
And when in Madrid, please think of me and have a glass of tinto de verano for me.
With love from someone that loves Madrid to the bones, Andreea