Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world – I spent two months living there during the summer of 2012. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night; you can find something to entertain yourself. Madrid has some of the best galleries in Europe, as well as some incredible shopping streets. Despite being a large city, there are sprawling parks that are perfect for picnics downing a bottle of sangria, sunbathing or just skating around during the weekend. Madrid is the heart and soul of Spain and has so much to offer a tourist it’s almost bursting at the seams.
Costs in Madrid:
Accommodation in Madrid varies considerably depending on whether you are looking to stay in hostels or hotels in Madrid. Hostels in Madrid range between €7 and €21, depending on how modern the hostel is and the facilities it offers. Hotels in Madrid tend to start from €28 for the room – you can split this between two people making it cheaper than some hostels and can go as high as your budget stretches. Compared to other nearby European countries hotels in Madrid are relatively affordable and can provide an excellent break from staying in hostels.
Food in Madrid:
Ah, food in Madrid is delicious. It is not as cheap as in the south of Spain, but there are so many great places to eat without breaking the bank. Some of my favourite places in Madrid to eat include Mercado de San Antonio and Mercado de San Miguel – both have tapas style food where you can choose to load up your plate with different treats from lots of places. You can spend as little as €1 on a tapas, but chances are you’ll probably end up spending a lot more. You can find delicious kebabs within the city from around €3 and for the same price you’ll notice people trying to mute the heat with frozen yoghurt- it’s almost an epidemic in Madrid. Meals mid range restaurants generally start from around €10.
Drinking in Madrid:
The Spaniards love to drink – it’s no secret. Give them a glass (or bottle) of Sangria and it will be washed down quickly. A number of tapas bars around the city offer free or discounted tapas with a drink (or vice versa). Make sure you try tinto de verano and sangria – they are both equally delicious. It is very common to drink in public in Spain, although it is illegal and carries a hefty fine. When in Madrid, gather some friends (or steal some people from the hostel) and make your way to Temple de Debod to watch the sunset with a bottle of Sangria. You’ll notice that the park will be filled with Spaniards playing music, doing yoga, getting boozy and doing weird Spanish things.
Transport in Madrid:
The Metro in Madrid is amazing; even with the recent price increase it offers great value and is a really easy way to get around the city. If you’re spending a few days in Madrid and you want to cover a lot of ground, it can be a good idea to get a tourist transport card. I would only suggest this route if you think you will use the metro on average at least four times a day. You can choose 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 day passes. For more information see Madrid’s Tourist Season Ticket prices. There is a great network of night buses, so when the metro closes public transport is working throughout the night. Taxis are relatively affordable, costing around €1,30 per km.
Things to do in Madrid
Head to Sol and Walk to Gran Via:
If you love shopping, you’ll love Madrid. It has almost every single store you could dream of in one central location and prices seem to be a lot cheaper than elsewhere in Europe, especially if you visit during July through to August as this is when everything goes on sale. Walking from Sol down through Gran Via and onto Tribunal is a great way to see and assortment of shops and buskers all while soaking in the real Madrid.
Visit Museo de Prado:
Without a doubt one of the best fine art museums in all of Europe, the Museo de Prado almost always has a long queue – for good reason though. Within this museum is contained a large collection of pre 20th century European art, including a great number of Spanish pieces. This is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Spain and offers a free visiting slot each day – line up early if you want to make it in before closing.
Check out Tribunal:
Probably my favourite area in Madrid; it houses boutique stores, vintage shops, tattoo studios, little coffee shops, cupcake parlours and even a vintage café. There’s an abundance of really cool street art and it just feels really alive. It’s a great place to base yourself during your stay in Madrid as you can easily walk to most places.
Yes, churros. Delicious, long almost pastries that are dipped in chocolate so thick you could almost stand the churro up in it – this is my idea of perfection. My favourite chocolatier was San Ginés – open until some ridiculous hour of the morning. I once visited at 5am after a night of drinking and was surprised the chocolatier was packed and filled with people of all ages!
Enjoy Parque de Retiro:
Unfortunately Madrid is very far from the beach, making it harder to make the most of the relentless summer heat. Retiro is Madrid’s answer to the beach and locals flock here during the summer months to sunbathe, roller blade, boat around the river and just to enjoy each other’s company. The grounds are immaculately kept and it’s one of the most beautiful public gardens I’ve visited – the best part is it’s very central, easily within walking distance from Sol.
Have you visited Madrid? What did you think was essential?