Madrid is my favorite Spanish city. No other even comes close. She wins by a landslide. Every. Time.
I have to disclose that I’m probably biased, considering I did call this lovely city home for two years. But living in Madrid and experiencing her deeply and fully completely changed my life. So, can you really blame me? I even have her central coordinates tattooed on my side.
Madrid doesn’t have Barcelona’s inspiring Sagrada Familia, Sevilla’s classic Plaza de España or even Malaga’s expansive sandy beaches. There’s no lavish Alhambra, iconic Moorish Mosque or impressive ancient aqueduct. Still, if you take the time to really get to know her, the response is unanimous, you’ll LOVE her, I promise. Madrid’s “lack of tourist appeal” is a complete ruse and frankly, in my opinion, just plain wrong. Madrid has PLENTY to offer travelers who are willing to experience a different kind of travel.
So, to share the best of my beloved Spanish capital (yes, I refer to her as my own), I’ve teamed up with some of my Madrid blogging friends to help you uncover the real Madrid, the one we’ve come to absolutely adore. All of the following bloggers have lived or currently live in Madrid, so they know the city inside and out! I’d definitely consider them experts! Anyways-bloggers know best. But, I’m sure you already knew that.
Taste the best of Spanish Culture
Recommended by yours truly
I don’t think it’s truly possible to know a new place until you’ve tasted your way through it. This is especially true in Spain. SO much of Spanish culture revolves around their cuisine and their eating practices. Dining in Spain is as much a social experience as it is a tummy filler.
Spanish food is pretty distinct from other European cuisines and can take some time to get used to. Throughout the country there are way too many crappy, overpriced, tourist traps and it’s easy to get sucked in, completely missing out on the beauty of this simple, flavorful, delicious cuisine. Luckily, good food is also easy to come by and if you know where to go and what to try, you won’t be disappointed.
My top 5 Must-Tries and where to get them:
- Tortilla de Patatas–Taberna el Buo, Calle Gravina Nº 4 & Plaza de la Cebada, 10
- Huevos Rotos– Verbena Bar, Calle Velarde, 24 [or] Taberna Almendro 13, Calle Almendro, 13
- Croquetas– Casa Julio, Calle de la Madera, 37
- Cured Meats and Aged Spanish Cheeses– Casa Gonzalez, Calle Leon, 12
- Churros con Chocolate– Chocolatería San Gines, Pasadizo San Ginés, 5
For more on Madrid’s food scene check out my post: Where and What to Eat in Madrid.
Natalia of Glitter and Passport suggests:
Templo de Debod
The Templo de Debod is a great place to sit down, relax and watch the sunset over Madrid’s park, Casa de Campo. Although it’s located very close to the Palacio Real, it’s tucked away from the the madness of the city center with a more local vibe compared to El Retiro Park. What also really awesome about this place is that the main attraction, the temple, is an actual Egyptian temple given by Egypt and transplanted in the heart of Madrid. Its unusual look contrasts the Spanish style buildings, making this place special and unique to all those who stop by.
To no one’s surprise, on Sundays this place is packed with local yogis, dog walkers, and couples picnicking waiting for the gorgeous and memorable sunset. If you’re in Madrid on a sunny afternoon and looking for something that’s a little off the beaten path, I definitely recommend going here and relaxing after a long day of touristing!
Cassandra of Gee, Cassandra suggests:
While the central neighborhoods of Sol and Huertas are natural springboards for starting your Madrid visit, I would argue that the best way to explore the city is to map your way around a lesser-known area of the city. Indeed, Madrid’s amazing walkability makes it easy to explore various areas. (Fun fact: Spain is the country with the highest elevator-to-people ratio, and locals flock to the streets when escaping their apartments.) Pedestrians rule, so use this to your advantage to get a feel for the city. My advice would be to walk between any of the following metro stops:
- Colón to Goya
- Noviciado to Moncloa
- Quevedo to Gregorio Marañón
- Principe de Vergara to Manuel Becerra
Christy of What Up, SWAGS?! recommends
These walks will take around 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how long you linger along storefronts, pop into cafés, and people-watch. Chart your own adventure, soak up the little details, and discover that these sidewalks were made for strolling.
Retiro Park is the outdoor space in Madrid. Connecting several fun neighborhoods for food and culture, Retiro acts as the central place to relax, exercise, people watch, and enjoy natural beauty. There are grand statues, quiet flowery lanes, art sellers, accordion players, and even a few magnificent buildings. If you go just for walking, try to find as many trails as you can named for countries and cities throughout the world. But no visit to Retiro is complete unless you spend the sunny part of the day in a rowboat on the main pond before strolling by the Crystal Palace for a breathtaking sunset.
Liz over at Passport Packed suggests
Relaxing at a rooftop bar
Madrid has a huge selection of stylish rooftop bars, with stunning views. They’re perfect for an evening drink, and always a fabulous crowd and atmosphere. My favourites include:
- Circulo de Bellas Arte- Calle de Alcalá, 42
- Gymage– Calle de la Luna, 2
- Room Mate Hotel Oscar– Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, 12
Daniel, writer of The Chorizo Chronicles suggests:
One of the things I usually insist people do while they’re here is to go to one of the big museums. Madrid has some of the world’s best art museums, and even if you’re not an expert, you can still enjoy the Prado or Reina Sofia. I personally have some favorite paintings in each that I take people to see.
In Reina Sofia you have to see Guernica, Picasso’s huge painting of one of the most horrific events of the Spanish Civil War. And in the Prado you have to see The Garden of Earthly Delights by El Bosco, AKA Hieronymus Bosch. It’s a tryptic, with a lot of incredible detail and it’s really insane. Close by, check out The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel. If anything, it’s even weirder. You can stand and get lost in the details of those paintings for quite a while and it’s totally worth the ticket price. (Or just go when the museums are free.)
Amy of Restless Fork recommends:
Spanish Wine & Dine
If there is one giant benefit to living in the Spanish capital, it is the wine. Whether it’s top labels from the country’s most famous wine regions to unique grape varieties from little known family-run bodegas, Madrid is where it’s at for wine lovers like myself. But only if you know where to look!
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Madrid is search out new wine bars and bodegas. Almost every bar in the city will serve you an average wine from the juggernaut regions of Rioja, Ribera del Duero or Rueda. But to sip on something truly spectacular, I head to the experts at cozy, locally run vinotecas.
These bars have hand picked an amazing selection of Spanish wines and offer a wide variety of grapes, regions and styles, making it easy to taste a new gem every time I pop in. If you’re in Madrid, you definitely don’t want to miss tasting as many bold, dramatic reds and bright, spunky whites as humanly possible!
- La Fisna, Calle Amparo, 91 in Lavapies– It may be brand new but this rustic looking wine bar makes you feel like you’re in a century-old haunt of Spain’s wine greats.
- Bodegas Rosell, Calle del General Lacy, 14 near Atocha– Excellent food and a book-like wine list make this traditional tavern one of my favorite dinner spots in the city! Be sure to try the croquetas.
- De Vinos, Calle de la Palma, 76 in Conde Duque– This neighborhood wine dive has a spot-on, rotating wine list meaning there’s always something new here to try! It is also where we host Madrid Uncorked, our monthly English-language wine tastings.
- Casa Gonzalez, Calle de León, 12 in Huertas– In the heart of the Literary Quarter, this bar/restaurant/gourmet shop is great for wines by the glass, cheese and charcuterie… all from Spain! Calle de León, 12 in Huertas
- Vinoteca Vides, Calle Hortaleza, 11 near Gran Via– No bar in Madrid can rival the epic wine list at Vides. They have over 60 Spanish wines to choose from, plus wines of the week! Calle Libertad, 12 in Chueca – Stop Madrid- This traditional tavern has been pouring some of Spain’s top wines for almost 100 years.
Looking for more on Madrid? Check out my other Madrid guides below:
- One Day in Madrid
- DIY Madrid Center Sights Walking Tour
- Madrid Shopping: Made in Spain
- 6 Rainy Day Activities in Madrid
- 7 Sneaky Pickpockets to Watch Out for in Madrid
Something special about Madrid that you’d like to add to this list? Shoot me an e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.