Madrid is a labyrinth of barrios, restaurants, tabernas and parks, with new places popping up all over the Spanish capital. It's hard to keep up. So it's always nice to get it right the first time. Here are my 2 fils on where and what to do in the city. <3❤️.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Cabs: a comfortable and abundant option. Most drivers don’t speak English, so a handy printout or show of address definitely helps. Payment is usually in cash with a few exceptions which allow credit cards. Also, there is a fixed airport rate of 30 Euros from/to the airport and the city center. Always ask for a receipt if in doubt.
Metro: probably the best way to get around town. There are many metro lines which can transport you close to your intended stops. Trains run often on weekdays, and less often on weekends. The 10-trip ticket is a great money saving option, can also be used for buses, and by multiple people. My 2 fils here would be to hold on to your personal belongings for dear life. Pickpockets are all over and come in various ages. Also, skip the backpacks.
Buses: plenty of air-conditioned buses which run every 5 to 15 min. You can also use your 10-trip ticket on the buses, but you will have to pay each time you change buses.
Walking: most affordable way to see the city. Also helps burn the calories from all the paellas and churros you’ll be having.
WHERE TO SLEEP
I had a lovely experience at the VP El Madroño Hotel located in General Diaz Porlier 101. The room was spacious, clean, and comfortable. Would definitely stay here again. Most importantly, the hotel is a 15 min walking distance to IE Business School, and 5 min away from the Diego de Leon metro station. Please note that the hotel is in the Salamanca district and is not near any sightseeing stops. It also doesn’t offer any gym facilities.
The NH Hotel on Principe de Vergara is another great option within a 10 min walking distance to IE Business School, and on a quiet street. The room was clean and quite modern, and the service was great. This hotel group has many branches around the city, with many closer to touristic spots.
The ME Madrid Reina Victoria is a perfect choice to stay in central Madrid, adjacent to the Plaza de Santa Ana. The hotel staff were very attentive, and went out of their way to ensure our comfort. The room was also immaculate and had a great view overlooking the plaza. The Rooftop bar offers jaw-dropping views of Madrid, but all at a cost - hefty prices and sometimes elusive staff.
For longer stays, Airbnb is definitely a great source to find apartments. Other useful property sites are: idealista.com , fotocasa.es, enalquiler.com , pisos.com.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Watch awesome street dance performers break it down at Puerta del Sol, a massive square with many stores to shop from, cafes to eat from, and artworks to admire. Also, be prepared to be dumbfounded by the levitating men.
Engage in serious people watching at Madrid’s main square, the Plaza Mayor, as you bite on the city’s seriously delicious padron peppers.
Shop around in Gran Via, the city’s shopping boulevard. On this road, wander into the El Corte Ingles department store, and take the elevator to its fantastic rooftop with stunning views of the city.
Put your sound of music face on, and head to Parque de Retiro with a blanket and a picnic basket (a plastic bag will do), and simply take in the phenomenal and serene views. Look for the Palacio de Cristal.
Wander into Madrid’s Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Museo Reina Sofia which showcase incredible talent. One does not need to be a connoisseur of art to appreciate the masterpieces but curiosity is a must. There are specific days which allow free entry, and students up to a certain age also get discounts.
Watch a Real Madrid game at the Santiago Bernabéu. The vibe is incredible and may potentially convert you into a Madridista for the day.
Admire the architecture and efforts vested into building some of the most beautiful religious and residential sites in Madrid. Visit the Temple de Debod, Al Mudena Cathedral, and Palacio Real.
Learn some Spanish basics on Duo Lingo before heading there. Once you’ve mastered the standard ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous?’, I strongly recommend taking Spanish classes on a continuous basis for the remaining duration of your stay, regardless of how crazy your schedule may seem. My tutor was fantastic, relentless, and unforgettable. Contact me if you’d like to get in touch.
Catch a flamenco show at one of Madrid’s less touristic spots. It’s a mind blowing experience, and should honestly be made compulsory, in my opinion, to all visitors. As a follow up, sign up for dance classes at Proyecciontango.
Become a chef for the day and learn how to master making some delicious paella. My experience with Insider’s Madrid was truly phenomenal and I’m proud and not so humble to say, I make the best paella in Dubai.
WHERE TO EAT
Feast on mixed paella at Los Galayos's outside terrace located in Plaza Mayor. Pricier than other spots but has a great ambiance and view of the square.
Go tapas galore at Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado de San Anton markets and hop from stall to stall sampling different dishes (not on the same day, unless you’re really hungry).
Visit the popular and great priced Lateral at Santa Ana or Castellana 42 for some delicious croquettes, provoleta, goat cheese with glazed peppers, and their gazpacho (among other things).
Not so Spanish but the crunchy carpaccio at the National Geographic store in Gran Via is heavenly.
Savor the delicious and weirdly named pizzas at La Mucca de Prado or de Pez.
Chomp on La Musa’s bombas in La Latina –mashed potatoes stuffed with minced meat and topped with bravas sauce. Also, ask for their DIY avocado.
Go tapas loco at Alcaravea. The branch at Calle de Cea Bermudez 38 was my favorite. Their off the menu items were even better, and the staff’s recommendations were always top notch.
Grab a tapas lunch at Fanegas 29. It’s a cosy place, and the dining area is in the basement so forget the views, but their hamberguesas and goat cheese tapas are epic.
Wander along Cava Baja street, a line up of tavern-like restaurants in the La Latina district, and try different tapas at every stop.
Try the much talked about churros at Chocolateria San Gines. This place has been open since 1894 and takes its taza de chocolat very seriously. So should you. Open 24 hours a day.