Spain’s capital city is a must visit for anyone wanting to explore Europe! Did you know that Spain has a strong Arabic history? In fact, Madrid comes from the Arabic word “magerit”, meaning place of many streams.
Don’t expect the stereotypical Spain, flamenco dancers, and bull fighting here. That is more popular in the south of Spain. Instead, expect royalty, history, the most successful football team in the World, amazing art galleries and an excellent and sociable food culture.
With plenty of places to eat and dine, Madrid is a great city to visit if you are a foodie connoisseur. There are affordable, and cheap restaurants all over the city.Whether you prefer to fill up on traditional €0-€2 tapas or a hearty €10 dish, you will be satisfied.
For amazing tapas, visit El Tigre in the Chueca neighbourhood. Here you will be served a free tapa with your drink. Order a refreshing beer or cider and enjoy the Spanish favourites, tortilla (Spanish omelette), jamón serrano, Padron peppers and patatas bravas. Other great tapas places include Taberna Almeria on Calle de las Aguas and Taberna La Concha on Calle de la Cava Baja.
For a nourishing and filling lunch, keep an eye out for notices that read Menu del Dia. This will be a 2 or 3 course meal with a coffee for under €15. This menu is aimed at the locals and as a result will be written in Spanish, but everyone can order from it. Bar El Pico on Calle Divino Pastor, is an excellent place to have lunch, so ask for the choices on the menu. Also, try Casa Parrondo on Calle de Trujillos and Rayuela, situated close to the Royal Palace on Calle de la Moreria.
At 233.3 sq miles Madrid is impractical to walk, therefore, you need to take full advantage of the public transport. That means the buses and the underground train known as the Metro. For the fast and most comfortable experience take the Metro. The trains arrive on time, are spacious and air conditioned. To travel on the Metro you will need a ticket, which can be bought at any station from a machine. Don’t worry about your language skills because you can change everything into English.
Depending on how many zones you cross, a single trip ticket is €1.50. But if you are staying for a weekend, you should consider getting a 10-trip ticket. To stay in the area of the tourist attractions your ticket will cost €12.20.
Where to Stay
Madrid accommodation can be expensive. Hotels within the city centre, like the neighbourhoods Sol and Madrid de los Austrias,prices start at more than €100. But if you want to be central, to cut down on transportation costs and time, consider a guest house. INTER Puerta del Sol, a 3-star guest house is €90 per night and Hotel Atelier is €84. Alternatively, consider moving out of the city centre but stay close to a direct Metro line.
For a no-frills place to lay your head, check out Pensión Stella Guest house. It is excellently located and has the basic amenities available and costs less than €60 a night.
Do wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot to see in Madrid so you will be on your feet moving around all day. If you are not a big walker carry some bandaids/plastersin your bag in case a nasty blister rears its head.
Remember, dinner is eaten later than other European cities and probably your own country. Do have a snack around 5pm to avoid hunger pains at 8pm.
Do stray from the map. Enjoy the narrow streets of Madrid and have an unmapped city walk. Who knows what treats you will discover!
Don’t only rely on a credit/debit card to pay for transactions. Always carry cash. There are still many traditional outlets that do not accept card payments.
Don’t be obnoxious and think everywhere will have English options and English-speaking people. Embrace the Spanish culture and learn a few helpful phrases.
Don’t rush from place to place. Firstly, because you are on vacation. But secondly, all of Spain including its capital city operates at a more laidback pace. Relax and absorb the atmosphere around you.