There are so many reasons to love Madrid and my most recent trip there for a long weekend reminded me why it’s such a great city to visit. I first went to Madrid in 2011 but it was two years later when I moved there to work in a bilingual school as an ‘Auxiliar de Conversación’, otherwise known as an English language assistant, where I really got to know the city. It was such an incredible experience that I wish I could have stayed for longer than six months. Madrid is such a liveable city and the lifestyle is one of the best I have ever experienced.
Have you ever been to Madrid? What are your favourite things to do? Would you move there?
Here’s my top 10 reasons why I love Madrid and you should to!
- ‘Las Terrazas’
I don’t know about you but where I’m from people don’t generally sit out on terraces in the streets until after midnight on a weekday. But in Madrid, and many parts of Spain, it happens. Madrid is a very sociable city, especially in the summer. When it’s hot, most apartments are steamy AF (air conditioning isn’t so common) and the sun doesn’t go down until about 9.30pm. One of the best ways to escape the heat is to sit on a terrace in the shade sipping a cool drink while eating tapas with your amigos. This leads me to my next point…
- Cheap Food & Drinks
Two euros for una cerveza (a beer)? Si por favor! There is an abundance of typical Spanish food and drinks to try yet what is even more amazing is that it’s affordable, even in the country’s capital. The most popular drinks in Madrid would have to be: una clara con limón (a beer with lemon soda), tinto de verano (red wine with a sweetened soda called gaseosa) and cerveza (Mahou is Madrid’s local beer), although it looks like gin and tonic is also pretty popular right now. And why wouldn’t it be really – spirits are free poured here! Proper tapas are not complimentary like they are in Southern Spain but generally you’ll still get a small bowl of potato chips or nuts with a drink to nibble on and entice you to order a more substantial portion (una ración).
When I visited this August, many Madrileños had shut up shop to escape to the mountains because it can get VERY hot – 38 degrees once the sun is down – but give me Spanish weather over London’s any day! Sun is practically a guarantee. Take advantage of the long days and the balmy weather, it’s perfect to spend lazy afternoons and makes you understand why a siesta is actually a necessity. The weather just makes everything seem less rushed and relaxed. The one downfall is that being geographically in the centre of the country, it’s a little far to go to a beach. If really warm weather isn’t your thing, perhaps avoid August. If not, you can always make use of the public pools and a day trip to the mountains does see the temperature drop quite a bit.
- Buen Retiro Park
Where’s the best place in Madrid for a run, relaxing walk, sunbake or picnic with friends? Definitely Retiro Park. It’s a beautiful escape in the centre of the city and locals spend a lot of time here. A walk around the park will reveal its secrets, like the stunning ‘Palacio de Cristal’, one of the most peaceful places in the whole of the city. For a romantic date, you can hire a rowing boat on the lake, a spot that also offers some of the most iconic photo opportunities in the city. Plus the added fact that you can buy ice cream or beer at little kiosks, making it the perfect place to just chill or people watch.
When I think of Madrid at night one of the first things that comes to mind are the bars and clubs. I have spent many nights out in Madrid, where la fiesta does not stop until sunrise so don’t be surprised if you don’t even leave to go out until 2am! Madrid has a lot to offer in terms of nightlife, with different areas of the city having their own personality. For example, if you want chilled out vibes in the evening I’d suggest the multicultural area of Lavapiés for tapas, which also has some of the best Indian restaurants. La Latina is great for Sunday afternoon drinks while Malasaña is the place to be for a proper night out with an electric mix of old and new bars and discotecas.
The location of Madrid, deliberately chosen to be smack bang in the centre of the country, is unrivalled if you want to travel to other cities in Spain. In general, the transport system connecting Spanish cities is great and you can easily visit nearby towns or faraway cities via the coach system (ALSA) or by train (Renfe). Madrid’s main stations are Atocha and Pio Principe. Day trips are a must if you have time while in Madrid with the postcard perfect towns of Toledo and Segovia definitely worth a visit.
- Accessible city
Madrid may be the biggest city in Spain however compared to other capitals and cities in the world, it’s actually quite accessible. Spend a bit of time here and you’ll quite easily get to know it and familiarise yourself with very little hassle. The metro system is straightforward to understand and quite cheap too, linking all the main sites within walking distance from the stations. If you are staying in Madrid for a while, I’d recommend getting an ‘abono‘ or transport pass.
- Typical Spain
Madrid is the place to experience all the typical sites and sounds of Spain. Want to see a bullfight or watch a football game? It’s all in Madrid. There’s also a royal palace, great shopping, theatre shows, concerts and plenty of nice places to eat. And don’t forget the museums, which are a must, particularly those that make up Madrid’s “Art Triangle”: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and La Reina Sofia.
- Learn Spanish
My first experience of Spain was in Andalusia, having moved there to study in Granada, and after two years of studying Spanish I arrived and did not understand a thing! If you’ve ever heard the Andalusian accent, where they literally miss out letters in words and sound like they may have a lisp, you’ll understand why. The Madrid accent is much easier to understand, and if you ever decide to work as an auxiliar or an au pair, of which there are many in Madrid, you will hopefully get the opportunity to develop your Spanish skills with work colleagues and host family. Even just visiting the city it’s possible to pick up some words but you have to put the effort in!
- Mix of the old with the new
Madrid is a charming mix of history and the present. Since I lived there four years ago, it appears that not much has changed besides some new restaurants and shops popping up. My Spanish friends assure me this is true and that it may reflect the fact that they also tell me that the economic situation is improving in Spain, which is great news. Walk down the streets of Madrid and you will see typical family-owned bars that have been around for decades alongside new restaurants with modern decors. It is still no London or New York but would you want it to be? The tradition is the best part, although it’s always nice to have some modern options to try every now and then!