I love making lists of the top places & restaurants I go to in the various cities I visit and thank god I do, cos otherwise I’d never remember everything! Madrid I hold in my heart for a variety of reasons: I lived there for a year and a half, which allowed me to fall in love with various facets, from the incredible vibe, to the delicious & cheap food, the funky bars in Malasaña and the majestic museums.
Funnily enough, Madrid had the same effect on me as Buenos Aires: the first time I went, just for a weekend, I didn’t particularly like it. It seemed to be just another big city, and it was only when I returned after having lived in Argentina that I fell in love with it. Much of Buenos Aires in fact mirrors Madrid, the city was built by the Spanish and they brought a lot of their capital to Argentina. Some streets are literally built in its image and hence when I walked through certain parts, it pulled at my heartstrings with memories of Buenos Aires flooding back. Here you’ll find some tips from a girl who may not be a local but lived there and was fully adopted as one, me 🙂
Let’s start with what I love most: FOOD!
What I always say to my friends who go is: “look for the shabbiest, old man bar, where the people drink standing at the bar and throw the napkins on the floor” – those are the best places! That is where you will get free tapas (snacks / nibbles) with every round of drinks and the drinks themselves are dirt cheap.
- El Alambique – calle Lope de Vega (metro Alonso Martín) – amazing traditional Spanish food, huge portions and excellent prices. You MUST order the berenjenas con salmorejo & the carne argentina asada – you will die and go to food heaven!
- Madrid Madriz – Calle Fuencarral 85 (metro Tribunal) – go for lunch, as for 9-10 euros you have a 3 course meal with drinks included. Portions are big and food is pretty good, again traditional Spanish cuisine! Avoid going Sunday as I think it’s closed.
- Gonzalín – Calle Eloy Gonzalo 8 (metro Bilbao) – this is a new discovery from when I went just last weekend. Of course when I go to Spain what I want is to dive into their local cuisine, so my friend suggested this place which does the Spanish classics but with very fine ingredients. Whilst the Madriz Madriz is almost the equivalent of your greasy pub food, el Gonzalín is exquisite. And the place itself looks quite fancy yet the prices are very reasonable, around 20 euros per person for several dishes and a drink.
- Perrachica – (metro Quevedo/Bilbao) – I haven’t eaten there personally but it popped up right opposite where I used to live and looks incredibly cool. Apparently it’s one of the new ‘hot spots’ in the city and you have to book well in advance
- La Caña – cardenal Cisneros (metro Quevedo) – this place opened back when I lived in Madrid and the food is just great. I even celebrated my birthday there one year – cool vibe, not too expensive.
- Bar Sierra – Calle de Galileo 41 (metro, Canal, Quevedo or Islas Filipinas) – scrubby good old Spanish bar as I mentioned above. Not classy but extremely authentic – people throw stuff on the floor and with every drink you order you get free food. Paella, empanada, jamon, croquetas… After a few you need to ask them to stop giving you food!
- 100 Montaditos – a chain but always good value for money. You basically have a choice of hundreds of mini sandwiches so you get to taste loads of different stuff! And they are only between 1-1.50 euros each. The tinto de verano & cerveza comes in those huge german-style glasses and is also cheap. Can’t remember which days they also have 2 for 1, I think Wednesdays, so take advantage of that as it’s dirt cheap
- Picnic – Malasaña (metro tribunal) – super cool bar in the hypster area of Madrid: Malasaña. Go downstairs to discover a beautifully decorated basement with candle-lit tables and loads of cool art on the walls that makes you feel like you’re in an enchanted garden
- V. Manneken – Malasaña – Amazing cocktail bar. Really funky deco, you feel like you’re in someone’s house. The guys is awesome – you tell him what you like and he’ll recommend a cocktail for you.
PLACES TO GO:
La Latina – A fun neighbourhood to go on Sunday if the weather is good. Everyone just goes to the terraces & the squares to chill, eat and have tapas. Wouldn’t go for a proper lunch/dinner as it is a bit of a rip off but the Sunday vibe, especially in summer is just great. “Nos vamos de Latineo” literally means we’re going to spend the afternoon in La Latina.
Malasaña – one of the liveliest neighbourhoods at night. Kinda the ‘alternative’, hipster place, loads of little bars, some live music and people of all sorts.
El Palacio Real – The Royal Palace area is beautiful!
El Retiro – the biggest and coolest park in Madrid – you have little boats you can row, the rose gardens, it’s a little like Regent’s park in London. Inside there is also the Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful crystal palace in which they sometimes hold exhibitions.
Templo de Debod (near Plaza Espana) – The Egyptians donated it to the Spanish years ago and it’s just a very relaxing spot to enjoy some of the views of the city.
Then obviously there are the museums which are great if you want to do cultural things: El Prado, Reina Sofía, Thyssen are beautiful inside and out…they are all pretty huge, you can spend hours there if that’s your thing!
Obviously the people themselves are a massive factor, possibly the most important one and I was truly blessed when I lived there to be surrounded by amazing humans, but hopefully after all the above, you’ll love Madrid even just a little bit as much as I do 🙂