Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

“Walking the streets of Madrid, this writer felt his jaw drop. The scale and beauty of the city’s apartment buildings and old public edifices, built with tremendous architectural elegance and flair, came as a huge surprise. With a superficial awareness of Spanish history – or even just the history of Madrid – it is simply hard to believe how many buildings of this size and quality were constructed here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It’s indisputable, of course, that the Catalan Art-Nouveau architecture which characterizes Barcelona is more playful, and its Gothic Quarter is more vibrant, but Madrid is capable of bowling a visitor over with the sheer number of beautiful buildings it possesses, and their combined harmony. It is striking that on both broad boulevards and narrow side streets, all the buildings are well-maintained and intact.

It is clear in Madrid how capable the state and the country’s ever more prosperous economy are of ensuring that both the public and private buildings of the city really shine. It’s also fortunate that most of the interesting tourist sights are located within an area that’s easy to get around on foot. Within that area, however, there are so many fascinating alleyways and secluded squares that it’s worth wearing a good pair of walking shoes!”

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“The Lavapiés district is a must for anyone seeking something a little more adventurous. (Get off at the metro station of the same name and you’re already there). Here you can try cuisine from all corners of the world, there are unique bars on every corner, and the strangest characters wander the night. It isn’t recommended to walk alone here late at night, but in the afternoon it’s perfectly safe to sit down on a bench and listen to the mix of Reggae and Bollywood music.

Heading from Lavapiés towards Madrid’s central square, Puerta del Sol, you’ll come across one of my favorite little squares, Tirso de Molina. This is where a flower market, possibly the most vibrant in the city, is held every day. I often imagine that when I’m rich, I’ll come here all the time, to put together fresh bouquets for my sweetheart. Caballeros, Don Juans and ‘fallen women’ frequent this area, so perhaps the wilting flowers are an appropriate symbol…”



Practicals

Transport

Madrid has an excellent metro network; you can get close to almost any point in the city, so there is no need to take a bus or tram. There is a metro connection between Barajas Airport and the city, making it easy to get to the city center. Since the airport is in an outer district, you purchase an extra-charged ticket.

Accomodation

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Madrid - Hostal La Macarena - Krista photo

Food

“The sun rises late in Madrid. Or maybe it just seems that way to me when I’m in the mood for a lazy bed day. Look – I’ve barely got here, and I’m already embodying the character of the city! At once buzzing and bustling, yet also relaxed and human, where for the first time I feel as though the world is there for me, and not the other way around – where I’m important and don’t continually have to accommodate others. I start the day with breakfast: a coffee with milk – café con leche – and of course a Spanish tortilla, which only tourists are ignorant enough to call ‘scrambled eggs’.

Locals – if they understand your cultural insensitivity – will throw their heads back in wounded scorn: The tortilla is an institution, a craft which Spanish chefs teach to American housewives. It matters, for example, which kind of pan you cook in, at what thickness, and what kind of wooden spoon is used to stir it… The tortilla is an exceptionally important piece of Spanish culture, and the
pleasure of eating one rhymes perfectly with all the other pleasures of life here.”

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“Though the city is a long way from the sea, Madrid has some of the best and most interesting seafood in all of Spain. Fresh seafood reaches the capital from every coast, though for me, the legendary serrano ham was even more irresistible.

Ham, or jamon, is sold at least as frequently as fridge magnets. Indeed, you can even get a serrano ham fridge magnet, but I think the ham-shaped decorative pillow definitely topped it as a unique souvenir.

If you want to get a comprehensive picture of the local gastronomy I would recommend a trip to the market, or Mercado de San Miguel: pastries, wines, seafood, including a wide variety of fish, olives, and ham – in all shapes and sizes! It is an exclusive place and might be better described as a mass of tapas bars than a real market. The prices are quite high, but in return, you get a big serving and plenty of garnish. It gets crowded late in the evening, but it’s still unmissable!” (Adam, 2017)

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The main meal of the Spaniards is lunch. Most restaurants offer a daily menu on weekdays and only for lunch. The menu items are quite affordable, typically costing 8-13 euros, of course, more expensive in the trendy restaurants. Lunch menus are well displayed on the street front of restaurants. 

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“There’s no better way to spend your time in Madrid than eating! It’s worth knowing, however, that Spanish eating habits are a little different. Don’t be surprised if they look at you strangely for wanting to eat dinner at 7 pm, or if you try to find a place for lunch at noon, and encounter only closed doors. This is the ‘siesta’, or midday rest, which usually lasts from about noon until two or three in the afternoon. (This was originally a defense against the heat of midday in summer, but it has since extended into winter as well). It’s a time when people go home from work to eat lunch and catch some shut-eye.

Still, don’t despair if you’re hungry during this time – the big fast-food chains are open all day, from morning until night. The inhabitants of Madrid usually eat in a restaurant at least once a week, at which time the whole family or group of friends gets together and talks for hours, not going to bed until at least midnight. In Madrid, coffee typically costs one euro.

Almost every day ends in a bar – and if it doesn’t, it probably started there! There is a long tradition of ‘tapas’ bars here. You should try as many different types as possible – there are set menus, and plenty of buy-two-get-three type promotions. For about €7 you can enjoy a modest lunch. What might seem odd is that in many traditional tapas bars you’ll see lots of napkins dropped on the floor. Don’t be alarmed at this – in fact, quite the opposite! It means you’ve found an excellent bar. The many napkins on the floor are a sign of satisfied customers. Nowadays, though, it’s more common to put your used napkin into the small trash can by the bar counter.

The word ‘tapas’ comes from ‘tapar’, which means to cover or hide something. Apparently, long ago when people spent hours over a large mug of beer and long conversation, they got into the habit of covering the top of their glass with a slice of bread, to keep out the bugs and the dust. Well, when the bread was already there, it seemed natural to put a topping in it – a slice of ham, perhaps, or salami, or whatever else was in the kitchen. This is how the first tapas were created.





Madrid - jamon serrano - Krista photo

Madrid - light breakfast - Spanish toast with grated, skinless tomato (Pan con tomate) - Ata photo

Madrid - calamari sandwich (bocadillo de calamares) - v.j. photo

Madrid - squid sandwich shop - one for 2,90 Euro - v.j. photo

Madrid - straberry cake in the pastry shop called La Mallorquina at Puerta del Sol - v.j. photo

Shopping

“It’s a mistake to imagine Madrid shutting down every afternoon for the siesta: it really doesn’t happen. Ever since the big shopping malls opened on the edge of town, the siesta has basically died out: small shops were forced to stay open all day to keep their customers. Stores may still take a midday break in the off-season, but it isn’t typical. Of course, in smaller towns or at the coast you’ll still encounter the siesta, but not in Madrid: still, it’s worth bearing in mind that Spanish people don’t work on Sunday, so the only thing you might find open on that day is the souvenir shops. (Except on the first Sunday of every month, when everything is still open).

Madrid - Serrano ham - Jamón Serrano - 19 Euro per kilo - v.j.

Madrid - classy fish shop in the city center - v.j. photo

Fun

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Madrid - cafe&bar - v.j. photo

Madrid - Bodega de la Ardosa, an old vermouth bar at Calle de Colón

Public safety

“In Madrid, I walked from Calle de Bailén towards Sabatini Park. At the northeast gate stood two (possibly three, but I only spoke to two) girls in similar attire, who were collecting money for some (fake) children’s charity. Unfortunately, I fell for it and, after signing the form, handed over a not negligible sum in euros. By the time I realized I had been conned and hurried back, they were no longer there. I made a report to the police and gave precise descriptions. Hopefully, it will prove useful, and others will be smarter than I was.” (k.m., 2018)

Madrid - stalwart protection

Health

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Madrid - Old ceramic placard advertising antidiarrheal medicine - Krista photo

Others

1. The closest seaside beach to Madrid is 300 km (186 mi) far. 

2. “While you might imagine that in a country as tourist-focused as Spain, everyone would speak English, this is absolutely not the case – even at beach resorts or in the capital.
Madrid is a bit like a time capsule, but not only in terms of its historic architecture but also in terms of English knowledge. Plus, the farther we go from the downtown areas, the less likely we are to encounter anyone who speaks English.
This means it’s definitely worth learning some Spanish, even if it's just a few basic phrases, since this may be enough to at least elicit some sympathy from the locals (and they might even try to dredge up some rusty English vocabulary to help you).” (2018)


Madrid - street art - Krista photo

Madrid - attractive walls

Madrid - street art - a.s. photo

Background

Madrid - The Metropolis Building (Edificio Metrópolis) at the corner of the Calle de Alcalá and Gran Vía - Ata photo

Destination in brief



Madrid is in the middle of Spain, the nearest coast being 330 km (205 mi).

Population (in 2020): 3.1 million - Madrid is the third biggest city in European Union (after London and Berlin). Madrid will be the second biggest city after the UK leaves the EU.
6 million tourists per year.

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 1600 Euro (while in Barcelona: 1450 Euro)



Climate

Madrid is the sunniest city in Europe, with an average sunshine rate of around 250 days per year.

Of the major European cities, Madrid enjoys the most cloudless days annually. In August, a heat around 40 C (104F) is not exceptional. Luckily, the humidity is relatively low.

History

Madrid (founded around 860 A.C.) was first mentioned in ancient Arabic records as Mayrit or Magerit, which means “Place of Abundant Water.”

“Madrid has been the capital of Spain since the 17th century. As ugly as General Franco’s dictatorship was, it must be acknowledged that Madrid underwent tremendous development, population growth, and increased living standards during the 1960s, as a broader middle class emerged. This middle class generally inhabited the northwestern areas of the city, while the southern part of the capital was heavily industrialized. Many rural Spaniards also moved to Madrid, taking advantage of greater job opportunities. Undoubtedly, however, there was a significant gap between the urban middle class and the workers who lived on the periphery of the city. Following Franco’s fall, it was precisely this working class which led the struggle for political change.

Madrid - The Monument to Miguel de Cervantes (Monumento Cervantes) - Elter photo

Nowadays

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Madrid - Krista photo

People

,, It’s hard to find “gatos” (the nickname for people born in Madrid) or third-generation Madrileños here. Most people or their parents are from somewhere else in Spain or abroad. That means that there is a sort of openness in comparison to other cities, both here and in other countries. Almost nobody believes that Madrid “belongs” to them, so people, from bartenders to pedestrians, are often more outward-looking, helpful, and friendly."

Madrid - Krista photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Talking to Madridians, avoid insulting the existence of the bullfight. The locals are proud of their bullfighting tradition.
2. In Madrid, men (at least heterosexuals) don’t kiss each other on the cheeks, like in France.


Attractions

Plaza Mayor

Madrid - Plaza Mayor - Krista photo

Madrid - Plaza Mayor - s.h. photo

Plaza de España

Madrid - Plaza Espana - Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at the Cervantes Monument - Elter photo

Plaza de Cibeles

Madrid - Plaza de Cibeles - The Fountain of Cybele - p.b. photo

Puerta del Sol

Madrid - Puerta del Sol

Prado

Madrid - Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado) - a.h. photo

Madrid - Prado - The Fountain of Grace by Jan van Eyck - a.h. photo

Almudena Cathedral

Madrid - Almudena Cathedral - Elter photo

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home stadium of Real Madrid  - v.j. photo

Madrid - Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home stadium of Real Madrid - v.j. photo

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