A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
„Don’t go there, live there!“ and then, you will fall in love with the place – that’s what I would add to Airbnb’s current slogan. Living in Madrid for a couple of months in the beginning of 2016 taught me that it is not only a city’s beauty, history, people or its sights: The way I experienced it all made me want to stay forever. And, with some tips, I am sure everyone can feel less of a tourist and more madrileño even when only staying for a weekend.
First of all, I would definitely get a place somewhere in Malasaña – the hip neighborhood just above Gran Via is where a lot of young people live and not right in the middle of the touristic center but still close enough to get there fast.
After all, one of the good things about Spain’s capital is that you can do almost everything on foot and if your legs get tired at one point, the metro is a great way to get around. So, please, don’t do a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour: I still remember my aunt and me on that bus overcrowded with selfie sticks and running late because of the horrible traffic.
Better explore the hotspots yourself: A run through El Retiro that is especially beautiful in spring when trees and flowers bloom? Some people watching at Puerta del Sol? Or, a lovely walk along Teatro Real, Palacio Real, Catedral de la Almudena and Plaza Mayor?
Getting hungry? Have lunch like the locals: service worthy of improvement but great food. My girls and me made our way through the whole „carta“ of Café Federal in Malasaña – no matter if you’re craving for a home-made burger, an excellent salad or a tasty sandwich, they have it all.
After some afternoon shopping in Preciados, Fuencarral and Gran Vía, take the elevator up to El Circulo de las Bellas Artes, enjoy THE BEST view over the whole city and feel fancy even when not ordering a 15-euro-drink.
No doubt, El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemizsa (my favorite!) are incredible, but prepare yourself: some research on what to expect will help you find your way through Madrid’s most known collections of famous art works. For those, who would rather spend the entry fee on a good drink later the day – check out the free afternoons: with the right company and a good cup of coffee an hour in line will get by faster than you think.
…coming to drinks: Hang out with Spanish students in Argüelles, embrace the gay neighborhood Chueca or do bar hopping at Plaza Santa Ana – Madrid will definitely not let you stay thirsty. Since we are in Spain, don’t start too early. So, what about some delicious Tapas in Rosie la Loca and a magical sunset first?
Where at? An ancient Egyptian temple in the Spanish capital? When I thought, I had seen everything of Madrid, a friend brought me to Templo de Debod. It is illuminated by night and offers stunning views of the city itself, Catedral de la Almudena and Palacio Real.
When the sun is finally down and the lights go on, Madrid de fiesta awakes and leaves you spoilt for choice: Dance your way through all of the seven floors of Kapital, beat your friends in a Beer Pong tournament, grab some Churros on your way back from legendary JOY Eslava, order a bottle of champagne in Pacha or check out the alternative sound of Ocho y Medio… No matter what you choose, it is going to be legen – wait for it – DARY!
Before leaving one of Europe’s greatest cities, make sure you won’t miss upon El Rastro. On Sunday mornings, there’s probably nothing more madrileño to do than curing your hangover strolling through the incredibly huge flea market.