Madrid is a city rich in culture and with an eclectic mix of entertainment, whether you’re into theatre, arts, 1700s architecture or merely a good ole pub crawl! Why not enjoy a “relaxing cup of café con leche” in the Plaza Mayor? Or drench yourself in the intercultural awareness that the extravagant capital of the Spanish Hasburgs has to offer? Madrid has something to offer everyone!
- People born and raised in Madrid are commonly known as “madrileños” or “gatos”. The latter term dates back to Alfonso VI’s conquest of the city when his troops were said to have climbed the city wall like cats or “gatos”, or so the legend says.
- The Capital city is popularly known as “Villa y Corte”, Madrid is the biggest city in the country and the fourth biggest in the European Union, with a population of 3 million people in the main city centre area and over 6 million in its metropolitan area.
- Madrid is home to the Spanish royal family, the Spanish parliament and senate, and has officially been the capital of Spain since the mid-1500s. Valladolid did take Madrid’s place for 5 entire years from 1601-1606.
- According to an online survey, a coffee in Madrid will cost you 1,37€ on average. Not bad, bearing in mind the National average is 1,18€.
Madrid is considered to be very safe by European Union standards, so this translates into one the safest cities on the planet. Although pick-pocketing and minor-vandalism might take place around certain areas, violent crime is very rare. So, keep an eye on your phone and wallet around tourist areas, but relax and enjoy the European city that never sleeps!
Customs and languages
People in Madrid generally have a pleasant approach to stranger interaction, especially from the elderly population, who take pride in being a very civil and well-mannered generation. “Buenos días” and “hasta luego” are often overheard at train stations, bus stops and local shops. Spanish people have an innate talent for social interaction and sometimes a conversation with a stranger can lead to the most interesting stories about anything and everything. Be aware, Spanish people are generally fond of close and effusive displays of affection. Madrid’s official language is Spanish. English is not a secret language in the city; you are bound to come across people who are not shy about making an effort to speak English if asked nicely.
While Madrid has the usual traffic problems of any major city, it’s public transport network is impressive. You can choose from an extensive metro system, to sub-urban trains and a widespread urban bus network. It is really easy, and cheap, to get around.
When in Spain, do as the Spanish do. The usual tip in a restaurant is about 5%, if even that. Waiters earn a salary, so they don’t depend on tips to live. Foreigners do tend to over-tip, but there is no need to.
Spain in general is one of the European capitals of social drinking. There are about 280,000 bars across Spain, 1 bar for every 165 people. This is the highest ratio in the EU. This figure confirms Madrid as one of the most sociable and lively cities in Europe. Any excuse is a good enough reason for a few “cañas” (a small cold beer).
Madrid has fantastic weather, simply put. With 300 days of sunshine a year it’s most definitely one of the brightest cities in Europe. However, July and August can be extremely hot, so make sure to keep sun-cream in stock,walk in the shade and wear a hat! Having said that, Winters are generally mild, and Spring and Autumn are genuinely pleasant and enjoyable.
What to do?
Fun and Culture
Madrid is a city rich in culture and with an eclectic mix of entertainment, whether you’re into theatre, arts or merely a pub crawl! Culturally speaking, Madrid is one the richest cities in Europe, home to renowned museums such as the Museo del Prado or the Museo Reina Sofia, and world-class private collections such as the Museo Thyssen-Bornemiza.
Late shoppers and midnight snackers love Madrid. The city extends its opening times for shops and restaurants well into the evening hours (you can shop in Zara after 20:30!).
Madrid through the seasons:
·Bocata calamares at La Plaza Mayor (Fried Squid Sandwich)
Churros and hot chocolate at the all-time classic Chocolatería San Gines
·Witness Madrid’s celebration of Epiphany day, as thousands of families flood the streets of La Castellana and downtown Madrid to enjoy the arrival of the Three Wise Men. The “Cabalgata de Reyes” is a once in a lifetime must!
·”Las Uvas” (Puerta del Sol) is Madrid’s own version of Time’s Square “Ball-drop”. Be aware: this might be a tricky mission if you’re not a fan of semi-drunk crowds or feel like you would unable to down 12 grapes before the clock strikes 12!
·Enjoy the pretty, pink view of Madrid’s parks as the almond trees flourish in the Spring.
·Parque del Retiro boat rowing, rollerblading, horseback-riding police officers and beautiful gardens are just a few of the marvels Madrid’s version of Hyde Park or Central Park can offer.
·La Latina- It is famous for its tapas and drinks, and is generally busy all-yearround. Relax and enjoy an ice-cold beer or a “tinto de verano”.
·Summer festivals are a big thing in Madrid. MADCOOL and Madrid Rock in Río are among the many local music festivals and events.
·”La noche en Blanco”- Once a year, Madrid’s finest cultural sites open their doors all night to welcome thousands of visitors for free. This event was originally created to promote cultural events among young people, and it has turned into a yearly must-attend.
·Mercados- Visit any one of Madrid’s food markets and enjoy a wide range of gourmet food as you comfortably sit indoors. Some of the most popular markets are: San Antón (Fuencarral area), Platea (Colón Area) and San Miguel (Sol Area).
·Shopping around Serrano, Goya, Fuencarral, Gran Vía and Preciados: Shopping is a delightful pleasure in Madrid, with shops opening early and shutting late into the evening hours. Fall collections tend to be very popular among tourists, as these fashion trends can be easily adapted to warmer/colder seasons.