May 8th, 2021, 03:46 PM

A Local Guide to Madrid

By Hara Vanna Martin
Street view of Madrid. Image Credit: Alex Vasey/Unsplash
Discovering one of Europe's most heartwarming cities

This semester is coming up to an end, and you are probably in the middle of planning out your summer with all the COVID restrictions.  Why not include Madrid in your summer plans? You only need to get a negative-showing PCR test, and you are good to go. Also, make sure to be fully vaccinated before any travel, to protect yourself and others.

Madrid is Spain's capital, this beautiful architectural city is worth the detour if you are visiting Europe. It is also one of the only cities currently open in Europe where you will be able to experience what life is like without confinement. Madrid is only a 2-hour flight away from Paris, and you can find cheap flights starting at 70 euros. Having lived in Madrid for 3 years, I can provide you with the best tips and locations to make the most out of your trip to the Spanish capital and get to really explore the city. These recommendations include avoiding the typical touristy sites even though some of them are unmissable - such will be mentioned later on.  

Food-wise, Madrid is a dream, with restaurants being open during this pandemic, keeping the city alive. Go enjoy a heartwarming meal or tapas (traditional Spanish small dishes that one usually shares). Spain is all about sharing and caring with their tapas culture of small servings. Here is a little list of my favorite addresses to go dine in Madrid: 

Restaurant El Botín. Image Credit: J.M. Towers

In the mood to hop on a time machine? If that's the case, you need to go to the world's oldest restaurant, El Botín, founded in 1725; their specialty is traditional Spanish food, and it is located near Plaza Mayor. This restaurant is a Spanish classic you can't miss.

My personal favorite is La Sala de Despiece, a tiny restaurant located in Trafalgar. This unique restaurant from the outside looks like a container. All the waiters are dressed like fishermen and will surprise you with fresh Spanish ingredients in exciting combinations in front of you. (I highly recommend there Burrata!)

A must-go is Celso y Manolo, an Asturian restaurant located in the trendy neighborhood of Chueca. You will find next to it another Spanish classic, Taberna la Carmencita. If you want to go for tapas, you should most definitely go wander around the neighborhood of Lavapies. There used to be a Festival de la Tapa (tapas everywhere and beer for only one euro); however, due to COVID-19, the last one took place in October 2019. 

El Retiro Park. Image Credit: Anibal Trejo/Shutterstock

Now that you have had fantastic meal recommendations, why not take a stroll around the city's renowned park, El Retiro, located in the heart of the city. I would recommend you rent a little boat on the beautiful Retiro pond, and later on, visit El Palacio de Cristal.

If you are looking for vintage stores, I would recommend you go to Malasaña to some vintages stores around Calle de Villaverde. You will find my personal favorite, a Levi's vintage jean bar, to get customized vintage jeans. If you want to keep going on that shopping spree, you most definitely need to go to El Rastro on a Sunday morning in La Latina. It's Madrid's biggest flea market.

El Palacia Real. Image Credit: Patrimonio Nacional

A must-see is El Palacio Real, as shown above, it overlooks the city, and it's an absolute unmissable site as Spain still has an existing monarchy.

A 15-minute walk from El Palacio Real is Cafeteria San Gines, which sells the famous churros (you should definitely order them with a hot chocolate and dip them inside to have a taste of heaven). If you are in a romantic mood, you should go have a coffee at the patio inside the lovely Museo del Romanticismo; you will be surrounded by beautiful 18th and 19th-century paintings. 

Statues in Museo Nacional del Prado. Image credit: Riccardo Bianchini

Talking about museums, you should definitely go to Museo Nacional del Prado, or El Prado, recognized to have one of the world's finest collections of European art, dating from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and the sole best collection of Spanish art.

The Reina Sofia is also a must-see. You will find the iconic "Guernica" by Picasso alongside some Dali pieces. If you are keen on design, you should go to La Caixa Forum as they currently have an exhibition on Jean Prouvé titled "The Universe Of Jean Prouvé" until 13 June 2021. All of the museums above are located in the Golden Triangle of Art, making them all extraordinarily accessible. 

Madrid is famously known to be a warm and friendly city, that's why you should definitely go out for a drink. Madrid currently has a 10 pm-6 am policy curfew, which makes it easy to have an early afternoon or evening drink in any of these unique bars. Amazonico is a bar located in the trendy neighborhood of Salamanca, it looks and feels like you're in the Amazon Jungle.  Meanwhile, Sala Equis is an old theater converted into a bar with great music and unique decor, will make you have an unforgettable night. If you want to have a drink while overlooking the city, you should either go to Circulo de Bellas or El Palacio de Cibeles. Both of these places will provide you with magnificent views of the city. 

Image Credit: Jorge Fernández Salas

Last but not least, if you are fond of movies, I highly recommend you going to Palafox, a beautiful cinema with 70s inspired architecture. The interior of the movie theater is composed of large seats that can recline back, but what makes this theater so unique, and one of my favorites, is that you can order food while watching a movie (you should definitely order some tequeños, a Venezuelan specialty) making it a wholesome experience. 

I hope that these recommendations will make you want to visit Madrid and enjoy it from a local's perspective!