Madrid has something for everyone, from weekend visitors to long-term expats. This walkable city is home to world-class museums, delicious food, and beautiful views. But beware, like any major city there are many tourist traps. For an authentic Spanish experience, follow these tips and make the most of your time in the Spanish capital.
Be an Art Aficionado
Madrid is home to numerous museums, and visiting the Spanish capital without taking in some art would be a shame. For classic art lovers, the Prado Museum is the perfect place to spend an afternoon among the works of famed Spanish painters Velázquez and Goya. The museum boasts a large collection, including pieces by Rubens and Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
If you’re more of a modern art enthusiast, make your way to the Reina Sofía Museum. Take a few minutes to stare in awe at Picasso’s larger than life painting, Guernica. After that, spend an hour wandering the rest of museum, which includes various works by Salvador Dalí.
Tip: Entrance to the Prado Museum is free Monday to Saturday 6pm to 8pm, and Sundays and holidays from 5pm to 7pm.
Eat Like a Spaniard
Start the day off like with a sweet treat like most Spaniards do. Head over to Chocolatería San Ginés, one of the most popular churro shops in the city, and order chocolate con churros. Chocoholics will savor each bite of fried dough dipped into thick, lustrous chocolate.
Spaniards have their biggest meal at lunch, which is often a three-course meal. Eat like a Spaniard and enjoy a menu del día (menu of the day). This menu is a fixed price menu, usually 10 – 15€ and can be found at most restaurants during the week. Most menu del días include a starter, main dish, dessert, bread, and a drink. They are usually reasonably priced and are always cheaper than ordering each course a la carte.
Dinner is generally a small meal, making it the perfect time to go out for tapas. Tapas is not a dish, but a way of eating. Tapas are simply small portions of a dish. The point of eating tapas-style is to be able to eat a bit of everything without getting too full. In Madrid, you can sometimes get a free tapas if you order a drink, but generally you have to pay for the good stuff.
Tip: Though the view is wonderful, avoid eating at any of the restaurants lining Plaza Mayor, the main square in the centre of the city. These restaurants usually serve low quality food at inflated prices.
Drink Like a Local
At some point you’ll probably want some coffee, but skip Starbucks and visit a local café instead. There are cute cafés located throughout the city, but they are found in abundance in the charming and vibrant neighborhood of Malasaña .
Spaniards enjoy a good beer, and in Madrid the domestic beer of choice is Mahou. This brand can be found in almost every restaurant and taberna (tavern). That said, in the last few years small, independently owned breweries have popped up around the city and are gaining a strong following. The most popular craft beer brewery in the city is Fabrica Maravillas, located a few minutes north of the city centre.
Tip: When ordering a beer, you’ll have to clarify how much you want. If you only want a small glass of beer, ask for a caña (about 7 US oz). If you want more, ask for a jarra (about 16 US oz).
Photos courtsey Estrella Sansait on Flickr unless otherwise noted.
Do you know any insider tips for Madrid? Let us know in the comments!