Madrid can feel a little overwhelming at times – particularly if, like most people, you’re only there for a few days. But it’s a laid-back place where you can experience a little bit of everything a Spanish city has to offer. Here are my picks of the best ways to experience Madrid like a true Madrileño.
Where to eat
La Gastrocroquetería de Chema
Croquettes were on almost every menu, and there’s no better place to try them than La Gastrocroquetería. Croquettes of every kind are the speciality here, from traditional jamón numbers to ones filled with liquid cheese.
All of them were delicious, and the sweet Oreo and lemon meringue pie ones for desert were a particular treat!
Hands down my favourite place, La Perejila is a traditional tapas bar. Narrow and packed to the rafters, get here early to get a table to huddle round, or enjoy a free tapa when you buy a drink at the bar (wedged in amongst the locals).
We had gazpacho, black pudding and a plate of meats – including some of the best jamón I’ve tasted. Everything was delicious, with the cake we had to finish the only let down. The atmosphere and flamenco themed decor will give you a true taste of old Spain.
Mallorca is a deli just around the corner from El Retiro (more on that later). It’s a brilliant shopping experience, with counters full of every type of picnic delight. Sandwiches, salads, meats, cheeses and tempting pastries can all be yours.
You get a little slate from each counter with the amount you’ve spent in each section written on. Once you’ve paid up, grab your homemade ice tea and head for the park!
During the day
We spent a whole day at El Retiro. The weather was glorious and there was a mariachi band there to welcome us on arrival.
When the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much, I can think of no better place to while away a few hours. There’s a boating lake, a crystal palace, a rose garden and one of the few statues of the devil anywhere in the world. What more could you want?
Museo Reina Sofia
Everybody talks about El Prado as the one gallery to see in Madrid, but we opted for the Reina Sofia instead. The queue was ridiculous, but we managed to buy tickets online from the queue, and then we walked straight in.
The gallery’s big pull is Picasso’s Guernica, which was great to see along with learning the context and history which go alongside it.
As night falls
We went here purely for the name – who wouldn’t?! It became a running joke of our trip that we needed to go to Tupperwear. It’s a soul and indie bar with a kitsch theme (hence the odd name).
At 5’2, this is the only bar where I’ve ever felt tall – so wear your trainers like everybody else does! It’s a really cool, laid back place with a very young and local feel.
There are loads of different flamenco shows in Madrid, from expensive shows in big theatres to cosier experiences in clubs and bars. We went for the latter at Essential Flamenco, where we got entrance to the show and a drink for 20 euros.
The stand out for me was one of the musicians who had a kind of percussive crate he was sitting in and playing at the same time. The sounds he created just using that and his hands were incredible, and the physical effort of doing his solo (I swear his hands were a blur at one point) was incredible to watch.
Where to stay
Dear Hotel is at the far end of Gran Vía, one of the main roads which cuts through the centre of Madrid. This puts it on the edge of the centre, but there is also a metro station right outside the door. We got a free upgrade on our room, which was fantastic. The room was light, clean and comfortable and the service was good. Not to mention the view from the balcony and rooftop bar!