Partying, siestas and sun…my three favorite things about Spain, the third-most visited country in the world. A lot of people ask me where to stay, when to go and what to do in Spain, so here are my top tips to enjoy the best of the bustling capital and this beautiful country…
WHAT TO SEE IN MADRID
- To get your bearings, do a free three-hour walking tour with Sandemans New Europe Madrid. I have a few friends that have been tour guides for this company. Having done the tour myself, I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Madrid
- Walk through El Retiro park and rent a rowboat for cheap (€5 approx) if it is sunny. Have a picnic on the green grass with some vino, aceitunas and queso (wine, olives and cheese)
- The best value way to move around is to get a 10-ride metro pass
- Watch a Spanish sunset drinking a cerveza and eating pipas (pumpkin seeds) at the Templo de Debod, a temple donated to Spain by Egypt in 1968 for Spain’s help in saving the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt
- Take day trips to El Escorial (monastery), Segovia (aqueduct) and Toledo (medieval city), all accessible by train
WHERE TO STAY IN MADRID
- Malasaña: hipster area
- Chueca: gay area
- Sol: touristy area
I would not recommend staying south of Sol as things can get a bit dicey
WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID
- El Tigre: three locations in Chueca, great for getting your face stuffed with greasy Spanish food for cheap
- 100 Montaditos: this chain is everywhere (including in the US and Latin America now)! Go here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays for specials and eat content. Tapas galore!
- Indian food: there is great Indian food on Calle Lavapiés in Madrid’s most multicultural neighborhood, Lavapiés
- La Bicicleta: in Malasaña, hipster, good hummus, poor customer service (get used to that in Spain). I lived above this place one summer
- Orio: also in Malasaña, good for pintxos (Basque tapas), busy
- Vinoteca: in Plaza Santa Ana, one of my faves for bigger tapas, English menu
- Lateral: also in Plaza Santa Ana with another location on the main shopping street of Fuencarral, similar to Vinoteca
WHERE TO DRINK AND PARTY
- Chueca: the gay district, on the weekend my favorite club is Delirio Live or Boite for a more hipster crowd, go to the original Delirio any night of the week, you usually pay €10-15 as cover, which includes one or two (strong!) drinks
- Malasaña: good for bar-hopping 8pm to 1am
- Huertas: near Sol, also good for bar-hopping and partying afterwards, geared towards tourists
- La Latina: great for Sunday afternoons and evenings, gets crowded, go anywhere on Cava Baja, my favourite bars are Windguru, El Viajero and La Morena
THE REST OF SPAIN
- Go for a dip at La Barceloneta beach
- Book ahead online to get into for Parc Güell
- Be careful of pickpockets on Las Ramblas – Barcelona is pickpocketing capital of Europe
- Try to speak English here, not Spanish – they are very proud of their Catalan language and culture
- Go for a day trip on the train to Sitges, a beautiful seaside town 45 minutes south of Barcelona
- Seville: gorgeous city, beautiful architecture, home of tapas, flamenco and bullfighting, walk along the river, take the fast train from Madrid
- Granada: very touristy, but beautiful, La Alhambra castle is quite breathtaking
- Most expensive city in Spain, so save your bucks for here
- Stay in the Casco Viejo (Old Town)
Photo courtesy San Sebastian – Eusko Guide
- Eat a lot! Check out this CNN Travel article about eating in the gastronomic capital of Spain
- Walk up to the fort for beautiful views of the city and beach
- If it is sunny, go for a swim at Playa de la Concha (Shell Beach) and swim out to the pontoons with the slides
WHEN TO GO
Every season has its perks when visiting Spain.
- June to September: in summer you get the classic hot Spanish sun and it is beautiful to lay on a beach on the Mediterranean coast or sit under an umbrella with the misting fans on at a cafe in the capital Madrid. This is the best season to visit the north of Spain (Galicia to the Basque Country) as they have a climate similar to that of Ireland (chilly and rainy for most of the year)
- September to December and March to June: autumn and spring are a little harder to predict because that is when rain tends to fall in much of Spain. Having said that, the temperatures are much milder than in summertime and prices are cheaper than in the peak seasons of summer and Christmas holidays
- December to March: winter is the time to rug up in scarfs and coats in Madrid and Barcelona and enjoy crystal-clear sunny days. It is a little warmer in the south (Andalucía). This would also be a great time to escape winter completely and head south to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa
If you need any more convincing, let these Real Madrid players help you out… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTKx1L1hKUw Happy travels! ¡Buen viaje!
2 thoughts on “TOP TIPS: MADRID AND SPAIN”
Segovia is next to Madrid and is also a beautiful city. And Ávila with the roman wall!
PS. El Escorial is not a castle xd, it’s a monastery.
You’re right about everything Diego! Thanks for the input!