Away from the narrow streets of the city centre, Madrid’s parks provide welcome shade and cool during the heat of the summer. Retiro Park is the ideal spot for a picnic in the shade, while the lakeside restaurants of the Casa de Campo are a cool place to shelter on a boiling hot day.
It might seem counterintuitive to sit in a darkened cinema while the glorious Spanish summer is blazing outside, but Madrid’s cinemas are air-conditioned havens during its hottest months, which make them a great place to cool down on a sticky summer evening.
You might think Spanish abanicos are a stereotype, used only by flamenco dancers and old ladies, but you’d be wrong. Glance around on a hot day in Madrid and you’ll see women (no men though – unfortunately they haven’t really caught on with the male species) of all ages using this traditional method of self-cooling.
Madrid has several public swimming pools that are the ideal place to cool off. Lago in the Casa de Campo park has two pools and lots of space around to lay out your beach towel. Alternatively, head to one of the natural pools on the outskirts of Madrid, like the one in Cercedilla, in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains north of the city.
Keep an eye out for bars and restaurants that use ‘spritzers’ or fans blowing out cool water vapour onto their terraces. If you can grab a coveted seat right next to/under a spritz, you can enjoy being regularly cooled by a mist of refreshing droplets.
Do as the Spaniards do and eat late, once the sun has set and temperatures are a little more bearable. Avoid heavy dishes and instead try Spanish summer favourite gazpacho or its fancier cousin, salmorejo, both a kind of cold tomato soup. If you want to truly embrace the timeless Spanish stereotype, fit in an afternoon siesta to sleep through the very hottest hours of the day.
Madrid is a very walkable city, but in the depths of the summer, it can be energy-sapping even walking a short way. Instead, hop on a bus or the city’s excellent metro system, both of which are handily air-conditioned. Just make sure to remember to get off at your stop, no matter how tempting the urge might be to spend the day riding the oh-so-cool metro.
Madrid is home to some incredible roof terraces and there is no better time to enjoy them than during the summer. Temperatures seem just a bit cooler up there, and you might even catch some of that elusive breeze.
Legend has it that to keep cool, the Ancient Egyptians used to sleep under damp cloth. Follow in Cleopatra’s footsteps and wet a sheet or large towel, then wring it out and sleep under it for a delightfully cool slumber.
Madrid is home to some of the world’s most famous art galleries, which are all – thankfully – air-conditioned. Take your time and enjoy an afternoon of artistic discovery while cooling down at the same time.