Things Tourists Should Never Do in Madrid

Madrid is full of charming streets │
Madrid is full of charming streets │ | © Catarina Belova/Shutterstock
Lori Zaino

Seeing Madrid as a tourist is amazing, thanks to the city’s towering monuments, impressive museums and its vibrant energy. However, if you want to fit in like a local and have a safe and comfortable experience, follow these tips. Here are things tourists should never do in Madrid, the capital of Spain.

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Don’t disrupt the siesta

It’s fine if you don’t want to join in and take a midday nap, but don’t be loud or disruptive during the hours of 3-5pm. Waking people up is simply not cool.

Don’t wear flip flops unless you’re at the pool

Madrid is a city where people are mindful of their appearance. Generally, people don’t wear yoga pants unless they are going to yoga or wear flip flops unless they are at the beach or pool. Walking around in the busy city in flip flops isn’t the best idea anyway – someone could stomp on your toes in a crowded place or it’s likely you feet will get dusty or dirty. If you want to wear sandals, pick up a sturdy and stylish pair that are better suited for city living.

Don’t wear shorts before June or July

The temperature will commonly shoot up in April or May for a few days, which may leave tourists wanting to pull out those shorts! Resist the urge if you want to fit in. Typically Madrid locals won’t unveil their shorts until it’s actually summer, despite soaring temperatures. Instead, wear pants and a tank top and carry a handheld fan if needed.

Don’t eat lunch before 1pm

Any restaurant that’s worth dining at won’t serve lunch before 1pm, and that’s still quite early by Spanish standards. When in Spain, do as the Spanish do, and eat lunch later.

Don’t eat dinner before 9pm

Remember, dinner in Spain is light and late. So enjoy some tapas or a light salad, but remember – never before 9pm!

Don’t order eggs for breakfast

You’ll realise that eggs aren’t even offered for breakfast in Spain unless you stumble upon an international brunch spot. They are considered a dinner food here in Spain and not typically served in the morning, so order a tosta con tomate for breakfast instead – a slice of baguette bread with blended tomato, olive oil and salt.

Don’t eat in the Plaza Mayor

It’s understandable that you might want to have a drink outside in one of the lovely cafes in the Plaza Mayor while admiring the scenery. But don’t fall into the tourist trap of dining there. The food tends to be overpriced and not competitive, so just have a beer or coffee there and then head elsewhere to dine.

Outdoor drinks in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Don’t be careless with your belongings

Madrid is a very safe city, but tourists can be easy prey for pickpockets, as visitors are often distracted with their surroundings and may be carrying expensive phones and cameras. Keep a close on your belongings – be sure to use a purse that zips and carry your wallet in your front pocket on the subway, or when visiting crowded tourist attractions.

Don’t carry your passport around

We’ve already established Madrid is safe but that pickpocketing is common. Leave your passport in the hotel safe so you won’t have to spend your holiday at your embassy getting a new one if yours gets lost or stolen.

Don’t be angry if a Spanish person calls you a guiri

Guiri is the colloquial name the Spanish use for foreigners. But don’t be upset if someone calls you this, as it’s typically done in an endearing way. Madrileños love welcoming tourists and enjoy the opportunity to practise their English, so don’t be offended if you hear the word tossed around in your presence.

Don’t say you are embarazada if you are embarrassed

Sometimes the Spanish language may seem easy, as many words are similar to the same words in English. But the dreaded false cognate situation can occur when you say a word that you think means the same thing but it actually doesn’t. So don’t say you are embarazada if you are embarrassed, because what you’re really saying is that you are pregnant!

Don’t be worried about drinking alcohol at any time of day

The Spanish drink whenever they feel like it. It’s not unusual to see a businessman on a break at 11am sipping a vermouth, or a group of giggling co-workers having wine or beer on their lunch break. If they can do it, so can you.

Madrid is all about eating, drinking and enjoying life in the sunshine

Just don’t get super drunk

The reason it’s socially acceptable in Spain to drink at any hour of the day is because the Spanish don’t typically binge drink or get out of control. Follow their lead – have drinks when you feel like it, but don’t go too far. Plus, it’s never a good idea to risk losing control, especially if you are traveling alone.

Don’t just order one thing – share!

The concept of tapas and raciones is all about sharing. Spanish food is meant to be ordered in a group setting and everyone shares. This way, you get to sample so much more!

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