Madrid is the real deal when it comes to Spanish culture. It often feels like you are stuck in a time warp when all the small shops close for siesta and locals gather around barrels in bars, shouting in Spanish at the soccer game while downing tapa after tapa. Madrid has all the amenities and activities of a large capital city, but still retains its Spanish charm, with endless tapas bars lining the cobblestone streets, family-owned stores and restaurants scattered around the city.
Thanks to Madrid’s 300 days of sunshine per year, locals love to be outside, whether it be walking around, enjoying lunch or drinks on an outdoor patio or exercising in the park. Madrid has an abundance of charming squares, like the Plaza Mayor, where you can sit out and order drinks or simply enjoy some sunshine on a bench. The Paseo de Prado street is even closed to car traffic on Sundays from 9AM to 4PM, allowing pedestrians, bikers and skaters to roam around.
Full of green spaces
Although Madrid is a big, busy city, there are plenty of tree-lined streets and gardens. Flowers are often planted around the city, especially in the grassy area in front of the Puerta de Alcalá monument. The city is full of parks of all kinds to visit and the area along Madrid’s Manzanares River, known as Madrid Río, is ideal for a stroll.
Go with family, solo, as a couple or with friends
Madrid is a great choice for families, with plenty of child-friendly and teenager-appropriate activities and events, like workshops, art and sporting events. The winding streets of Madrid can also be romantic for couples and the bar and nightlife scene rages all night long if you’re traveling with friends. Even solo travelers can enjoy language exchanges and meetups around the city.
Locals are friendly and helpful
Madrileños are passionate, outgoing and friendly. Although they may not speak fluent English, they are always willing to lend a helping hand or send you in the right direction, gesturing and attempting to make sure you understand them. Madrid locals are proud of their culture and adore sharing it, and visitors fall in love with their kind and extroverted demeanor.
Madrid has some of the most amazing art in the world, from El Greco’s relgious works to Picasso’s depictions of the Spanish Civil War. Besides the epic art museum scene, featuring world-famous spots like the Museo del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, there are so many wonderful galleries, outdoor sculptures and statues and temporary visiting art exhibitions.
Museo del Prado, Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014 Madrid, Spain, +34 913 30 28 00
Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid, Spain, +34 917 74 10 00
It’s old (but also new)
The city of Madrid dates way back, with archaeological evidence of human life found dating back to prehistoric times. Full of art and architecture from centuries past, you can even visit the oldest restaurant in the world there, as well as several restaurants dating back to the 1800s. The ancient monuments and buildings in Madrid, juxtaposed with the urban landscape of modern shops, subways and culture in general, make the city incredibly charming and irresistible to visitors.
Eat to your heart’s content
Madrid is heaven for foodies, with plenty of international eats, traditional Spanish delights and trendy food markets where you can sample anything and everything. With a handful of Michelin-starred spots and plenty of low-cost restaurants, food-lovers with any kind of budget will fall in love with Madrid’s cuisine.
It’s not expensive
One of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, Madrid is perfect for a budget traveler. Or, if you’d prefer to splurge, your euros will go much further here than in London, Paris or Amsterdam, for example. Find a beer for one euro, a glass of wine for two euros, and a three-course meal for 20 euros. A room at a clean and safe hostel with a private bathroom will run you under 50 euros per night, or a room in a cute boutique hotel will start at about 100 euros per night. Transportation is also inexpensive, with metro and bus tickets starting at 1.50 euros per ride, while taxi rides around the city center usually hover around 10 euros, depending on your destination.