How to Spend a Day in Madrid Like a Local
Enjoying Madrid like a local is often related to eating and drinking | © Lori Zaino
Fortunately for tourists, spending a day in Madrid like a local is easy to replicate. Madrileños are never in a hurry; think long, leisurely lunches and relaxing strolls through the city. Below is a step-by-step guide for those looking to live it up like a true local and enjoy all the Spanish capital has to offer.
Start your day off right with churros and chocolate | © Lori Zaino
You’d be hard-pressed to find a local with a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Instead, start with a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and some toast with tomato spread. Or if you’ve got a sweet tooth, try dipping some fresh, crispy churros in a mug of thick chocolate. Coffee and breakfast are typically available at most little bars and cafeterias you see lining the streets, so just pop in and order. Oh, and don’t worry about getting up early – locals take their breakfast as late as 11:30 am sometimes!
Pay a visit to the park
Strolling through the Parque del Buen Retiro is often how Madrileños start their free days. If you’d prefer a little more exercise, join the locals in jogging, bike riding, rollerblading or working out at the outdoor gym area in the park. You can also take a yoga class (in English) during the warm weather months with The Natural Yogi (be sure to sign up in advance). It’s rare you’ll find locals enjoying a picnic though, they’re more likely to have a beer and a snack at one of the many outdoor cafes, or chat on a park bench.
Shop at one of Madrid’s many boutiques in Malasaña, like The Nest | Courtesy of The Nest
This area is hip, young and great for shopping when you’re searching for a unique find. Try Calle Velarde for vintage shops like Magpie or Williamsburg. If you have the patience to sift through the endless rails of clothing, you may end up with some cool vintage tee-shirts or some funky 1980s apparel. For something contemporary, Herself has hip items for reasonable prices, and for whimsical stationery and decorations, visit The Nest Boutique.
The Spanish love a good bargain, and getting a daily lunch menu deal is the way to go. A ‘Menu del Día’ will typically include a drink (beer, wine, soft drink or water), a starter, a main course and a dessert or coffee for a fixed price. Usually, this price is around 10-13 euros, but in some cases it can be even cheaper. Lunch menus can be found at almost all restaurants Monday to Friday, and sometimes on weekends (usually at a slightly higher price). If you’ve been shopping in Malasaña, stop at Maricastaña or Dray Martina to try their fixed-price menu lunches. Oh, and don’t forget, lunch time is from 2-4 pm, any earlier and you’re eating on ‘tourist time’.
If you want to be a true Spaniard, napping is key. Naps are always taken after a big lunch and usually for about an hour or two, especially when it’s hot outside. The Spanish aren’t fussy where you nap – a sofa, bed or armchair will due. So get some zzz in, ready for an evening out.
Locals love tapas and so should you | © Lori Zaino
Tapas and Drinks
Socializing, eating and drinking are all key aspects of Spanish culture, especially in Madrid. While sit-down dinners are common, bar-hopping to enjoy drinks and tapas is also a great way to explore the city, fill your belly and have fun along the way. One option is to do this at a food market, like the Mercado de San Ildefonso, featuring three floors of food stalls and bars. You can sample different types of foods from various food stalls and stand around tables drinking beers as you eat. Or, you can head down a typical ‘tapas’ street, paying a visit to several different tapas restaurants, having a drink and tapas at each. Some of the best streets for this are Calle de Ponzano and Calle Cava Baja. If you’ve taken your siesta, you should be able to enjoy tapas and drinks alongside the Spaniards well into the night.