Madrid, Spain: City Guide

In December, I was lucky enough to visit my oldest friend who had recently moved to Spain. It was my first time in the country and I quickly fell in love with the beautiful capital city. If you’re planning a trip to Europe anytime soon, Madrid is a must-see that you won’t regret visiting!

Eat (& drink!) cheap

Spain is in a crisis, but there’s no shortage of booze or food. Tapas is the Spanish custom of serving any alcoholic beverage with a side of finger foods. Tapas is usually at the bar’s discretion, but typically consists of things such as cheese, olives, pickles, and meats (eat the Jamon if it’s offered to you). Cafeteré­a-Cerveceré­a Serena (Calle de Sé¡nchez Barcé¡iztegui, 19) quickly became a favourite of mine. Serving a bucket of 5 beers for €3 is music to my travel-on-a-budget ears.

Another Madrid classic to try is 100 Montaditos (Calle de Fuencarral, 96), which boasts 100 menu items consisting mostly of finger sandwiches, beers, and wine “ all for â‚¬1-€5 each, locations scattered all over Madrid. 100 Montaditos is packed on Sundays after the Madrid Sunday Market closes (around 2pm), and you may be stuck eating standing up, but at that price, I’m happy to balance my plate awkwardly.

My friend’s roommate took care of us when it came to Sangria and traiditional meals. He’s an excellent cook so along with making us a jug of the wine and fruit mixed drink every night, he also treated me to a massive portion of home-made palella “ both staples that must be had while in Mardid, whether made by a seriously gifted friend of a friend, or paid for at a restaurant.

Spend some â‚¬

One of my favourite places on Earth is Primark. Primark is almost like Forever 21, but better. Styles reflect what’s on the runways now, and the prices are ridiculously low “ think a dress for â‚¬12 low. Madrid is has a number of major shopping centres, most out of the city centre, but the Madrid Metro is so accessible, wide reaching, and affordable it’s really no trouble. 

While you’re at the mall, pop into Kiko Cosmetics. Born out of Milan, Kiko Cosmetics is makeup line akin to MAC in quality with drug-store prices. I went in there, got lost for about an hour, and came back with a huge haul of skincare and makeup products for next to nothing. 

In the city centre “ which many consider to be Sol, a major square and Metro-line crossing (think Yonge and Bloor in Toronto), you’ll find many shops you’re familiar with, and some you’re not. Topshop and H&M both have locations there, ready to take your money. Shopping while on vacation feels significantly more guilt-free than doing it at home, so indulge!

Walking Tours

Check out or ask your hostel’s front desk about free walking tours in the city. Madrid is a city rich in history, and walking tours are a great way to learn about the major buildings, historical events, and also to get to know some fellow travellers while working your glutes (a lot of the city is uphill)! 

A quick language lesson …

When I got to Spain, I realized that I didn’t speak Spanish. This shouldn’t have come as such a great surprise, but I have watched my fair share of Dora The Explorer and really thought I had picked some up (I was a babysitter, ok?) So when walking around shops or the city I found myself fumbling with basic phrases. If, like me, you have a backgroud in French or another similar language, Spanish won’t be too hard to pick up. Here are some phrases to get you started! 

Hello – Hola!
My name is … – Me llamo
What is your name? – ¿Cé³mo te llamas?
I want – Yo quiero
Where is – ¿Dé³nde esté¡?

Tags: culture, in Madrid, Kiko Cosmetics, Madrid City Guide, Primark, Spanish, travel, what to drink, where to eat, Where to shop

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