When I first arrived, I wasn’t crazy about Madrid.
It was hot, crowded, dirty and loud and I started to doubt my decision moving there. I don’t know when it happened exactly but one day I woke up and found myself debating if I wanted to stay an additional year, a thought that had never crossed my mind before. Madrid was growing on me. Though I decided against it and now write this guide from the US, I do feel a pang of nostalgia for the city I called home for one year of my life. Below is a list of my favorite places, the ones that tempted me to stay.
Food & Drink
- (A) Bar La Piola - I probably spent more time here than anywhere else in Madrid outside of work, drinking coffee or wine and people watching.
- (B) Cafe Central - A solid menu del dia (usually) for when you’re feeling classy. Check their Facebook for a daily menu.
- (C) Motha - A modern cafe and brunch spot for people with tattoos and beards (aka Spanish Portlanders).
- (D) Miranda - I literally did not eat here until my last hour in Madrid, on my way to the train station with my suitcases and I regret that. Cute restaurant with friendly staff and an innovative menu del dia.
- (E) mmm_US - A cafe worth stopping by if for nothing more than the atmosphere. I have no idea how to pronounce the name
- (F) Taberna Del Chato - Cute, quality tapas served in cute little glasses.
- (G) ParisTokyo - Maybe this place is a little too posh and its in the bottom of a hotel but where else are you going to get a beautifully plated sushi menu del dia?
- (H) La Farfalla - No-nonsense menu del dia and dinner with plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options.
- (I) Creperia La Rue - For when you need a little France in your Spain. My favorite is the smoked salmon and cream cheese crepe.
- (J) 100 Montaditos - Don’t Hate. €1 for EVERYTHING on Wednesdays and Sundays. I’m talking everything.
- (K) Chocolateria San Gines - If you must eat a churro (and yes, you must), this place is an institution.
Shops & Markets
- (L) La Integral - A hip little shop thats perfect for buying gifts (for yourself)
- (M) Sin Clon ni Son - This is where I would shop to fill my entire wardrobe if I had a bottomless pocket full of Euros.
- (N) Lomography Shop - Shoot film or die! They even let you “rent” cameras for free when you purchase a box of film (I wrote about that here).
- (O) Stradivarius - Sometimes you need to get trendy. Don’t go to H&M, go here.
- (P) Mercado San Anton - A beautifully designed multi-floor market with gourmet foods to eat here and take away.
Places to Chill
- (Q) Parque Del Retiro - Come here to throw stones in glass houses, botellon on the grass, row your boat or eat an overpriced ice cream cone.
- (R) Templo de Debod - Ancient Egypt in the heart of town. Great at sunset overlooking the city lights.
- (S) Farmers Market @ La Camara Agraria - The once a month farmers market is worth a visit, if only to hang out and drink wine. (I wrote about this too!)
- (T) Plaza dos de Mayo - My favorite plaza for people watching in Madrid.
- (U) Vintage Market at Nave de Motores - The monthly market here is epically better than El Rastro and takes place in the old engine building that powered the metro in the 1920s.
- (V) Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia - There are plenty of opportunities to get in free at this gigantic museum though its worth paying for. Allow yourself lots of time or several visits if you want to see it all.
- (W) La Tabacalera - An old tobacco factory turned cultural center that hosts art, workshops and events.
- (X) El Matadero - Another cultural center (though a much more polished one) that hosts a variety of events and exhibitions. This one used to be a slaughterhouse.
Neighborhoods to Explore
- Huertas – Where I lived. Full of tapas bars and cobblestone streets.
- Malasaña – Known as the hip neighborhood. Go here if you’re looking for vintage shops and cute, tiny restaurants.
- Chueca – This is the gay neighborhood where you’ll find plenty of nightlife, quality food and too many shoe stores.
- Embajadores – Down here, you can get awesome Indian cuisine from one of ten identical places next to each other. This is the most diverse area in town with residents from all over the world.
- El Rastro – If you like junk and crowds, this is the place for you, my friend.
- El Tigre – Full of Americans chowing down on some of the worst food in Madrid (but yes, there’s lots of it).
Guides to What’s Cool
If you’re a temporary or permanent Madrileñ@, what are your favorite places in town?