I have lived in Madrid for five months now and I certainly feel a unique attachment to the city. Though it comes with its challenges, Madrid will never bore you. Geographically, the city is huge and densely populated – compared to Melbourne – and despite residing there for five months, I only got to know a handful of neighbourhoods rather well. In this blog post, I will share my favourite and most regularly visited places in Madrid.
As a Melbournian, my first priority was to of course find a good coffee. Luckily for me, an old friend of mine from Brisbane had recently completed her exchange in Madrid, and she happily shared her secrets. Toma Cafe and Bianchi Kiosko Cafe are the best speciality coffee brewers in Madrid. During exam time, Toma Cafe was my go-to as they were laptop friendly and also had a great team of international staff who are super friendly.
For breakfast, brunch, lunch and evening plates – Cafe Federal is a very good quality and reasonably priced cafe – in the heart of trendy Malasana. It is very similar to a Melbourne style cafe and it’s no coincidence as the owners are two Australian guys! I spent too much time there – they offer vegemite on toast for whenever you need to taste home! St Georges Cafe also comes with a bizarre Australian connection as it is named after St Georges Road in North Fitzroy. The couple who run the small coffee and food shop are extremely friendly and offer great salads and of course, a good latte.
The Little Big may seem a little out of the way, however my housemate and I were regulars as it was on the same block of our apartment – they are well known for their homemade cakes and they also make a good coffee (though not always consistent). We spent many quaint mornings here studying – it is very student friendly! Sony’s Cafe (also coincidentally on the same block as our apartment) serves crepes, burritos and other snacky food – and gets quite busy at dinner time (9:00PM for Spaniards). It is a healthy and wholesome choice after a night or evening out in Madrid. Sushita Cafe is also great for an afternoon snack, however it is quite pricey.
All in all, Madrid has many hidden gems of which I certainly only scratched the surface of – they’re easy enough to find, you just have to know where to look:
Malasana – is the trendy neighbourhood of Madrid and is rapidly becoming gentrified. It is quite expensive to rent in Malasana, however it without a doubt has the best atmosphere of all the neighbourhoods in Madrid. Here you can find lovely squares which locals use as a meet up point to drink and eat tapas. My friends and I often met at Vacaciones and strolled around until we found a bar we liked – you are never short of options in Malasana!
Lavapies – an up and coming neighbourhood. It is similar to Malasana, however the price tag isn’t as high. It is an extremely multicultural neighbourhood with great traditional Spanish bars and eateries. Lavapies is best explored in the evening or late afternoon, as people awake from their siestas and fill the outdoor bars and streets. It is a good place for tapas after visiting the Reina Sofia.
La Latina – one of my favourite neighbourhoods! My housemate and I originally stayed here for a few weeks whilst trying to find a home and adored it. We stayed above the El Rastro Markets – which is still visited by locals on the weekends. La Latina has a great variety of food and flea markets which makes it easy for students on a budget.
Bocono Specialty Coffee and Ruda Cafe have great coffee.
Desperate Literature – a great book store and hub of creative intellectuals who are interested in society and culture.
They run events almost every week, ranging from poetry readings, book signings and workshops.
Reina Sofia – a great and very popular art museum – and of course the home to Picasso’s Guernica. I suggest you read up on Spanish history before you go; the art will then make a lot more sense.
Retiro Park – one of the best and well-kept parks I have ever been to. It is big enough to always find a private spot however you always feel like you are in a communal and safe space. It is luscious, green and vast; and also home to the Palacio de Cristal.
Unfortunately I did not enjoy Madrid’s ‘clubbing’ scene – it is rather tacky and the music is boring. However, if you do feel like going for a boogie after an evening out, I recommend scouting a good jazz bar – you often find interesting people and music! Generally speaking, bars are always more fun than clubbing in Spain, however if you are desperate I recommend Tupperware (a bar with a dance floor).
Throughout my stay in Madrid, I managed to travel quite extensively across Spain and other parts of Europe.
Destinations within Spain include: Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Seville, Mojacar, Toledo and Salamanca. A place that I was interested in exploring was Rhonda – my housemates home town – built on cliff edges. Sevilla was my favourite place in Spain and I highly recommend it to anyone travelling to the south. The Basque Country and Catalonia are partially autonomous regions in Spain and are distinctly different to the rest of the country (though Galicia is rather unique too) – mostly in terms of history, language and culture. The Basque Country has some of the best food in the world and I recommend to try the local speciality: pinchos!