Madrid like a local

My first Madrid post serves the tourist who’s visiting for a few days. It gives basic info on the MUSTS in Madrid such as Rastro, which is the Sunday flea market. As well as a DIY walking tour of landmarks in the city center. I also listed some amazing places to visit outside the center for you to pick from.

The second post is on Where to Eat & Drink in Madrid. A comprehensive list of my fave spots I frequented during my two years living in this lively city.

“This post focuses on the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid,
as well as tips and tricks to experience the city like a local.”

BEST BARRIOS IN MADRID

Lavapiés is a short walk from Sol and it is one of the most affordable neighborhoods near the center. It has numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy and is home to Tapapiés, a food (more specifically, tapas) fest celebrated in October. Many of the restaurants in the area offer a special and affordable (€1-2) tapa for the event. Beware of the many Indian restaurants in the area, most of them are tasteless.

Tapapiés is how I found one of my favorite spots in Madrid, Toscanaccio, a small and family-owned Tuscan bakery. I honestly visited this place weekly. It is delicious, affordable and offers veggie and vegan options. It has both savory and sweet choices.

“If you’re a risk taker and want to blend in with the locals and expats…”

Plaza 2 de mayo
Botellón @ Plaza Dos de Mayo

If you’re a risk taker and want to blend in with the locals and expats, then stop by Plaza Dos de Mayo in Malasaña. Beware, it smells like piss most of the time. The reason being that this is the most popular area for “botellón” which is the Spanish tradition of sitting and drinking on the street. It is not legal to do so, but most days, the police looks the other way. Police cars will show up later in the night to disperse the crowd so as to avoid noise complains, and I have heard stories of people who have been fined in this plaza, so this is an “at your own risk” experience.

La Latina is the neighborhood for foodies. It is home to the many restaurants in taverns for all tastes and budgets. I made a list of my fave restaurants in this area including El Buo and La Taberna Sanlúcar in the Where to Eat and Drink in Madrid post. For drinks, I recommend Hopper, which has amazing cocktails and a great happy hour. On hot summer nights, I went to the rooftop of El Viajero, just be mindful that you’ll have to be patient to get seated. Another great roof top that is frequented by tourists, since it belongs to a hostel, is The Hat. A cute place with a terrace near the metro stop is La Bobia, famous for its delicious and affordable Asturian cider.

There are infinite options to choose from in La Latina. You can walk around and look at the menus posted outside, just be mindful that most places close after lunch and open for late dinner.

PintaMalasañaMalasaña is home to numerous boutiques, bars, restaurants and local specialty stores, as well as a lot of original street art because of a festival called “Pinta Malasaña” where shop owners select an artist to decorate their store front. This fest is celebrated annually, keeping the art fresh and different every year, while making way to new local artists.

Malasaña is a cultural hub and also the home to the Conde Duque Cultural Center, which hosts all kinds of events. From art exhibits, to free concerts, even beer fests.

Goya
Plaza de Goya

Goya is a “pijo” area. Meaning that people with funds tend to live or visit this area. Hence, it is a bit posh but has the best stocked stores in my opinion. It is near Retiro park, so you could easily exit from the north side of the park and walk around Goya. The plaza is known for the Wizink Center where many international artists have performed. Unlike Gran Via, It is not usually crowded nor are the stores picked out. It is beautifully decorated during Christmas and there’s plenty of local restaurants, so this area definitely deserves a visit if you’re in Madrid for a longer stay.

 

 

 

 

Don’t buy day trip tour packages and don’t pay for museums.

THINGS TO KNOW

  • Museums are free during the last 2 hours.
    Arrive 30 minutes before the free hour (6pm or 7pm, depending on the day) to get in line. It will be long but it will move fast as soon as the doors are open for free visitors. Check each museum’s website for their schedule:

  • Thyssen Museum is free on Mondays but closes at 4pm.
  • History Museum of Madrid is always free
  • Avoid route buses during rush hour.
  • Avoid bocadillo de calamares.
    I love calamares but fried calamari on a dry baguette is not the best. Drier than a  torta de tamal.
  • Avoid taxis departing from the center.
    Use Uber or Cabify., they cannot enter the small streets but can pick you up on may avenues that are always near. Taxis tend to overcharge and taking longer routes, with the additional fee if you get picked up at the center.
  • Tap water is potable and tastes fine.
    Don’t pay for water, buy vermouth or wine instead.
  • Don’t buy day trip tour packages.
    These are sold at kiosks and they’re rushed and overpriced. It’s really easy to move around in train or bus to other cities. Below are the details on how to DIY day trips like to Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Zaragoza and El Escorial/San Lorenzo from Madrid.
  • Spanish schedule:
    • breakfast 9-10am
    • lunch 3pm (shared raciones & tapas or menú del día)
    • dinner 9-10pm
  • Eggs are also for lunch and dinner
  • Paellas in Madrid tend to be frozen.
    It’s best to try it in Valencia or Murcía, even Andalucía
Toledo
Toledo. Castilla La Mancha

DAY TRIPS

Use the renfe website for checking train schedules. Cercanías trains move within the Comunidad de Madrid, meaning the outskirts. For example, you can take the Cercanías train to El Escorial which is still Madrid Comunidad, but it’s not Madrid city.

To visit Segovia or Toledo, you need a Long Distance train (tren de larga distancia) which is also renfe. If you want to go to Barcelona or Málaga, you can take the AVE, which is the fast train to further Comunidades. Barcelona being in Catalunya, for example and Málaga in Andalucía, but Segovia is Castilla León and Toledo y Castilla de la Mancha, which are the neighboring Comunidades to Madrid. Easiest way to understand this is imagining that the Comunidades are like States.

Once you’ve arrived in the station you can use public transportation to get to the city center or wherever your lodging is. To explore the schedules of metros and buses in Spanish cities or in other European countries I recommend using Citymapper and the Moovit app. You can see The Essentials blog post where I explain how to use these. Google maps tends not to have accurate info on buses in small cities like Toledo.

Feel free to reach me with any questions regarding travel within Spain, especially departing from Madrid. I was once a lost tourist and know the struggle. Spain is incredible easy to travel, not only because of its size, but also because its many transportation options within the country. You have the option of using low cost airlines, fast trains, comfortable buses and BlaBlaCar. This last one is a ride sharing app where you travel in a local’s car. Much more affordable and faster than other road transportation options.

Wherever you go, I am sure you will have a blast in this beautiful and diverse country. Enjoy every moment of your travels and always BE PRESENT!

Where to eat & drink in Madrid

I’ve made 3 posts on Madrid so far since I lived in this lively city for two amazing years. I don’t claim to know this city inside and out since there are new things popping out all the time, but I’ve listed the places I frequented making it “My Madrid”. For info on landmarks or for a brief and efficient visit, check out my first post. For insider tips on the city check out the Madrid like a local post.

WHERE TO EAT

Lavapiés is a short walk from Sol. It is one of the most affordable neighborhoods near the center. It has numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy and is home to Tapapiés, a food (more specifically, tapas) fest celebrated in October. Many of the restaurants in the area offer a special and affordable (€1-2) tapa for the event. Beware of the many Indian restaurants in the area, most of them are tasteless.

Tapapiés
is how I found one of my favorite spots in Madrid, Toscanaccio, a small and family-owned Tuscan bakery. I honestly visited this place weekly. It is delicious, affordable and offers veggie and vegan options. It has both savory and sweet choices.

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Ceviche peruano in Mercado San Fernando (man butt not included)

Besides Toscanaccio, I also frequented Mercado de San Fernando in Lavapiés. This food market offers options from all over the world.

My faves are, no doubt, the Mexican spot as well as the Peruvian since you’ll find delicious ceviche in the latter. The Mexican restaurant has amazing micheladas and several types of tacos, as well as tamales. Near it, there’s a Puerto Rican and Lebanese spot. This Mercado also has all types of Asian, including Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, etc.

 

Taberna Sanlucar
La Taberna Sanlúcar en La Latina

La Latina is near Lavapiés and it’s the most famous barrio for dinner. My favorite restaurant in this neighborhood is La Taberna Sanlúcar, which is a cozy and delicious tavern serving Andalucían food. The menu might take some time to decipher but the waiters are so kind and will gladly offer suggestions, I do recommend you try the “vino de Jerez”. Sanlúcar is next toOff Latina” which is a legit flamenco venue if you’re planning on catching a show.

Buo
Buo en La Latina (objects are larger than they appear)

If Tortilla (Spanish omelette) is on your list to try, which despite being egg based is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I suggest Buo. There’s one in La Latina and another in Chueca. It also has its sister restaurant, La Buha. Despite location, I never found any differences between the two. The one in La Latina has a terraza (outdoor tables), so you could enjoy your dinner outdoors when the weather permits, just be aware that Spaniards are avid smokers. Buo has a large selection of ingredients for their large Tortilla and it’s only €10. It will feed at least 6 people. Another famous Tortilla spot is Pez Tortilla. There’s one in La Latina and another on Calle del Pez in Malasaña. Pez offers raciones (slices) of a wide selection of tortillas, as well as craft beer.

 

 

 

Extremeño
Tosta de Pulpo & Sangría Blanca, El Capricho Extremeño


El Capricho Extremeño is a must on Rastro days (Sundays) and only serves 
Tostas which is toasted bread with a variety of toppings. They also have a delicious white sangría that pairs great with the Tosta de Pulpo. La Extremeña offers veggie and vegan options. The line is long, but it moves fast since it only serves “To-Go” and premade toasts.

Also in La Latina, Lamiak has the best pintxos, which are bigger tapas from the north of Spain. It gets really busy so it’s best to arrive for US dinner time instead, considering that Spanish dinner time is between 9 and 10pm.

Txirimiri is a chain so there’s a few locations in different neighborhoods.  It serves Basque country cuisine and it has the best Solomillo I’ve ever had, which is a very tender beef bathed in a type of light gravy

Juana la Loca is near Sol and is a great place to go with groups. Reservations are available. The decor is very original and cute, but the real deal are the delicious and affordable tapas.

Los Artesanos 1902 .Churros & Chocolate (fudge) are a thing in Spain, especially during cold weather. This place has the best chocolate I’ve had in Spain, taking into account that it’s a thick fudge for dipping, although some locals sip on it.

 

WHERE TO DRINK

Madrid has probably more bars than people, hence the long list below. I listed a few bars I frequented with the reasons why. Keep in mind that there’s a plethora of options depending on the kind of night, or day, you’re looking to have.

La Playa de Lavapiés is a bar frequented by locals that serves Estrella Galicia on tap. Believe me, much better than Mahou which is the only beer you’ll find in almost every bar. La Playa is not far from the Lavapiés metro stop and it’s on a popular street filled with bars and terrazas, which are a hot commodity unless it’s raining since everyone wants to smoke and drink at the outdoor tables.

Chinaski
Beer Menu at Chinaski in Lavapiés

If you’re a craft beer lover, you need to stop by Chinaski. It is on Calle de la Fe and conveniently located across from Toscanaccio. Chinaski has plenty of indoor seating, perfect for a rainy or cold night, but the biggest attraction is the wide variety of European craft beer at affordable prices.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 7.59.45 PM
Yayos at Casa Camacho

Casa Camacho is a landmark and a must when in Malasaña. A great way of starting the night in Madrid is with a “Yayo”, the staple of Casa Camacho. A Yayo is a small glass of  Vermouth, gin and tonic water. Beware of the alcohol content, don’t be fooled by its size.

Sala X1
Decor in Sala Equis

Sala Equis is an old porn cinema turned bar. It is difficult to describe this place since it is still a cinema, but showcases modern films. Downstairs there is stadium seating with some lounge chairs facing a the projected film. Upstairs is a bit more intimate and covered in red neon lighting. Cocktails are great and there’s a good selection of Spanish beers.

Pepe Botella is an indoor and typical tavern frequented by locals with plenty of seating. It is deal for an intimate night with friends or date.

Vacaciones Cocktail Bar is a cute but small summer themed bar, great for dates too. Fyi, there’s more seating downstairs.

Ojalá is another interesting place in Malasaña, it is known as the “sand bar” because the floor is covered in sand. I’ve heard the food is good here but I’ve only been for drinks.

La Realidad was my go to place, especially for dates since its corky decor and dim lighting make it a perfectly cozy place to get to know someone. It is also near, Pirata Malasaña, which is another one of my go-to craft beer bars, along with the recently opened Mikkeller Madrid.

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Stranger Things decor at Twist&Shout

Next to Malasaña, you’ll find the famous ChuecaI could write a whole post about this popular neighborhood, but I’ll stick to mentioning one of my favorite, and the nerdiest bar in Madrid. Twist&Shout is decorated with Sc-Fi and comic book fandom. The drinks are themed as such, and you’ll find anything from Butter Beer to Game of Thrones or Disney themed shooters.

Fuencarral street is known for its many shops during the day, but further up towards Tribunal metro stop, it is known for its lively night life. You’ll find a mix of locals and expats in this area, drinking at bars such as Freeway, Triskel Tavern or dancing the night away at La Vía Láctea, unless you’re looking for a club, then Teatro Barceló is nearby.

BEST COFFEE SPOTS

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Cafelito with Sarah ❤


HanSo Café  best avocado toast I’ve ever had! Free Wi-Fi and great place to work in Malasaña. Just remember that it’s pronounced “wee-fee” in Spain.

Cafelito, cozy and cute coffeeshop in Lavapiés with an affordable  and wide menu. Conveniently near Toscanaccio, my fave Tuscan bakery.

La Doña is quite affordable, centric and spacious. it is located next to Noviciado metro spot. It has plenty of seating and a clean bathroom. The only downside is that the Wi-Fi is limited to about an hour per visit.

Wherever you go and however long you stay in Madrid, you are guaranteed a good time. This city has something for everyone and I hope my list serves as a guide for an unforgettable time. Enjoy beautiful Madrid and always BE PRESENT!

Musts in Madrid

I’ve been postponing this post since I have so much to say about the city I called home for two years. So I decided to make at least two posts of Madrid. This one being about the best things to see and places to visit, including a DIY Walking Tour that I would give my friends when they visited.

DIY Walking tour in the city center

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Km 0 marks the geographical center of Spain

1. Start at Puerta del Sol
This is the busiest and most centric area in Madrid. It is also where you can find Km 0,  the point from which distances are measured in Spain.
The most tourist thing to do here is take a pic with the sculpture of the Madrileño bear. You’ll have to be patient since many tourists line up for this pic. I personally preferred the picture with Km 0, something that tends to go unnoticed.

 

 

 

 

Plaza Mayor 2
Plaza Mayor

2. Walk to Plaza Mayor
Take Calle Mayor towards Plaza Mayor and enter from any of the many of the passages leading to the Plaza. During the day, you’ll be able to appreciate the fresco-like painting covering the façades. It is also beautifully lit at night.

San Miguel
Bird’s eye view of Mercado San Miguel

3. Mercado de San Miguel
I had my first vermouth in Spain and my life will never be the same. This has become my drink of choice, and although Spaniards drink it as an aperitif, I drink it at any time of the day. There is a wide selection of types of vermouth in Mercado de San Miguel, starting from sweet, dry then bitter. My personal favorite is the “Andalucía” because is a good blend between sweet and bitter. Enjoy your vermouth with any of the many delicious tapas that the Mercado has to offer. You will need the strength to continue your walking tour. Remember to save your receipt since they’ll ask for it before entering the restroom, otherwise it’s ¢50 which is not bad if you are in dire need of a clean restroom in the center, but then you also have Corte Inglés for free.

 

Palacio
Behind the Royal Palace, above the gardens, sucking at posing

4. Sabitini Gardens & Royal Palace
The Sabitini Gardens are located behind the Royal Palace, which can be easily accessed without entering the palace. The best pics are from the stairs heading down towards the gardens.

5. Plaza España from behind
Walk out of the gardens and head towards Plaza España. There’s a monument of Don Quixote & Sancho Panza next to a pond on the back side of the Plaza. If it’s not too busy, you’ll be able to take pics with the monument without too many tourists around.

6. Parque del Oeste & Templo Debod
Enjoy the views from Parque del Oeste and, if you’re lucky, Templo Debod will have water. At sunset, the reflection of the temple can be appreciated along with the colorful sky. The temple was donated by Egypt and it’s a must see while in Madrid. The park hosts free concerts during the summer.

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Templo Debod in Parque del Oeste

7. Plaza España from the front
Walk back down to Plaza España, but this time walk in front of it, towards Gran Vía. This side has a large fountain representing the Birth of Water and other large sculptures. Definitely, more impressive with lights at night.

8. Gran Vía
Walk up to Gran Vía and check out the shops and theaters. I consider this area to be more beautiful at night with all the big city lights. If you plan on doing some shopping, most shops close around 9 or 10pm. Primark is a must if you want cheap shopping, but you have to be patient because this store will be crowded with every tourist in Madrid. Luckily, there’s toilets, Wi-fi, chargers and couches for shoppers to take a break. A local tip is to go pay and use the fitting rooms on the floor before the last. This is the floor with men’s clothes and home accessories.

Places to visit outside of the center

Retiro Estanque
Lake inside Retiro

Retiro
This is biggest park closest to the city center and it has several entrances. It is famous for the Crystal Palace and a lovely man-made lake where you can rent boats. The Crystal Palace is free and has a rotating art exhibit. Keep in mind there might be a long line to enter in peak season. Next to the Crystal Palace there’s the Palacio de Velázquez, a free museum. You can spend the whole day exploring Retiro and never get bored. There’s an innumerable amount of cool looking fountains (including one of the devil with its demons), gardens that look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, even peacocks.

Casa de Campo
This is another huge green area but it might be a bit dry if you go in the summer. Casa de campo is mainly for sports like biking and running, but it also has a beautiful lake surrounded by lounge chairs and restaurants. Inside Casa de Campo you can find one of the entrances to the Cable Car (Teleferico). You can either take it one way from Casa de Campo to Argüelles (where Parque del Oeste is) or viceversa. Roundtrip is 6 EUR as of summer of 2019.

Faro de Moncloa
Arco de la Victoria next to Moncloa Tower
Faro Moncloa Views
View from Moncloa Tower

Moncloa Tower (Faro de Moncloa)
Besides the cable car, another great way to overlook Madrid is Moncloa Tower, which is also near the center. It’s 3 EUR to go up an elevator and once up, you’ll be in a well ventilated lobby with an amazing bird’s eye view of the city.

Circulo de Bellas Artes
If you prefer the view without protecting glass, then I recommend going up to Círculo de Bellas Artes. This rooftop bar charges a 4 EUR cover and tends to have a line but that sunset view over Gran Vía is totally worth it.

Matadero
One of my favorite places in Madrid is a little further south from the center. Matadero is off Legazpi metro station on lines 3 (yellow) and 6 (gray). It’s an old brick slaughterhouse along the river that is now an art hub. It is free to visit and it hosts rotating local art exhibits (naves) along with some free or cheap movie showing in the beautiful theatre. There is also a cantina with a lovely patio that serves drinks and pizzas, as well as a larger cafeteria with plenty of outdoor and indoor seating, including a small theatre inside. Make sure to check out the calendar for the many free events, such as concerts, food festivals, farmer’s markets, etc. It is also located next to huge, new mall if you prefer to avoid the crowds in Gran Vía.

Rastro
If you’re in Madrid on a Sunday make sure to check out this enormous flea market. It begins in Embajadores every Sunday from 8am – 3pm. You will find everything from antiques, handmade jewelry and clothes, the cheapest coats and shoes, the most affordable souvenirs made by local craftswomen and men, and anything else you can think of. Beware of pickpocketters since it gets very crowded. I found that the best times to go are either 9am or 1pm, so as to avoid the rush.

In my other post I will make a brief reconnaissance of the coolest neighborhoods in Madrid, best times to visits the museums, where and what to eat, understanding Madrid’s public transportation, as well as tips and tricks to experience the city like a local.

Enjoy your time in this magical and underrated city. If you ever become annoyed by the heat, cold or crowds, just stop to have a caña (small beer) and tapa anywhere. You’ll be surprised how affordable this metropolitan city is. Have fun in beautiful Madrid and always BE PRESENT.

 

 

A bit about moi

20170430_194749(0)Plaza Mayor in Madrid

moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is.

My name is Joyce and I was born in Mexico, in a bordering state with the U.S. on the Northwest called Baja California. I moved to sunny LA when I was young where I lived for 10 years before moving to Madrid.

Going from one country to another, and switching languages has the norm through out my life. Living in California, you get to meet people from all over the world, try different foods, experience diverse cultures and hear a lot of different languages. I considered myself an open-minded and quite an international person. I thought I could experience other cultures through people. I was naive.

I lived all over LA for 10 years, working in the digital entertainment field for a few years and had long accomplished my first goals in life: get my Bachelor’s Degree in Film, get a job in the entertainment industry, have benefits such as 401K and healthcare, etc. I got bored of being an adult and decided to drop it all and go teach English in Spain. The timing was right. I didn’t have to miss my brother’s wedding, my family was in good health, my friends supported my decision and I had friends in Madrid who facilitated my transition. It was too good of an opportunity to pass.

Like any big change in life, moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is. During my first year in Madrid, I’ve traveled to 10 countries and countless cities. I have met so many wonderful people and I’ve learned so much from these travels, some of them solo. I, by no means, consider myself an expert. Still, I hope other people, especially other solo female travelers, will learn from both my advice and mistakes.