One of my favourite cities in world! I remember when I first travelled there back in 1999, as part of a high school trip. I didn’t like it at first, but when I went back two years later I fell in love with her and wanted to go back. And I did; I spent nearly six months learning Spanish and experienced the city as a local. I can’t explain why I love this city. Perhaps it’s the constant buzzing of traffic, or just the way the buildings and squares appear, or even the fact that it is home to my favourite soccer team. I suppose, whenever I am strolling through the Old Town at dusk I the feeling of why I love the city comes to mind.
Yes, it is a modern city. Yes, it doesn’t have beaches or the architecture that Barcelona has. And sure, it seems that many of the locals don’t speak English. Still, it is a city in which no other in Spain can duplicate. I will admit if you go, learning some Spanish phrases will be in your best interests. It will also make your trip more enjoyable. Here in Madrid, if you order a beer or wine in a bar, you get a free tapa! And also, this is the city that never sleeps; you find traffic jams even at 4 in the morning! The nightlife is truly exceptional here. Just keep in mind that locals have dinner at around 10 PM and clubs don’t get going until at least 3 AM! If you are going to do a grand night out, remember to plan your way back to your hotel in advanced. The subway, or metro as it’s locally called, shuts down at 1 AM. Cabs are scarce especially at 5 in the morning when everyone’s done clubbing or bar-hopping. However, a special bus called the “Bu-Ho bus” is a good option.
If you go, I recommend that you visit three places in particular. The Plaza Mayor, which is in the old part of town, is a nice square that provides relief from the city’s hustle. Retiro Park, which I like to refer to as Spain’s version of Central Park, is a great place for a stroll. Keep in mind that it gets crowded on Sunday afternoons. And finally, head to the Prado Museum – great for you art lovers! However, you may need several visits to see everything in this place! Oh, and I also recommend you visit the Museo del Jamón. This chain of restaurants found only in Madrid offers succulent dishes at cheap prices. If you eat at the bar, you can get a glass of beer, soda or a cup of coffee for one euro. Also, you can get a sandwich for one euro! I kid you not!
As for safety, use common sense and walk like you know where you are going. Never leave valuables out of your sight, especially on the metro and in restaurants.