Why? Are so many reasonsÃ¢Â?Â¦let’s start; First of all, and the most important, because you’ll have a blast. You will land on a country which way of life is based on the pursuit of happiness. No kidding. Every foreigner who arrives to for first time experiences the contrast between our way of life, full of stress and focused on financial success, and the relaxed and open to enjoyment that Spanish people have. Of course everybody works, and very seriously, but always saving time for rest and socialize.
Madrid is the perfect example of the Spanish way of life: a mixture of a modern and big city, capital of the country, and neighborhoods full of tradition and life. So, imagine you just arrive to Madrid. From the Airport Madrid-Barajas to downtown you’ll see big freeways, and almost for sure you’ll be stuck for a while in a traffic jam. Don’t get scared if your cab driver screams to the other drivers with murder in his eyes, everybody there acts like that while driving, and rarely the blood flows. You have thousands of good hotels you can use, but, if you can afford it, stay at The Ritz or The Palace. They are next together, modernist buildings with dream suits, or, if is too expensive, at least pay them a visit. From there you’ll enter in the big artery that divides tradition and modernity: El Paseo de la Castellana. At north of it, Azca, the business area, are the tall buildings and the busy executives. At south, you will find the most populated and international street on town, La Gran VÃ?Âa. Hundreds of shops, movie theatres and hotels, natives and tourists from all over the world go around day and night, and if you have some time to sit in one of the “terrazas” (cafeterias or bars with tables outside, literally on the street), drinking a “caÃ?Â±a” (a glass of draft beer), you will enjoy one of the national favorites sports: sitting down drinking and watching people. This is pretty fun mainly in the afternoon, during what they call “aperitivo”, a little snack and drink before lunch. In lunch is late, around two or therein the afternoon, and very heavy.
So you already checked in a hotel, went for a walk and sit in a terraza in La Gran VÃ?Âa. Is time to walk again and you’ll go very close, to La Plaza del Sol. This is not only the center of the town, is the actual center of the country, you can step on the kilo metro zero, from where all the Spanish roads start. And from here starts the traditional Madrid too, what is called the Madrid de los , referring to the royal dynasty that remodel the city. Churches, little museums, and shops in small streets deserve a good couple of days to be full visited. And walking around you’ll arrive to one of the most traditional and famous places, La Plaza Mayor. Recently remodeled, this square is the essence of the Spanish spirit. Old houses full of beautifully ornamented modernist windows, terrazas serving traditional dishes and drinks, people from every race and nationality walking around, artists painting, musicians playing, and an atmosphere loaded with history and tradition.
You must keep walking, fight the urge of stay at the square forever and go to visit the “mesones” Around la Plaza Mayor. The “mesones” are little bars and restaurants, very old, and many of them built in the basements of ancient houses. Here you can drink some wine or sangria, listen some live flamenco and eat some traditional dishes, served in small portions, called “tapas”. Boquerones en vinagre (raw fish marinated in vinegar), tortilla de patatas (eggs with potatoes) or gambas a la plancha (grilled shrimps), are only some of the almost infinite traditional dishes you can try in the Mesones, or any bar or restaurant in Madrid. Keep in mind that where more tourists are, the prices are higher and the quality lower. In follow articles I will reveal to you the secrets of the best places to eat and drink, and the most attractive Spanish dishes.
For a nice walk after a heavy lunch or dinner, nothing better than a walk in El Parque del Retiro. Very close to Sol and La Gran VÃ?Âa, this is a huge park, formerly part of the private gardens of the Borbon Royal Dynasty. Sundays mornings is very populated, with vendors and artists, and you can ride a boat in the lake or rest laying on the grass. Of course, like almost everywhere, you can sit in a terraza and drink or eat something, but is really expensive.
Spanish people go to bed pretty late, mainly in weekends. Terrazas, bars, clubs, are open until at least three in the morning, and some don’t close at all. It’s possible be partying for night and day without stop, until your own body decides it’s enough. Streets like Huertas, MalasaÃ?Â±a or Chueca are the most famous to go out, and Moncloa, a university neighborhood, is full of students celebrating the success or fall in their tests.
But is morning now, and after you party all night, is time for a little culture. You can’t leave Madrid without visit El Prado, in El Paseo del Prado, the best traditional museum in town. Goya, VelÃ?Â¡zquez, El Greco, and many international artists make this visit unforgettable, and stop by the souvenirs shop; they have nice posters that will make wonderful gifts. If you prefer modern art, go to the ContemporaryArt Museum, in the Moncloa neighborhood, they have incredible exhibits, and a cheap and decent restaurant. The Thyssen Collection, the biggest private art collection of the world can be visited at the Palacio Thyssen-Bornemizsa, located in EL Paseo Del Prado, very close to the Museo Del Prado. After this cultural combo you can stop and relax in El CafÃ?Â© GijÃ?Â³n, where the elite of the Spanish writers meet and talk about their work.
It is another traditional neighborhood full of charm, and you can’t skip it. El Paseo de la Florida. Built around one the main train stations, is a group of beautiful houses around the border of the most important river of Madrid, El RÃ?Âo Manzanares. Nice walks around the river, green parks, and fun festivals, is also very popular for being where is the AtlÃ?Â©tico de Madrid Stadium, house of one of the oldest soccer team on town. The old Train Station is now a Museum, and the tradition brings the maids to the San Antonio Ermita, a little church, to pray for find a husband. Of course bars and restaurants blossom everywhere, and are a lot of little and cheap beds and breakfast, because the proximity of the train station.
It is much more in Madrid, many more places worth to visit, so many that deserve more articles. Will come, be patient. In the mean time, remember the main reason why you should visit Madrid: It is not only because its beauty, or the connection with history. It is a taste of another way of life, a door that takes you to another world, more relaxed and enjoyable. Keep your mind open and let it in.