September 25, 2017

My Madrid: Cristina’s View of her City

Parque Juan Carlos II

Cristina in her favorite Madrid park, Parque Juan Carlos II.

Born and raised in Madrid, Cristina is very proud to be “madrileña”. In her opinion, there is always something going on in Madrid and it’s impossible to get bored. As a  self-proclaimed Madrid-lover she writes “Don’t Stop Madrid”, a blog about the city, where she shares her favorite spots, and gives advice about every worthwhile activity happening in what she considers to be one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world. Check her out at www.dontstopmadrid.com.

1. Describe your perfect day in Madrid:

My perfect day starts by waking up early and starting out with a good breakfast at Vips– perhaps not the most glamorous café, but it is a place with a lot tradition for Madrileños (it was established in 1969). Their breakfasts offer a variety of delicious and cheap dishes.

Then the best thing to do is to walk into town and go to one of the most charming areas of Madrid, Malasaña, which is full of cafés, restaurants and small, creative shops full of treasures. Another option is Lavapiés, a neighborhood where you can enjoy the multicultural ambience throughout its narrow streets. In either neighborhood good food is easy to find. You could try a nice sandwich or salad at a cosy Malasaña café (like Lolina Vintage) or, in Lavapiés, a Tika Massala (Calcutta or Bombay Palace are both very good options), or perhaps the famous zapatillas (literally shoes) of Melos, a huge ham and cheese sandwich.

Melos zapatilla sandwich

Melos famous zapatilla sandwich.

In the afternoon, depending on my mood, one of my favorite activities is going for a short walk around the most important park in the city, El Retiro (beware of your bags or backpacks if you decide to lie in the lawn to sunbathe). Then, perhaps some shopping in the Salamanca District or a visit to Círculo de Bellas Artes (the Fine Arts Center), to see an art exhibition and enjoy the great view of Madrid’s cityscape from its roof.

2. Tell us about a hidden gem in Madrid:

In my opinion, Madrid has some wonderful green spaces, and I’m not only talking about El Retiro. For instance, Madrid has a gem that few know, El Parque de Berlín, where you will find a tribute to the fall of Berlin’s wall. This park is an oasis inside the city, a place to relax, take a walk, and to lie down under a tree and enjoy the outdoors together with friends. It has a tour that shows the different plants and trees in the park and, if the weather is good, there is nothing better than enjoying a beer on one of the terraces located in the park’s surrounding areas.

3. What is your favorite cheap eat and favorite splurge spot?

My favorite cheap restaurants in Madrid are the Lateral chain. These restaurants are located in different strategic points in the city like Calle Fuencarral, Paseo de la Castellana or Plaza Santa Ana, and they are well known for their Mediterranean style dishes and excellent value. The atmosphere is charming and the staff is friendly, quick and efficient.

My favorite splurge spot is Petit Comité. This restaurant is located in Chueca, and it is the perfect choice for a romantic date with an intimate atmosphere (good music, nice lighting and a superattentive staff). The dishes are absolutely delicious with mixtures of different flavors and textures based on Spanish gastronomy. It is an expensive place (about 90€ for 2 people) but it is really worth a visit.

4. Where do you go shopping in Madrid?

I love shopping on Gran Via where the Inditex empire has all of its stores (Zara, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius…). For underground fashion a visit to Mercado de Fuencarral always worth it. The vintage stores along Calle Velarde (shops like La Mona Checa or Magpie) are a dream come true. Calle Argensola shops are also a good choice, full of small independent stores which offer great designs and quality.

5. What’s your favorite museum in Madrid?

I usually to go to Museo Reina Sofia which specializes in contemporary art. The permanent collection is stunning (you can find Picasso’s Guernica and some of Dalí’s most famous paintings), and its temporary exhibitions are always interesting. On Saturday afternoons and Sundays you can visit it for free. If you go during the week later than 7:00 p.m. you can also visit the museum without paying.

Reina Sofia museum Madrid

The famous brushstroke at the Museo Reina Sofia.

6. Give us 3 words to describe Madrileños:

Passionate, night-lovers, and open-minded.

7. In your opinion, what is the best time of year to visit Madrid?

Probably from April to July, when the heat starts but Madrid is still crowded. In August the locals leave the city and it is still nice, but it loses the warmth of its people. However, Madrid is a good destination at any time of year. Winter is cold but doesn’t often rain, so you have to wear a heavy coat to walk through the streets, but it is nice.

8. What do you consider the best neighborhoods for young people?

In my opinion Malasaña is the perfect neighborhood for young people. It is full of good bars and restaurants, shops, galleries, and places to spend the day… There is always something to do there. It is full of life and it is impossible not to end up meeting someone new or to get bored. Perhaps it is not the cheapest neigborhood for young people, but that is what happens in every fashionable spot!

9. What’s the most annoying thing about Madrid?

Sometimes I think the locals are very noisy (as is every Spaniard). It is difficult to find calm places. It is something that goes along with our singularity, and perhaps it is something that a foreigner can actually enjoy… if it’s for just a few weeks!

10. Any travel tips for Madrid?

Don’t miss some of the Madrileños best known traditions:

  • Tapas on a Sunday afternoon
  • Small bars and fun clubs in the evening and at night
  • Parks on a sunny day
  • Visiting the Rastro on Sundays (a huge flea market starting in Plaza Cascorro)

In conclusion, if you come to visit Madrid, I recommend to just start walking from the Puerta del Sol in any direction. You won’t regret your choice!

Photo credits:  gabemac (Melo’s sandwich), dalbera (Reina Sofia Museum)

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