Here's a guide to what I think is the best that Madrid has to
offer to the expat English speaking community: that includes all of you teachers who are thinking of coming here. I think we're all fed up with having to click fifty million times through ad-filled pages (aha!) each with a line or two of information. This is the best
I can do to help you to cut to the chase by putting it all on the same page.
Museo Thyssen (=
Google Maps) - My personal favorite is by far the Thyssen (open 10-19, closed Mondays),
but you may prefer to visit the Prado
Museum( = Jorge Tutor - professional photographer) right across (which is Spain's pride and joy - open 9-20, closed Mondays) the street or (open 10-21, Sun. 10-14.30, closed Tuesdays) the Reina
Sofia Museum ( = Flickr)
just 10 minutes down the street across from Atocha train
station. More: Prado The
most recent addition to the area is CaixaForum.
Puerta del Sol is about 10 minutes from the Royal Palace via Opera. It's
also about a 3 minute walk from the Plaza
Mayor, which is
a must-see. You can also walk the area around the old City Hall near the Plaza Mayor. Actually, there are all sorts of things to do
and see in the area, which has been completely renovated with pedestrian-only streets and so on which really have transformed it into a first-class tourist destintion. There are also lots of shopping centres around the center and north of Sol and on the Gran Via. Check out this great site for 360 photos of the Gran Vía.
The best party area in Madrid
Between the Royal Palace and Puerta de Sol in the West and the Prado Museum area in the East, my favourite area in Madrid for both day and night time fun
is called Huertas and runs along Calle Huertas from
the Plaza de Santa Ana to the Prado museum. There are plenty
of bars and restaurants throughout the area and you can just
take your pick. Huertas is part of a tourist area with very little vehicle traffic permitted in it. You can walk on pedestrian-only streets from Recoletos at the Prado Museum all the way to the Royal Palace. More on: Drink in Madrid on Wikitravel.
International House Madrid are now recruiting for: · Opportunities at International House Madrid:
Cambridge Examiners - training days in January and February. ·
Teachers for General English and ESP for a new project teaching adults and young adults (under 25) from February to September.
The best of In-English comedy entertainment in Madrid
The Giggling Guiri is the leading professional English language comedy provider in Spain, staging regular live comedy nights in Madrid. They bring comedians from the U.K., etc. to perform in Madrid.
Here's their most up-to-date information: Comedy in Spain.
The best tourist area in the Community of Madrid
Escorial I used to go up there two or three
times a year and it's well worth the trip (1 to 1.5 hours).
It's an UNESCO world heritage site and it deserves to be. I recommend
the walk up to "Felipe's Chair" (Silla de Felipe)
for a magnificent view of everything. More: El
Just outside of the Community of Madrid there are some other wonderful places to visit, At the top of the list is Segovia. It's also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman-built aqueduct is one of Spain's best known monuments, but you've probably seen the fairy-tale "Alcazar" castle at right as well.
Other nearby places you just have to go to are Toledo, Aranjuez, Ávila and, a bit farther away, Cuenca (It actually may be faster to go to Seville by high-speed train than to go to this last one.) For a lovely one-day excursion, visit Sigüenza, an authentic medieval village (1.5 hours from Chamartin train station).
If you can get access to a car, you might also consider going to Arenas de San Pedro in the mountains of Gredos, 2 hours southwest of the
Community of Madrid.
Valley of the Fallen is a close runner up and it's just 10 minutes down the road.
Bear in mind that this destination is controversial in Spanish society as it is the place where the dictator Franco was buried.
See: Valle de Los Caídos for more information.
The best of nature in Madrid
The best place to go to in Madrid for a bit of fresh, crisp, mountain air is the Sierra (in the Spring, Summer and Fall for hiking and in the Winter for skiing or sledding. The best easy trails to hike are the Camino Schmid in Puerto de Navacerrada (Camino Schmid), Camino Puricelli to Las Dehesas park (Cercedilla - see also Tren de la Naturaleza while you're in the neighbourhood) and then the old Roman road (Calzada Romana) to Fuenfria Pass (Puerto Fuenfria - See photos: Calzada Romana) which meets up with the Camino Schmid, the waterfalls at Cascadas del Purgatorio (Rascafria). A bit more difficult is La Pedriza (La PedrizaRutas - Manzanares el Real ). (Possibly the best site with hiking trails: ExcursionesySenderismo.com.) If you really miss the lush forests of cooler moister climates and you can't make it to Asturias ( = Youtube video) or Cantabria in the north of Spain, why don't you go have a look at the: Hayedo de Montejo in the northeast of the Community of Madrid?
Rastro - You can find anything and everything at the Rastro from
left-over pieces of junk to beautiful works of art. And
in case you were worried about safety, it's usually crawling with
The best thing for kids to do while you visit
Zoo - It's a question of taste whether
the zoo in Casa de Campo or the one called Faunia is best. I have a 6 year-old myself
and I'll be visiting both for years to come as they're totally
complementary. The zoo cost 18 euros and Faunia 23.
SaposYPrincesas.com - A guide in Spanish to family-friendly activities in Madrid with plenty more things to do. Use the search tool with "Madrid" as a location and the dates you'd like to do things. These guides can be found monthly on paper on the last Friday of the month along with El Mundo newspaper.
The best up-to-date information on what to do (in Spanish):
Festivals and concerts at: El Mundo.
Tickets at: Elcorteingles.es, Ticktackticket, Telentrada. Tickets tend to be about 60 or 70 euros for superstars and maybe half of that for anybody else. Also, other events at: Madrid Espacios y Congresos and Madrid en Red. If you happen to be in the area, you can go straight to the ticket offices at the FNAC downtown at Callao or at the Corte Inglés at Puerta de Sol. Also, good local information can be found in print on Fridays as a supplement to the daily
El País: OnMadrid (don't waste your time on the online version). It's got what's going on in the next week, plus restaurants, etc.
For basketball, Real Madrid games are also an excellent option. Estudiantes is another team which occasionally does well. Real Madrid matches are often played in the Palacio de Deportes or Caja Mágica but getting a ticket to a game can get a bit complicated. I've found calling Real Madrid's 902 numbers to buy a ticket to be quite hopeless (and thus so unsurprisingly expensive) because nothing ever seems to work right at any of them and you have to keep calling back again and again. The website seems to work even worse in my experience. If you do finally manage to slog through it all, good luck finding a Servicaixa ATM which hasn't broken down or closed which will print it out for you. Oh, what a frustrating, joyless experience you may have! The best option currently seems to be to go to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and buy them there.
(Podcast of Real Madrid C.F. on Wikipedia.
( MP3 - Feb. 26, '11 )
Swimming pools in Madrid, Aquopolis (Parques Reunidos Youtube Channel) - In the Community of Madrid there are two of those swimming-pool parks with all sorts of strange contraptions for people to torture themselves with (worse than the inquisition). I go to my local neighbourhood swimming pool which is just fine at 2.50 a head for the day. There are plenty of them around along with Sports Complexes where you can sign up to play sports like tennis and soccer. You may even be able to join the local leagues, it's all pretty well organized. A warning: I don't see the lifeguards at my swimming pool ever paying very close attention - just an opinion - and there were something like at least 20-30 drownings in the summer of 2008 on the beaches and in the pools.
Warner Park Madrid Tickets are 39 euros for adults (8 for parking) and they won't necessarily let you in with a backpack-full of food so you may have to buy something to eat there (1.60 for water, 2.80 for cokes, 10.50-13.00 for meals - 10 euros for a 180-gram burger, fries and medium coke). Otherwise, except for the super-hot August days and super-long waits on weekends, I'd heard nothing but positive recommendations about the cool rides and shows and now that I've gone myself a couple of times as well, I can sincerely say that I agree with them - it's fantastic! Oh, and by the way, the shows are all in Spanish which might be a bit frustrating for you if you don't speak the language. The train to Warner Park has been shut down (March 14, 2012).
Parque de Atracciones Tickets are a little cheaper at 27.50. There are loads of picnic tables and I've even seen people lugging around enormous coolers with their lunches. It's also inside Madrid and not out in the sticks. By the way, I'm not a big fan of Disneyland or anything, but I just love this amusement park. Except for the lack of good places to eat, it seems to be well-managed, well-kept-up, modern, etc. If you look at in the satellite photo in Google Maps, it doesn't seem to be as big as Warner Park and maybe it isn't, but bear in mind that it's got a lot more tree cover as it's a much older park and so you can't actually see as much of the park. Some of the rides are better in my opinion. The "rapids" ride here is longer and nicer than the ride at Warner and there are a couple of roller coaster rides including the Vertigo and the Tarantula, etc. that are different and pretty cool without getting too extreme.
The best in-English Newspaper in Madrid
http://www.in-madrid.com - If you can't speak Spanish, there's no doubt at all that
"In Madrid" is the best "in-English" press around. If you
want to know what's in-fashion and happening in
Madrid. Insiders Abroad - There are a few interesting articles here, but it's not Madrid-specific.
The best in-English cinema in Madrid
Ideal This "original version" cinema (English mostly
and other languages) is a few hundred meters south of "Puerta
del Sol" on Calle Doctor Cortezo, 6 just off Plaza
de Jacinto Benavente. Warning: all cinemas in Madrid cost
6.50€ or more. More movies on El Mundo Cartelera.
If you want to watch something really cool in 3D, go to the IMAX Cinema . By the way, I went with my family in July of 2008 (33 euros for 3 people) and, in my opinion, the place needed renovating, especially the bulbs on their 2D projector which seemed all too dark at the edges. (There is at least one other one on the outskirts of Madrid.) While you're at it, you might stop in at the antiquated, but nice, planetarium next door.
The best music-related electronics shopping area
say that the area to go to is about 500 metres north of
Calle Alcalá on Calle Barquillo just up the street
from Banco de España metro. The truth is that there
are a lot of shops here with stock that looks quite professional
so maybe you can find things that aren't generally available,
but prices seem the same to me for average cd players,
There are several instrument shops around the center. I've personally shopped quite happily at Union Musical Española on Echegarai.
The best PC shops
- If you know what your doing, PCBox is probably the best
and cheapest shop for computer hardware in Madrid. Mediamarkt,
(their shops are on the outskirts), though it seems to me
to have a horribly abusive returns policy, usually has some
really good sales, but doesn't seem to me to be really focused
on PCs, and PCCity
(near Metro Arguelles) is also a good solid choice. The
best reason to buy atEl
Corte Inglés is because of their excellent financing and the guarantee
their brand offers (there's usually no problem at all returning
goods for whatever reason here). One of my students is the
head of the IT department in a French multinational which
buys many of their computer supplies online here: Bechtle.
There are plenty of other shops in Madrid to be wary of. The best PC magazine printed here is: PC Actual.
The best of Telecommunications in Spain
The best mobile-phone and internet company overall is "Movistar-Telefonica." Their competitors Orange and Vodafone work just fine as well. The best thing to do is to go to their shops, which are all over the place, and compare current prices and offers.
The best music and films shop
If anyone actually buys music or films anymore, which I have
to admit that I do, FNAC next to metro Callao is the best for music because of their
listen-before-you-buy system, and Mediamarkt
has excellent prices on their videos (often 50% or less of
what others are asking).
The Best Art Supplies store
Chopos art supply store is one of the best art
supply stores in Madrid and the materials are usually fresh. (I've
bought acrylic paints in other stores which had just about solidified.)
It's just east of Plaza de San Jacinto Benavente towards the Plaza
de Santa Ana.
The Best Chocolate bar in Madrid and Eating in Madrid.
Mallorquinas On the southwest corner (on the Plaza Mayor
side) right next to one of Sol's Metro exits, Mallorquina's is
one of the best quality chocolate shops in Madrid. If you're a
chocolate lover and you can stand waiting in line for 10 minutes
to get served, go for it! You'll love it. And, by the way, there's
a little restaurant area upstairs, but you can bet it'll be full
Eating on Wikitravel (very good) - In general restaurants tend to be around a minimum of 25 euros a head on the menu. You usually can get the daily lunch special for 10-12 euros in lots of places during the week - wherever you see loads (the more the better) of workers, who have to commute, having their lunches. See also PaininSpain.com: Budget Restaurants in Madrid. See this video for people with more expensive tastes: Travel secrets of Madrid.
The Best Hiking and Camping Equipment shopping in Madrid
best area in Madrid to shop for camping equipment (i.e. backpacks,
hiking boots, etc.) is in the rastro. Decathlon
is a sports-related department store located in various towns
on the outskirts of Madrid.
GAME - This store has many locations and loads of new and second-hand games. I find prices can be cheaper currently for both new and second-hand video games on Zavvi.es.
The Best Toy Store in Madrid
Dideco This is an educational store in the shopping center right
next to the Puerta de Toledo Metro and near the Rastro. There
are loads of educational games for children of any language.
The Best Board-Game store
- Game store in Madrid which usually has a lot of board games
and comics in stock in the shop at Calle Puebla 15 and a playing area downstairs. The area just
south and east of this shop on Calle de la Luna (nearer to Callao)
has another game shop that has more miniatures for military games,
etc. Just west of this on this street there are plenty of comics
shops. Prices seem to be about 1.5 or 2 times more expensive than Stateside. There are various places where people get together to play games of all kinds, but you have to ask around as there doesn't seem to be much info on the internet. For example, elderly chess players regularly get together upstairs in the Café Comercial in Metro Bilbao.
Generally speaking, a lot of gaming in Spain is done within the family circle or closed groups of young friends and you're probably better off going online for Warcraft or Eve Online if you want to play with other people.
Shopping for books at Amazon.es and simply having them deliver them to your home is probably best thing for most people to do. The Teaching Mart is probably your best option near Moncloa . The Casa del Libro on the Gran Vía is probably your best option downtown. There are a few other bookstores with lots of books in English such as: Pasajes Libros at Metro Alonso Martinez.
The Best in-Spanish bookshop
Casa del Libro You can find the Casa del Libro just behind the
main Corte Ingles on Preciados street about 50 metres up from
Arenal street. There were few books in English the last time I dropped by.
There's another Casa del Libro on Gran Via a bit nearer to the
Corner of Montera street. It had a lot of materials for English teachers
(the last time I checked, text books mostly - see photo at left) and a few other books in English such as novels,
Best bicycle shop (on Calle Atocha - a kilometre
Southeast of Sol)
Calmera Bicycle shop on Calle Atocha (A kilometre Southeast of
Sol). I don't know the first thing about bikes, but my biking
friend swears by them. This shop is on Atocha street just
300-500 metres up the way from Atocha train station. Admittedly,
I have never seen anything else like it at any of the big
department stores and shopping centres. I've also heard
that Decathlon has quite a bit too.
Practical Advice for Visitors: Transports of Madrid, by EsMadridTV.
Get Around in Madrid on Wikitravel
mass transit system in Madrid is excellent in general. Specifically,
the metro and train system couldn't be better, but the highways
couldn't be busier either. It's usually faster during weekdays
to take the metro system anywhere within the city, especially
from about 06.30 - 09.30 and from about 15.00 to 19.30. Take this
into account when trying to get into the city from the airport
because you're likely to take much longer to get wherever you're
going if you take a taxi (they do sometimes like to take the "scenic
route" around here by the way.) Map of the metro system, Official site - City buses, metro and train transportation.
Practical Advice for Visitors: Weather in Madrid. By EsMadridTV
A Language Exchange Group.
Founded in 2000, MADRIDBABEL® ( http://www.madridbabel.es ) is an international cultural exchange group that organizes a lot of activities in Madrid. Its main mission is to encourage and provide the opportunity to practice a wide range of languages amongst people from all over the world as well as create a comfortable venue to make new acquaintances in Madrid. Currently it has more than 25,000 members belonging to its different forums, the most important ones being at Yahoo ( http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/madridbabel ) and Facebook( http://www.facebook.com/groups/19732127016 ). A detailed program of activities is published on these pages on a weekly basis.
MadridBabel organizes two weekly international encounters at Café Galdós (Los Madrazo 10 – metro Sevilla):
· Wednesdays starting at 20:30.
· Sundays starting at 19.00.
The environment is friendly and welcoming and there is no entrance fee. Fran Rodríguez Veiga – creator and leader of the group from Madrid – and his collaborators are there to introduce people who share common interests and/or languages and help create a comfortable welcome for newcomers. These events usually attract about 200 participants - students to professionals, 20 to 50 years old, from about 30 different nations-. They have been awarded with the prize 'Best Intercambio of the Year' by the European Vibe Magazine and have the recognition and participation of the Madrid Visitors & Convention Bureau (City Council).
In addition to the two weekly encounters, MadridBabel organizes many other events in Madrid and surroundings areas. These include going to original version films (with subtitles in Spanish), international dinners and tapas at a variety restaurants and bars, excursions, trips, sports, cultural visits, wine tastings, etc. There are also parties with an international flare which usually attract over 500 people.
Moreover, MadridBabel also works with a quality room finding and estate agency in Madrid and London with special prices for carefully selected furnished flats and rooms in well connected areas of both cities. An excellent relocation service is also available.
MadridBabel collaborates with a variety of entities (some of them being part of MadridBabel Club, where they offer discounts, promotions and special events to all its members) as well as creates links to other similar international groups including partner groups known as MontpellierBabel,TorontoBabel, CádizBabel, LimaBabel, UdineBabel, ValenciaBabel, El Puerto Babel, Ottawababel, JerezBabel, ParisBabel, BelemBabel, RomaBabel, San Diego Babel, Ciudad Real Babel, TriesteBabel, ToledoBabel, RiojaBabel, KWBabel (Canada) MéxicoBabel (Aguascalientes), BarnaBabel (Barcelona) and KBH Babel (Copenhague). It also represents Spain in the Language Exchange International Federation.
Grupos de Conversación - The best language exchange groups in Madrid include David's group at left in O'Neill's Irish Pub on Tuesdays and at the Beer Station on Thursdays at 22.00 pm. The group has 100s of members and it's so popular that even some of my own students drop in at one time or another.
Frankly, forums around here suck! They suffer from a condition which is called, "we don't want you mentioning any info ('spam' according to them) that might make us some money if someone, namely an academy or agency, will pay for it." This is the same same sort of ailment that newspapers suffer from. Have you ever noticed that you only seem to hear about that great concert (or other event) that you would have loved to have attended if only they had informed you about it beforehand? Nope, it will never happen. Not unless they pay for it. In forums, the same thing happens except that they actively "moderate-out" anything of real interest. Go ahead, if you want to waste a lot of time and never be able to say anything truly serious, search for one in Google and you'll find all of them are full of newbies all begging for scraps of information and whiners whining about being stuck in dead-end jobs, but very few real pros. So, they're all the same in that regard.
The Worst of Madrid:
Warnings (just opinion based on extensive personal experience in Spain):
1. Disorganized: I have found loads of events usually turn out to be "disorganized" in some way in Madrid. eg. Like with the little-leagues, you might go to a ball game where both teams turn up with the same color uniform and they end up not having a "Plan B" (I've seen that happen). Just learn to laugh at it or you'll be crying/angry a lot.
2. Sales, marketing and service technique: This sometimes lies somewhere between rude to horrendously incompetent. Just sayin' . . . Good luck with that.
For instance, regarding marketing, a large shopping center which operates in Spain had to pay out 20 million in fines recently for misleading advertising. A typical trick is to offer really cheap products, but run out of stock right away. I've seen this repeatedly in some shopping centres. If that happens to you, know that it probably always happens in that particular place.
Other sites and information about living in Madrid and Spain
The best overall grocery store for price-quality is Mercadona
(especially with their excellent "Hacendado" generic brand and with fresh vegetables, but it doesn't have some
of the products below). El Corte Inglés is better for
many specific brands, but it's almost always more expensive and I personally can't stand their generic brand. You will find that price and quality varies widely in Spain. They can really gouge you with prices of meat and fish for example. Though it's getting harder and harder to find quality brands (lots of competition from generic brands), these are
the products I use (the price-quality ratio for all of these
is very high):
Tomato sauce - canned / Hero - Tomate Frito
Peas - canned / Hero - Guisantes
Corn - canned / Gigante Verde (Jolly Green Giant) - maiz
Red peppers (not hot) canned / Cidacos - Pimientos de Piquillo
Olives / Carbonell - aceitunas
Asparagus - canned / Cidacos - Esparragos
Sweet pickles - jarred / Hero - Pepinillos
White beans - canned / Litoral - Fabada
Cheese - by the kilo / San Bernardo - queso
Cheese - slices / Hochland - queso
Soft cheese - triangles / La vaca que rie - queso
Coffee - ground beans / El Corte Inglés gourmet shop
Coffee - instant / Marcilla créme expres - café
Tea - bags in a box / San Francisco - Té con miel
Honey - jar / San Francisco - Miel de Flores
Hot Chocolate - plastic container / Cola Cao
Milk - carton / Pascual - Leche
Juice - carton / Don Simon or Juver (any flavor) - MinuteMaid is OK, but adds sugar
Macaroni, spaghetti - dry / Gallo - macarrones, espagueti.
Oil - plastic bottle / Carbonel - aceite (not virgen)
Yoghurt - plastic container / Danone - Yogur Griego (no added
flavoring) Gazpacho - Alvalle
I also shop for groceries at: Alcampo,
but I don't feel the overall quality or customer service department
are as good, though the prices are similarly cheap. Also,
you can't find very many of these around and mostly on the
outskirts in car-dependant shopping mall areas.
Some people recommend "Día" as good place
to shop for food, but I disagree because I think it's low
quality. I used to shop in one, but I often had problems with
the frozen goods. It was as if they'd turned the freezers
off at night.
If you can't hold off on your cravings for real American
food, you can pay a lot more than you're used to (due to import
costs and customs I suppose) at Taste
of America. (There's one near Republica Argentina Metro
station.) I'd show you a photo, but they're camera-shy - maybe
because it's such a small shop. Also, some people say this one is better: The American Store near Metro Islas Filipinas (). It looked about as big to me.
Other leisure activities:
Global warming ruining the ski season? Try: MadridSnowZone at the enormous shopping mall of Xanadu in the south of Madrid. (You'll have to catch the 528 or 534 bus from Principe Pio station in Madrid.) They've also got a cool indoor go-kart track: FormulaCero and an indoor mini-golf course. They're also open on just about 365 days a year. If you need to shop for clothes on a rare rainy Sunday, this mall has it all and some of it is even cheap. Just don't underestimate the prices of the leisure activities.
Club de Navegación - Got a car and like to go sailing? You may be able to go to the Pantano de San Juan near San Martin de Valdeiglesias and rent a little sailboat for something like 20 euros an hour. Give them a call first and double-check current rates and availability of boats. Also, make sure and double-check the level of the lake because it might be low.