I love a lot of cities that I would never want to live in. The two-day tourist binges on the guide book best bits but rarely experiences life like a local- which might be cramped, difficult and ultimately, unaffordable. A weekend away tells a very different story from the everyday: less romance and more real life humdrum.
Madrid is a rare exception: transparent and absent of the typical tourist traps, it invites passers by to partake in the lively local life. Citizens even use the most popular plazas as their everyday playground ensuring that Spanish sings throughout the city. This refreshing dose of reality makes you feel less like a tourist and more like a guest in Spain's chilled out and beautiful Capital.
My friend Tim has called Madrid his home for the past 2 years and I can understand why he's struggling to leave: it is one of the most liveable cities I have ever experienced! Dining out- and outside- is a daily occurrence and doesn't require extravagant expenditure. Simple yet satisfying restaurants line the streets with their clusters of tables and chairs inviting one to sit and watch the world go by (wine in hand!) Whilst group meals are practically a national pastime it was refreshing to see so many people happily dining solo, writing, reading or simply enjoying the scrumptious food. Famed for its ornamental architecture, late night tapas and long, sunny summers, Madrid delights- but doesn’t overwhelm- the senses, something I've decided to call effortless excitement (fun without the faff!)
Touring around with a local ensured that we got to sample some of the city's best-kept secrets, including an underground sangria bar and a vegan tapas restaurant! However, it would be easy to make the most of Madrid without a guide or travel book because it is wholly authentic and ‘off-the-beaten-track.’ Still living by a set of timeworn traditions, you’ll struggle to find a restaurant dinner before 8pm or someone eating lunch at their desk. This curious city refuses to chase the clock in favour of 2-hour lunch breaks that involve 3 course set menus, wine and a coffee course!
There’s a lot to be said about this magical place. Yet my biggest take home was the peace and presence I felt in the middle of this momentous metropolis. And for that reason Madrid is a place I would happily call home!
Where we went:
Los Chuchis- Amazing 3 course set lunch and wine for €15 (the menu changes daily but I had the most amazing tuna steak!)
El Imperfecto- Quirky bar covered in posters.
Vega- Vegan Tapas Bar- so good you’ll forget it’s absent of any meat/fish/dairy!
Fabrica Maravillas- Tim’s favourite craft brewery!
Azotea- Roof top terrace and bar of Bella Artes with fantastic views of the city.
DF Bar- Fabulous Mexican food including excellent ceviche.
Inclan Brutal Bar- Tapas Bar serving a sensational tortilla oozing with egg goodness!
(Sorry but I don’t know how to direct you to the sangria bar, so I guess it will have to stay as one of Madrid’s best kept secrets!)