Here we are again with another edition of the interview series “Through the Eyes of a Local”! I’m glad to say that in today’s interview we’re going to get some top-notch tips about Madrid.
Madrid is the third-largest city in the European Union. The city is famous for being the home of the Spanish Royal family, Real Madrid football club and many prestigious museums and art galleries. The Spanish capital is also full of tapas bars and cafes, open terraces, parks, and tree-lined plazas. An easygoing atmosphere and a special appreciation to good food and beverages, Madrid certainly won’t bore nor disappoint you!
Curious about other cities around the globe? Then check my archives for many interviews of the “Through the Eyes of a Local” series.
Looking for accommodation in the Spanish capital? Then check out this post on the best hostels in Madrid!
Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?
I’m Perri, I’m from the UK and moved from London to Madrid early in 2017. I spent many years traveling, backpacking and working overseas and after a few years of living in London decided I wanted to settle in Spain. I love the Spanish food, sunshine and relaxed way of life.
What do you like about Madrid?
Madrid is a big city but nothing is ever too far away. The public transport is great and you can easily walk around the city centre. There are many tourist attractions and wonderful things to see and do, but when you live here what you enjoy most is the selection of great bars and restaurants. You can never get bored in Madrid! There is always a movie to see, a live music gig nearby or a new bar opening.
Which 3 places do you highly recommend paying a visit in the city?
When visiting Madrid you must walk through the Malasana barrio. It’s a neighborhood full of cute cafes and quirky shops. You should stop by the Royal Palace to admire the beautiful building plus the Cathedral next door. Then go to one of the amazing local markets to try delicious Spanish food and drinks.
And which places should people avoid?
I wouldn’t say avoid exactly but don’t stay too long in Plaza Mayor, as the restaurants are overpriced. I am also not keen on Sol, it’s a huge square that gets very busy but there really is nothing to see, just a few tourist traps.
Is there anything you don’t like about your hometown? What is it?
Madrid is my current adopted hometown and I will definitely be staying here for a few more years. The only thing I don’t like is the extreme weather change. Most people think that the weather is pleasant all year round in Spain. Unfortunately, in Madrid, the summer is very hot and the winter is very cold.
What are your favorite things to do in Madrid?
My favourite thing to do in Madrid is to find a nice open plaza or roof terrace and sit and enjoy lots of drinks and food. In Madrid you will never be moved on or asked to leave a table for another reservation, so you can relax.
What is the best way to get around Madrid? Is it easy to reach nearby cities?
I prefer to walk around Madrid or jump on the Metro, it’s clean, safe and pretty cheap. There is an amazing train network to access all over Spain from Madrid, so it couldn’t be easier to travel to other cities from here. You can take the highspeed Renfe Ave down to the Costa Del Sol in just a few hours.
How travel-friendly is the city?
Madrid is very travel-friendly, there are many great accommodation options in Madrid and plenty of things for visitors to see and explore. Most people do speak a little English here, particularly in shops or restaurants. The airport is North East of the city and easily reached by train, bus or metro.
How safe is Madrid? Is it ok to walk around with your camera or alone at night?
It is very safe in Madrid, I often walk home alone at night and have never felt scared. As with all cities, its best to avoid walking through parkland, or through dark alleys alone. The metro runs through the night on weekends and most people stay out until the early hours of the morning.
What are the best things to do when the weather is, respectively, bad or good?
In bad weather, it’s best to hide in a nice café or find an art gallery or a museum to wander through, like the Prado Museum. In the summer it’s best to take a picnic to the park and find a shady spot or go to one of the many outdoor swimming pools to cool off.
What is the most special hidden gem of Madrid for you? And why?
The most special hidden gem in Madrid for me is Casa de Campo Park. Ok, it’s a little too big to hide, as it’s a huge green area with some famous attractions inside like the zoo and amusement park. But people don’t usually know much about it. It has lovely cycling routes and a lake lined with restaurants. It’s not far from the city centre and very much worth visiting.
Can you tell us where we can find the best view of the city?
The best view of the Madrid is from the top of the fine arts gallery “Circulo de Bellas Artes”. There is a bar at the top and the view over the city is stunning, especially at sunset.
What is the most traditional dish in Madrid?
“Huevos rotos” is a very traditional dish and is said to have started at a restaurant in La Latina in Madrid. It’s fried potatoes, topped with Spanish Jamon (ham) and broken fried eggs. It doesn’t sound too appetizing but it is yummy and a great late afternoon snack.
Could you recommend a local bar and restaurant?
I always take friends and visitors to Cava 17 on Cava Baja. It’s on the most famous tapas bar street in Madrid but this restaurant has plenty of seating, a great menu and great service.
What is the biggest tourist trap in Madrid?
Mercado San Miguel is an iconic tourist attraction in Madrid but I feel it’s a tourist trap. It’s overpriced, overcrowded, it gets targeted by beggars and pickpockets. There are many much nicer markets in the central market that tourists can enjoy. For example, a bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari baguette) costs €10 there and just around the corner you can get one for €3.50 and it’s twice as big!
Can you tell us a memory that you have in this city?
One of my favourite memories of living in Madrid was on my birthday, the first year I arrived. We spent the afternoon at a local outdoor swimming pool with a picnic and a big jug of tinto de verano (a drink like sangria but better). It was so much fun, lying in the sun, having and swim and relaxing.
Could you describe the people of Madrid?
The people of Madrid are very proud, loud and football mad. The older locals who have lived here all their lives are called “Madrileños” and can be a little more traditional and conservative. While Madrid is a quite crowded and busy city, it doesn’t feel hectic because everyone walks slowly and takes their time.
Tell us a fun fact about Madrid.
There are more urban trees in Madrid than any other European city.
What piece of advice would you give to readers who want to visit?
Take your time to see the sights and try not to see everything in one day. It gets very hot so pack appropriate clothes, drink water and wear sun protection.
What is the biggest prejudice other countries have about Madrid?
Because there is no beach here (Madrid is in the centre of Spain mainland) I think people think they would be better visiting other Spanish cities but Madrid has a lot to offer people as a city break or week-long holiday. With the number of parks, rooftop bars, and swimming pools you won’t miss the beach.
Can you tell us a book based on Madrid?
The novel A Winter in Madrid by C.J Sansom is part fiction part true story based around the Spanish Civil War in Madrid.
Get to know Perri
Perri is the writer of Seeking the Spanish Sun travel blog. She moved from London to Madrid and has enjoyed exploring and traveling throughout Spain. Perri helps anyone who plans to visit or move to Spain by sharing what she sees and learns during her travels. Her blog covers guides, tips, and advice for travel and gives a little insight into life in Spain.
Interested in more interviews? Then check my archives of the “Through the Eyes of a Local” series to read tips from many cities around the globe.