TABLE OF CONTENTS
5 amazing things to do in Madrid off the beaten path
1. Try churros con chocolate
To warm up yourself in the winter, to celebrate New Year´s Eve or simply to have a delicious breakfast after a night out, chocolate con churros is the most typical breakfasts in Madrid. The “churro” is a long stick of dough fried with oil and sprinkled with sugar. In Madrid there are hundreds of bars that offer this delicious breakfast, although the best choice is to go to one of the classic “chocolaterías” (chocolate bars) to enjoy the authentic recipe.
Madrids classic Chocolaterías such as San Ginés or Chocolatería Valor have been open for almost a century and their approach to churro cooking is simply marvelous. Finding a place where the churro dough and the chocolate are homemade is a real treasure. Chocolate con Churros is the perfect bonding of tradition and modernity: there is nothing more classical than Chocolate con churros, yet there are chocolaterías that offer avant-garde recipes, with pineapples or raisins, and nowadays you can order your churros through a mobile app.
2. Pay a visit to “El Rastro” Market
“El Rastro” (The Trail) is the name of a Madrid street market with more than 400 years of history. The name comes from the zone where El Rastro takes place every Sunday. The area was known for its closeness to the tanneries and the abattoirs. During the transfer of the cattle to the tanneries, there was always a notorious trail of blood, to the point that it gave the name to the market.
In El Rastro there are streets specialized in one type of product. The Fray Ceferino González Street is known as the Birds Street because of its pet shops. In the San Cayetano Street there are many art stores, which is the reason why it is known as the street of artists. Plaza de Campillo del Mundo Nuevo is the area specialized in the buying and selling of magazines, cards and card games, while Carnero Street specializes in old books. The usual plan for locals is to visit El Rastro on Sunday morning and then go grab a beer and something to eat in the numerous tapas bars of the neighborhood.
3. Sail in the “El Retiro” Lake
Built at the beginning of the 17th century, this pond was the heart of the “El Retiro” park and has been used to host aquatic spectacles and nautical battles, and even boat rides of the Spaniard kings and their court. At that time, the pond had an elliptical island in the center that served to perform theatrical or musical performances. The pond of El Retiro is one of those places that one always ends up visiting, it doesn´t matter if you are tourist or a real madrileño. It is in the center of the park, flanked by a boardwalk always full of street vendors, puppet theaters and astrologists.
Another great thing of the like is that you can rent a boat to sail it. Tickets are purchased at the pier itself (directly in front of Casa de Vacas) and the boats are rented by the minute. On your boat you can enjoy the sun, the calm, the relaxing movement and the atmosphere. It´s very important for these activities to bring water and sunscreen, since days in Madrid can be very hot. Also if you feel like feeding the fish, a sack of hard bread can complete the fun of the day.
4. Choose Madrid’s Alternative Culture
In Madrid you can find some of the most important museums in the world: El Prado, el Thyssen and El Reina Sofía. However Madrid is also full of art galleries, cultural centers and alternative spaces that organize all kinds of activities and exhibitions. In the trendy Conde Duque neighborhood we can enjoy alternative art and a wide artistic offer at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque, the ABC Museo de la ilustración and the Blanca Berlin Gallery, specialized in photography.
If you enjoy alternative theater you can´t miss the plays exhibited in La red de teatros de Lavapiés and the Teatros del Canal. In the Lavapiés neighborhood is located the cultural center La Casa Encendida, while, a little further south, in the neighborhood of Chopera, stands another center dedicated to alternative culture: Matadero Madrid. Built in the old Madrid slaughterhouse, it´s like a small city at the service of art and culture. The compound is composed by the House of the Reader, a Design Center, a Film Library, a theater and a Music installation.
5. Go out in Madrid
Madrid is diverse and opened to all types of people. Hence partying is also an activity in which it is convenient to know the styles of music, the ages and the areas that comprise the different zones of pubs and clubs. Here is a short summary of the going out areas in Madrid:
Huertas: Probably the best known party area of Madrid. Huertas is the preferred place to go out for tourists and foreign students. The surrounding areas of la Puerta Del Sol are full of bars and pubs where you can find all kinds of food and drinks.
Malasaña: Malasaña is a neighborhood located in the center of the city. This area held the so-called “Movida madrileña” of the 70’s and 80’s and is characterized by its alternative and bohemian atmosphere.
Chueca: We could call this area the “Soho” from Madrid. This small neighborhood is one of the most cosmopolitan and fun of the city, apart from being the LGTB district of Madrid. Life in the neighborhood revolves around the Plaza de Chueca, where we can find lots of terraces and bars.
Avenida de Brasil: Near the Santiago Bernabéu Football Stadium, this is one of the most upper class areas in the city, full of expensive bars and beautiful people.
Argüelles-Moncloa: This is the area for the youngest people, thanks to its cheap bars and the proximity to several students’ residences.
Image source: Wikipedia