End of first semester coming up? Here are 10 Madrid essentials you can tick off your to do list
Here’s the deal: it’s almost the end of your semester, you are going to be home in a week and you just realized that apart from going out, watching the Simpsons on Spanish TV and asking yourself why the Simpsons in Spanish is even a thing, there is not much that you have done. What are you going to say when your family and friends ask how it’s been to be immersed in Spanish culture on a daily basis? As far as you know, not being able to find hummus in Carrefour has been the biggest cultural shock you’ve had to undergo. And while you were lying on your couch, attempting to convince yourself that it is in fact okay for you to do nothing because, what the hell, Spain is all about la vida loca etc. after all, the date of your departure has just been getting closer and closer. So if you are starting to feel a little bit guilty about spending your Erasmus grant on chupitos rather than museums, here is a list of 10 essential Madrid activities that you can easily get done before you leave.
- 1. Watch the sunset from the Templo de Debod
Located in the Moncloa district, the Templo de Debod is a 2200 year old Egyptian edifice that was brought to the Spanish capital in the late 20th century. Originally dedicated to the Egyptian God Debod, is now recognized as one of the best attractions in Madrid. The entry is free and the view of the city, especially at night or during sunset, is truly breathtaking. During daytime, there are also temporary exhibitions inside the building.
Location: next to Plaza de España and Parque del Oeste (accessed through 1 Calle Ferraz).
Winter opening times: Monday to Sunday 9h45-13h45 and 16h15-18h15
- 2. Enjoy one of the best views of Madrid from the Círculo de Bellas Artes azotea
The Círculo de Bellas Artes is one of Madrid’s most important cultural center and is renowned worldwide because of the fantastic view of the city that you can get from it’s rooftop - or azotea in Spanish. The entry to the terrace is 3€ (2€ is you have a youth card) and it also gives you access to the bar-restaurant « La Pecera».
Location: 42 Calle Alcalá
Opening times: Monday to Thursday 9h00 - 21h30, Friday 9h00 - 1h00, Saturday 11h00 - 1h00, Sunday 11h00 - 21h30
- 3. See the impressive lights of the Plaza de Cibeles at night
The Plaza de Cibeles is considered one of the most symbolic places in Madrid. The fountain in the middle of the place, which represents the God Cibeles, is surrounded by four monumental buildings: the Palacio de Linares, the Palacio de Comunicaciones, the Palacio de Buenavista and the Banco de España. On a more modern note, the Plaza de Cibeles is also the place where Real Madrid victories are celebrated. Don’t miss on seeing the place at night, when it is completely illuminated.
Location: next to the metro station Banco de España.
EATING AND DRINKING
- 4. Have a beer and about 5 kg of free tapas in El Tigre
Who hasn’t been to El Tigre has never been a broke student in Madrid making the most of his last 2€50. This sidrería is indeed unique in that the plates of free tapas that you will get with your beer have no bottom. And the best part is that you get one more with every new drink you order. Completely worth battling your way through the crowd to the bar and having to be stood up for dinner (at least for some of us).
Location: 30 Calle de las Infantas
Opening times: Monday to Thursday 11h30 - 1h30, Friday and Saturday: 11h30 - 2h30
- 5. Have a glass of Tinto in Tartufo on Plaza Santa Ana
The barrio de las Letras is usually not very well known among students and there is really no reason why. Santa Ana is a charming little plaza in the middle of Madrid’s bohemian district and the restaurant Tartufo will make you feel sophisticated without making you scream uncontrollably at your bank statement. Sit on the terrace and enjoy a copa de vino for 2€20 and, while your at it, a few tapas from 2€50.
Location: 8, Plaza de Santa Ana
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 13h00 - 00h30.
- 6. Have churros and chocolate in Los Artesanos 1902
You cannot leave Spain without having had proper churros con chocolate - and 5am, half frozen churros that you won’t even remember when you wake up do not count.Chocolatería San Ginés is usually in the top recommendations, but be prepared for a long queue. Just a few meters away from San Ginés, you can have equally warm, comforting and scrumptious churros in the churrería Los Artesanos 1902. You’re welcome.
Location: 2 Calle de San Martín
Opening times: Monday to Friday 7h00 - 23h30, Saturday and Sunday 7h00 - 1h00
- 7. Experience the Chueca nightlife in Gris bar*
The gay district of Chueca is famous worldwide for its vibrant nightlife and Gris bar holds a mythical place in the history of the barrio. It is one of the best gay bars in the area, probably because the music there is just as good as the company. Service is welcoming and the general atmosphere is open-minded and fun. Do not miss!
Location: 29 Calle de San Marcos
Opening times: Tuesday to Thursday 22h00 - 3h00, Friday and Saturday 21h30 - 3h30
- 8. Visit the art museum Thyssen-Bornemisza
It is too easy to recommend the Prado when asked about museums in Madrid. The Prado is without any doubt one of Spain’s greatest treasures but the Thyssen-Bornemisza is - almost - just as valuable. One of the perks of the museum is that it displays the personal art collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family, which ranges from 1290 European art to pop-art. The incredible diversity of the artwork makes it a must-see for any art-lover - correction: for anyone - who has the opportunity to. The entry to the permanent collection is 7€ with a student card and is free on Mondays between 12h00 and 16h00.
Location: 8, Paseo del Prado
Opening times: Monday 12h00 - 16h00, Tuesday to Sunday 10h00 - 19h00
Opening times and prices vary for temporary exhibitions. For more information, visit the museum’s website.
- 9. Avoid the mainstream masses: go roller blading in Retiro
Rowing, even in Madrid, is not an acceptable late December activity. But if you have a sunny day on your hands and want to make the most of it, try renting roller blades to discover Retiro park different way. It’s cheap, it’s fun and it will definitely warm you up. There are different places where you can rent roller blades in Madrid, but « Rent & Roll » is probably closest to Retiro and quite cheap (5€ for an hour, 15€ for a day).
Location: 14 Calle Salustiano Olózaga
Opening times: Monday to Sunday 10h00 - 19h00
- 10. Plan a day trip to Toledo
Ideal if you want to brag that you have travelled in Spain. Toledo is only an hour away from Madrid and has a substantial amount of historical monuments to visit or lovely sights to « ooh » and « aah » to. You can book a return trip by bus for 10€ with Alsa or with Blablacar from 4€ per place. So, really, you have no excuse not to go.