Initially, when moving to Madrid, I had a lot of apprehensions about my decision in my home city. The majority of my friends that had gone abroad previously didn’t love Madrid- but none of them lived here! What I’ve learned about Madrid is it’s amazing to be here long-term, but not as exciting to visit for a short weekend. This city is home to a rich culture, amazing restaurants, and beautiful views- although, you must know where to look. In comparison to the popular study abroad spots to hit- such as Paris, London, or Rome, Madrid is not as touristy as a city to visit. My favorite spots throughout the city include Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, and El Rastro.
Retiro Park is a beautiful scenic public park about a mile away from my apartment. Retiro is HUGE and has so many sites to see within the park itself. In the center of the park, there is a lake overlooked by a large monument of Alfonso XII. For a fun activity, you could row boats here. This section of Retiro alone makes it worth the visit. There is also the Glass Palace located in more of a woods-like area of the park. The Glass Palace hosts various galleries throughout the course of a year, so you could also potentially visit a small gallery while admiring the view of the structure itself if you come at the right time! Retiro park has been my go-to running spot this semester. There are so many different trails and routes, every time I run through it I discover something new.
Plaza Mayor is definitely the most touristy part of Madrid- but still a sight to see! It’s a cobblestone square surrounded by hundreds of balconies that overlook it. In the center of the square is a statue of Felipe III on his horse. Plaza Mayor is filled with cute surrounding restaurants to grab a bite to eat and admire the view- but pricier than most places in Madrid. Right outside of the square is San Miguel Market. There is no other way to describe this place besides the the flea market of foods. As soon as you walk in, you are bombarded by delicious food everywhere you look. From burrata toast to fresh prosciutto right off of the bone, there is something for everyone here. The food at the market is also a little more expensive than the local restaurants in Madrid, but if you are ever in Madrid it’s a MUST see. While the whole area of Plaza Mayor is on perfect pick-pocketing grounds, I still choose to take the long route on my way home if it means that I get to go through it.
My last favorite spot in Madrid is El Rastro. A market located in the La Latina neighborhood on Sunday mornings. All the streets shut down, inviting tiny vendor tents and restaurants to offer their best deals to the crowds of people that flood the streets. Unless you do your research before visiting, I personally think this is the best-kept secret in Madrid. Whenever I’m in the city on a Sunday, I make an effort to walk through it to enjoy the hustle and bustle of Spanish locals while stopping every once in a while, for a cheap tapas as well.
Madrid is the melting pot for all foods, you can find almost everything you would ever want… except cookie dough! In regards to restaurants, it’s really hard to pick one particular favorite. But in the conditions of being a broke college student trying to get the most for my money- I would recommend Takos al Pastor. It’s a tiny whole in the wall restaurant that has two locations and ONE EURO TACOS***. I have tried almost every taco on the menu and you cannot go wrong. They are all miniature size, so I would recommend getting around four to five tacos per person. But a whole filling meal for five euro… needless to say it is definitely worth the line.