Europe has many magnificent cities, but often these are crammed with tourists which can take away from the magic. One of my favourite places for escaping tourists and discovering hidden gems is the beautiful city of Madrid.
With a cool yet understated vibe and many unusual things to see and do, any traveller looking to go off the beaten path will adore the Spanish capital. There are many cool experiences to immerse yourself in in Madrilenian culture, but here are a few of my favourites – remember to have your camera ready at all times!
Only got 48 hours? Check out our short-trip highlights here!
Take to the Rooftops
In my humble opinion, there is no greater way to enjoy a city than to take to the rooftops and watch the city living and breathing below (with a good drink in hand of course!).
Círculo de Bellas Artes has a wonderful rooftop restaurant called El Tartan which offers sublime views over the city. You can head up here and chill out during the day, but I would recommend visiting in the early evening for a delicious meal as the sun goes down. You can then indulge in a few drinks whilst enjoying the pretty city lights. There is a cool and exclusive atmosphere at this time which is hard to beat.
Insider Tip: The exhibitions taking place below in Círculo de Bellas Artes are highly worthwhile for art-lovers!
Discover the Temple of Debod
Seeking the non-tourist side of Madrid? The Temple of Debod is, perhaps, the best-kept secret in the city – even some locals do not know about it! This ancient Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC has been rebuild in Madrid and has a rich history to uncover.
Madrid was gifted the breathtaking temple by the Egyptian President during the 1960’s. This was after Spain answered UNESCO’s call for assistance to save the sanctuaries in Nubia. It was then rebuilt in the beautiful West Park, found near the Royal Palace and Plaza de España. Take some time to stroll around the area and bring your camera along as there are excellent photo opportunities at sunset.
Lax Out in La Latina
Any traveller looking to rub shoulders with the locals and indulge in good food and drink will adore La Latina. This neighbourhood is where the locals flock for tapas, beer on tap and cocktails on sunny terraces. It has an electric atmosphere and is heaving at weekends, which can be fantastic fun and a good time to make a few friends. If you are looking for peace and quiet, head here during the working day when you can chill out and people watch.
Insider Tip: There are a number of stunning churches and basilicas tucked away in the backstreets, so be sure to explore the surrounding area too.
Unearth the Treasures of El Rastro
The first thing that I do in a new city is to go to a local market. This is an excellent way to see the city in action and shows how the locals live – it is also a great method for meeting new people and sampling the local produce!
El Rastro is the biggest flea market in Madrid and takes places each Sunday and public holiday between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo. It is an open-air market so ideal for a leisurely stroll on a warm day – be sure to stop off for tapas and people watching! There are all kinds of goods on offer at the market, including clothes, handbags, jewellery, decorative items and plenty of odd bits and pieces. You can get great deals from the vendors, so don’t be shy and get stuck in! Just beware of pickpockets – keep your purse close at all times.
Get Arty at La Tabacalera
This unique space is set up to promote free culture and it is somewhere that any art lover must visit. The self-organised space is a base for theatre, dance, painting, music and any other form of self-expression. It is a space where people come to collaborate, create and socialise, so even if there is not much going on it is a great place to meet people and immerse yourself in the local culture.
How to Get to Madrid
Madrid is very easy to reach from anywhere in the UK as it boasts superb transport links as Spain’s capital. The flight to Madrid Airport (MAD) from London takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes and there are a handful of budget carriers making the flight, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair.
Madrid airport is around 12km outside of the city, so book a Shuttle Direct transfer and jump straight in after touching down. The drive takes just under 30 minutes and we can drop you straight to your hotel. Speaking of…
Where to Stay
Francisco I – Found in the heart of the city, just 250 yards from Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, this hotel is a great choice for anyone with an interest in local culture, architecture and nightlife. The hotel itself has clean and decent sized rooms, a buffet breakfast each morning and free Wi-Fi. Due to its central location, you never have to travel far for a good meal or to jump on public transportation.
Madridcito Bed & Breakfast – In a very similar central location to Francisco I, this B&B offers a cosy retreat after a long day of exploring. The rooms are comfortable and kept very clean, plus previous guests have spoken very highly of the breakfast. There is a shared kitchen which allows you to save money on food and this is also a great way to meet other guests. Guests frequently comment on the friendly and helpful staff too.
Hostal Cervalo – Just a short stroll from Puerto del Sol and many of the central museums, Hostal Cervelo is an excellent base for exploring each day. It is quite the sight from outside as a historic building, but the inside is modern and very well-equipped. Each room has an en-suite bathroom, TV and private bathroom. You will struggle to find better value accommodation in such a central location. Previous guests have also commented on the friendly staff.
About Shuttle Direct:
Here at Shuttle Direct we pride ourselves on our reliable, affordable and safe airport transport service. We are one of Europe’s leading transfer specialists and can arrange passage between airports, hotels, train stations and other areas of interest throughout the continent.
Book your transfer today and leave the rest up to us.