How to encompass a city as multifaceted as Madrid in one textual goodbye. Let’s give it a try! The Madrid breakdown:
Madrid: A Bi-polar Climate
Madrid’s climate is incomprehensible. In winter you desperately search the shops for an adequate jacket and/or an extra duvet, because when packing a few months back you were in the assumption that you would spend a year in Spain, not Iceland but, as if trying to make up for unexpectedly cold winters, the summer will relentlessly challenge your heat stamina.
The narrow streets fill with a thick, undefeatable heat. Cooling off becomes a full-time job as you string your afternoon together moving from air conditioning to air conditioning. It’s around this time of year that the Spanish invert day and night. During daylight hours the streets are empty. Like hermits, the Spanish don’t show themselves, hiding away in windowless apartments till sundown. When night falls a surreal setting takes hold: under the moonlight the parks, terraces and playgrounds fill once again as the Spanish indulge in their beloved street life till the early hours.
Beat the Heat:
Mercado San Fernando: this lesser known mercado is perfectly cooled, and offers an amazing selection of craft beers and tapas. There is no better place to take a sweat break on a Sunday afternoon
Embalse de San Juan: Just an hour’s drive from the blazing city you can cleanse yourself from car fumes and city life while enjoying this beautiful lake.
Nightlife is Street Life
Madrid’s nightlife is a sweet mix. On the one hand you have the bright, white light bars with unfriendly camarero’s who couldn’t care less if you order your caña there or in the bar two doors down. And on the other the city is filled with hip and innovative places, fighting to be the next best thing. However, it’s not necessarily the bars or clubs that facilitate the dynamic nightlife…
The streets of Madrid are the best bar you will find, and seats are always available, as you park yourself on a random doorstep. The crowd is diverse and the barman will never be more attentive, amigos with trolleys swarming to hand over your next beverage. Plus, the bar never closes. However, make a break for it when the police comes: they are known to fine generously if they catch you with alcohol in your hand.
Best Seats in the Best Bar:
Plaza Dos de Mayo: this city square fills when the sun goes down, crowds growing as the hours pass. But as soon as the police confidently walk onto the square, casually exercising their authority, the Spanish squirm into the surrounding alleys while hiding their beers from prying eyes
Plaza de Lavapiés: a city square filled with curry scents, decorated with remarkable street art and always bursting with life (with the exception of Monday morning)
A City Where Distance and Time Become Irrelevant
Pulling a Spanish refers to leaving your bed when telling your friends you are stuck in the metro. One can never estimate the time you will arrive: “on time” is when you are at the destination anywhere within an hour of the agreed-upon time. Distance and time are irrelevant in Madrid.
Distance is often measured in metro stops, as is the time you plan to head home: catching the last metro, or waiting until the first. During rush hour (or when it’s 37 degrees outside, and stuffing yourself in a crowded underground is, like mine, your biggest nightmare), you opt for BiciMad. Madrid is a city where riding a bike affects your nervous system’s general well-being, a city where you cycle on the edge of death, passed by a massive bus as your heart races faster than your electric bike. However, this limbo between fear and bliss becomes addictive and I can honestly say: there is nothing like biking in Madrid.
Best Streets to Bike (at your own risk):
Calle de Gran Vía (truly at your own risk): racing through the busy city, while being passed by massive vehicles on both sides, is an unprecedented thrill you must experience (even if it is the last thing you do).
Madrid Río (safer option): what used to be the city’s highway is now a large green stretch with beautiful architecture.
Madrid, you've been so great to me, I made numerous friends for life and will never forget. Muchas gracias,
Words by Marieke