Culture, People

Your Unofficial Guide to Madrid with Nathalia Ramos

Nathalia Ramos Madrid Guide

Welcome to Madrid! I am so excited to take you on a free walking tour of my hometown—it’s an absolutely mesmerizing city that is full of history, culture, spectacular architecture, and mouthwatering meals. One of the things I love most about this city is that it’s so walkable. I walk just about everywhere and am able to discover so much more and really get a feel for the city in a way that you just can’t by car. It also helps that in the summertime the sun doesn’t go down until after 10 p.m.! Earlier this year, I spent a few months living in Madrid and it was truly special for me to get to know my city in a way that I never had before. So, I wanted to share this experience with you all and take you around to some of my favorite spots. I’ll take you on my morning walk through the park, see some sights, and, of course, go on my now-famous “Tapas Tour” that I take all my visitors on. I have spent enough time in search of the perfect tortilla and bocadillo that I can safely say I think I’ve found the best spots in Madrid! I hope for your next vacation you consider a stop there. Now you’ll know where to go, what to eat, and what to say so that you can experience Madrid in Spanish like a local! 

I put together a list of some of my favorite spots in Madrid, plus some tips to use as a guide.

  1. El Retiro Park: Just walking around or picking up lunch for a picnic in the park is a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. Other sites include The Estanque (the lake where you can rent the little boats), El Palacio de Cristal, the Rose Garden, and Floridita bar. 
  2. Museo del Jamón: First opened in 1978, this chain can be found all around Madrid. I wouldn’t call it a “must-eat place,” but it’s definitely a “must-see place.”
  3. Puerta del Sol: One of Madrid’s most well-known squares, Puerta del Sol is a good, central meeting spot. Start here as you explore all the smaller roads handicraft shops and tapas bars. And don’t worry about getting lost, all roads lead to the Plaza Mayor!
  4. Cerveriz Bar: Located directly across from the main entrance to Mercado San Miguel, the owners have been making this same tortilla for over 50 years! I have had many tortillas in my life, and this one is by far the best one I have ever had! Anytime I have visitors in town I always bring them here—it’s that good!  
  5. Mercado San Miguel: This food market has been in operation for over a century. It was recently renovated and is one of the coolest, best foodie stops to walk around and enjoy the wonderfully diverse range of food Madrid has to offer all in one place. Go hungry, trust me. It’s smaller than other food markets I have been to, so it’s not overwhelming, and the quality of the food and overall vibe makes it a perfect spot for any type of traveler. 
  6. Plaza Mayor: One of the most famous landmarks in Madrid, the Plaza Mayor can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s magical if done right. I go to the Plaza Mayor specifically for a bocadillo de calamares (fried calamari baguette) and a glass of red wine. This bocadillo is a classic Madrid dish that you probably won’t find anywhere else in the world, and the Plaza Mayor is the place to go for the best ones. Just pick any of the dozens of restaurants that wrap around the square, order your bocadillo, and enjoy reminiscing on your day in Madrid. This is the perfect way to end your day . . . so you can get home for your siesta and be ready for the night! 
  7. Haroma: For you foodies out there, Haroma is an unforgettable meal. I retold every detail of my experience here. The hotel itself is exquisite and worth a visit, even if just for a drink or afternoon tea. 

Here are some helpful phrases to know when getting around Madrid:

Comer versus cenar When Spanish people say “vamos a comer” (let’s go eat), they are typically referring to lunch, even though the direct translation means simply “to eat”. If they are referring to dinner, they will specify “cenar” (dinner).

Hasta luegoSee you later.

Agua con gas/agua sin gas Sparkling or flat water, respectively.

¿Dónde está el metro?Where is the metro? Madrid has one of the best metro systems in Spain. It’s an easy and terrific way to get around.

¡Qué guay! A very Spanish way to say that something is “cool.”

Prepare for your trip to Madrid with Spanish lessons from Rosetta Stone.

Photo of Nathalia by Jorge Pinuela.

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