5 Things Only Tourists Do in Madrid

Brian Schæfer Dreyer • 11 Feb, 2019

Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a popular travel destination, but many people miss much its charm by sticking to the typical tourist trail. Our local Brian has listed five things you should avoid doing if you want to experience Madrid like a local. Brian also shares his travel tales on his blog, Travelooney.

1. Take a selfie with the bear

El Oso y el Madroño – “The Bear and the Strawberry Tree”, is the backdrop of thousands of selfies taken by tourists each year. This four-metre-tall sculpture on Puerta del Sol is a 3D representation of Madrid’s historical coat of arms, and a proud symbol of the city. It’s even featured in the logo of the Atlético Madrid football club. Still, locals see the bear on the square as a bit of tourist trap.

Puerta del Sol is extremely photogenic though, and if you want some cool shots, take a closer look at the fish-like metro entrance nearby. This glass-covered structure reflects the surroundings in an interesting way and adds another angle to your holiday snaps.

Photo credit: Mary

2. Eat at the touristy tapas bars

Tapas are a big part of many holidays in Spain, and Madrid is a treat when it comes to tempting tapas bars and irresistible food markets. Many tourists unfortunately never make it past the low-quality restaurants along Gran Vía, which lure people in with “real Spanish paella” and over-priced jamón.

Please walk past these places and explore the streets of more local neighbourhoods like Conde Duque and Malasaña. There you’ll find fewer chains and more classic tapas bars where the quality matches the price, like the popular El Pez Gordo. Also, don’t miss the mouth-watering wonderlands that are Mercado de San Ildefonso, Mercado de San Antón and Mercado de la Paz.

Photo credit: Brian Schæfer Dreyer

3. Buy bull souvenirs

The bull is a symbol of Spain and Madrid, but not always for the right reasons. Unfortunately bullfighting is still being practiced, but resistance is growing stronger each day and petitions can frequently be seen in the streets of the capital. Naturally, the souvenir shops are full of bull-themed products, from fridge magnets to stuffed animals. But really, the bull is not a beautiful symbol of a beautiful city like Madrid.

Instead, bring back some edible memories from the tapas markets mentioned above, or go hunting for local handicrafts in the many independent shops in Malasaña.

Photo credit: Brian Schæfer Dreyer

4. Take the metro everywhere

It’s tempting to take the metro everywhere when exploring a metropolis like Madrid. You’re never far from a metro station and it’s a fast and effective way to get around, but unless you’re going to visit attractions on the outskirts of the city like Santiago Bernabeu and Cuatro Torres – just walk.

You’ll soon discover that the Spanish capital is surprisingly walkable and that you’ll miss out on many things if you only travel underground. The neighbourhoods downtown are very well connected and large areas are pedestrianised, so there’s no reason not to let yourself get lost in the maze of sights and sounds.

Photo credit: Brian Schæfer Dreyer

5. Go out at midday in the middle of summer

Madrid is so nice and warm – this is a common thought of many tourists. But no, it’s not if you go out around noon in the middle of summer. It’s terribly hot! Still, many tourists defy all logic and head out to explore just like they would everywhere else. Don’t. With temperatures easily reaching 35–40 degrees at this time of year, you’ll become dehydrated and lose your energy.

Instead, take it easy during the middle of the day – either have a siesta or chill out with a cold drink. Besides, many places will be closed at this time of day, and if you’re well rested by late afternoon you’ll be able to enjoy the spectacular nightlife of a city that never sleeps.

Photo credit: Brian Schæfer Dreyer

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Madrid
Where locals like to eat in Madrid
Where locals like to party in Madrid

Special tip:
For a more authentic Madrid experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

Brian Schæfer Dreyer
I describe myself as a "travelooney". A person obsessed with travelling and with a passion for inspiring others to do the same. My focus is Europe, where I love to experience the contrasts between buzzing capital cities, intimate villages and stunning natural scenery. My travel blog can be found here: www.travelooney.dk.

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