My name is Esmé (@esmewharton) Having grown up in different countries all over the world I love exploring new cities, so I couldn’t wait to start my university Year Abroad in Madrid this year, and safe to say it is my new favourite city! I have been living in Madrid for 8 months now and I never want to leave… here are my top picks for bars, food spots, and a few activities that are off the beaten track for you to try out.
What is a typical breakfast and where would you go?
My favourite place for breakfast is HanSo Café in Malasaña, they have the best selection of food including the traditional Spanish breakfast of pan con tomate (crushed tomatoes, olive oil and garlic on toast) for super cheap prices. HanSo also have great speciality coffee and amazing iced frappes for the summer months! My favourite thing to order here is the stuffed bagel which comes with salmon, cheese, avocado and a fried egg- the perfect start to my morning!
What is your favourite place to grab lunch?
My hands down favourite brunch and lunch spot in Madrid has to be Federal Café, I live round the corner from their Malasaña branch so it is my daily go-to and the place I head to get my work done- I always go early to grab a space on their laptop table and enjoy my lunch there! Federal Café has in my opinion the best avocado toast in Madrid, as it is served on amazing sourdough toast with carrot hummus and a pistachio dukkha- a really nice Arabic twist on my favourite brunch dish.
What is an ideal afternoon activity in a city like Madrid?
Vintage shopping! Living in Malasaña is quite dangerous as I am surrounded by the best vintage shops in Madrid, so walking home I always have to stop by my favourite stores to see their latest collections. My top picks are Magpie Vintage and Humana, Spain’s largest charity shop chain. I set myself the challenge of visiting every Humana in the city and safe to say my bags were very heavy on my last flight home…! You will never come home empty handed after an afternoon wandering around Malasaña, so it’s the perfect place for a bit of retail therapy.
Where is the best place to have dinner?
Without a doubt my favourite restaurant in Madrid is Entre Santos in Chueca- it has such a fun atmosphere and the waiters are so friendly, this is where I bring friends whenever they visit. It was recommended to me by a friend on my first ever visit to Madrid and I ended up going 3 times in one trip, it’s that good! They serve such good food with a nice twist on traditional Spanish tapas and loads of amazing veggie options too. My favourite dishes are the aubergine parmigiana and salmon tartar as it comes with a mango foam and is so delicious. Also, the Ladies Night cocktail is my go-to; the waiters know my order now I have been so often!
In the evening what is the city like and where do you usually find yourself?
Madrid completely transforms at night so I love heading into Malasaña for some drinks in all the small bars- my favourites are Tupperware, La Vía Láctea and La Tita Rivera, which is tucked away off the high street and is a perfect haven lit up by fairy lights! The nightlife in Madrid has something for everyone, and the clubs I head to most weekends are Fluido and Berlin Club, which are both quite small bars that turn into clubs for evening events and have hosted some of my favourite DJs.
Brunch in the Park is also a great festival event in Madrid that is held most weekends, alternating with AfterBrunch which is a mini day festival held in Madrid’s bull ring, Las Ventas. This is a must do if there is an event when you are visiting Madrid, and it’s even better when the weather is warm!
In a busy city like Madrid, is there anywhere to chill?
I love going to outdoor pools in Madrid to relax and spend some time in the sun. Lots of hotels now have rooftop pools which have amazing views but are a bit pricey for students, so my favourite is the Casa de Campo municipal pool by the Lago metro stop. It’s a well-kept secret as entry is only €3 and it has an amazing pool with a surrounding grass seating area in the sun- this is where you’ll find me every day as soon as the weather gets warmer!
What is there to do for something fun and different?
Hiking! It’s so nice to escape the city on a little day trip and spend a day in the mountains, and this walk is great in both summer and the colder months. My favourite place to hike is in Manzanares el Real– it’s a village about 30 minutes bus ride from Madrid and takes you to a stunning national park with glacial pools that you can swim in (only if you go in summer as they’re freezing!). You are rewarded with some amazing views of the snow-capped mountains at the top and there are some lovely local cafes at the base to reward yourself at the end!
Where is the best area to stay/sleep for young travellers?
My two favourite areas are Malasaña and La Latina– if you plan to visit Madrid make sure you go to both of these neighbourhoods! Most of my friends and I live in Malasaña and we love it for all the amazing bars and vintage shops, and La Latina is also really nice as it’s very multicultural so you can find lots of different cuisines there. It also hosts El Rastro market which is my go-to activity on a Sunday morning! I would recommend using Airbnb if you visit Madrid as there are so many cheap but beautiful apartments for rent with traditional balconies and stunning views of the city.
What season would you recommend visiting?
I would recommend visiting in spring time as it will be so much warmer than at home! April is when it starts to get properly hot without the unbearable heat that you get in summer. Also around Christmas is such a lovely time to visit as Madrid have a great Christmas light display- just wrap up warm and expect some snow!
Is Madrid best for family holiday/friends holiday/ couple holiday?
I’ve had both family and friends to visit and I think Madrid is perfect for both. My family loved Madrid as we had the perfect mix of shopping, museums, and their personal favourite activity- renting electric scooters around Retiro park! I also loved having my friends to visit and personally I think Madrid is the best place for a girls weekend- I always take my friends to the Bellas Artes rooftop bar to show off Madrid’s amazing sunsets and everyone is always keen to come back!