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Paula is the designated foodie of our friend group - and you'll soon see why. Having lived in Madrid for over four years, I'm pretty sure there's little-to-no places she's yet to discover. Not only does she know where it's at, but she's an insane cook herself, so whilst you're at it, why not check out her instagram for even more food inspo? @misibarita
- xoxo, Laura
Madrid is literally full of places to go and have a nice breakfast or brunch, from açai bowls to delicious toasts, eggs benedict, smoothies, juices, pastries, pancakes, and I could go on forever... To be honest with you, I have a huge list on my phone on the notes section and after living 4 years in Madrid, I’ve still been unable to go to all, so you can imagine having to select just a few has been a bit of a struggle. However, I think I’ve done a pretty good job selecting my top 4, and I bet you’ll love any of them:
This is a very peculiar and small café situated on C/Tribulete 6 in Lavapies. Ironically, it used to be an old butcher shop now reconverted into a vegetarian temple. A locale with no doors, no sings, perfectly integrating the brick walls, and old school furniture adding to its natural bohemian style …. People go there to talk, read, and work. The good thing about this place is that they offer breakfast at all hours of the day (during the week 9am-9pm and weekends 10am-9pm). The quality of the coffee is exquisite (those who know about coffee will understand what I mean). Among their specialties are the Benedictines, served on a slice of organic bread and spread avocado. Another must is their granola bowls with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit, and if you are more into sweet things, try out their carrot cake served with mascarpone and granola. Important to note is that they do not accept reservations and you should try to go off peak times or early to grab a spot.
Another “must visit” place is Religion Coffee. I am lucky that it is right outside my uni, so we tend to go there when we want to make our breaks extra “special”. It follows a trendy “Australian style” - Its decoration is cute, cosy, and modern. At this place you won’t just get a nice instagrammable post, but you will also eat well. Plus, the staff is super kind and have good vibes 24/7. Apart from having great coffee of all types and colours, they have a different salad options (changing daily), bowls, and other brunch options. In sum: good coffee, good food and good people.
3. Toma Café
Located in Conde Duque neighbourhood, with bicycles hanging from the ceiling, this café reminds me very much of a typical hipster mecca in the middle of San Francisco. For non-Spaniards you’ll be happy to know this café opens at early hours. What I like the most (apart from the atmosphere and deco) is their very original and tasty toasts, where they combine flavours that you wouldn’t dare mixing yourself, but which are just insane. Also, their coffee is so good they have it for sale in different sized packages.
Last but not least, La Colectiva café, close to Metro Bilbao (C/ Francisco de Rojas 9). If you are one of those who believe vegan food is boring, you haven’t tried this place (I’m not vegan and I love it). Their chocolate pear cake is super fluffy and simply amazing, as well as their pumpkin brownie with chocolate coating. They have a weekly menu with very cool offers and really good price. Many times I come here for brunch or a quick lunch, and to be honest I don’t always know exactly what I am eating, but it tastes like glory. Also, the cool thing is that their ground floor is a super chill area with sofas and large tables to work and study or just hang out with friends to have a chat.
One of my favourite lunch spots in Madrid is Olivia te Cuida. It was actually one of the very first restaurants I went to. It’s tiny, with only one large and 3 small tables, but the atmosphere and food are insane. What I love about this place is the possibility to make your own dish, combining different sections of it with all the options available being delicious. However, since it is a difficult place to grab a spot, I would recommend you also visit a similar alternative called Honest Greens. Very good price quality ratio, following the concept of fast food but with healthy options (it’s a franchise so there are several spread around Madrid).
Another one which is worth a visit if you are looking for a traditional Spanish food is Café Commercial located in Glorieta de Bilbao. This place is not just a great restaurant with a bohemian retro spirit, but it has a wonderful terrace and cultural agenda with live music and cinema. Also, another really good place for traditional food, located in several spots of Madrid is Ocafú a typical “taberna gallega” (with one of the best “tortilla de patatas” in Madrid).
Probably when I have a full afternoon free, I would go to Malasaña (where I used to live my first 3 years of uni). Malasaña is one of the most modern neighbourhoods of Madrid, full of small charming streets, hipster stores, vintage clothing, vinyls, artistic graffiti, old bars, and many little terraces. Fuencarral street is a very large street with plenty of cool shops. After taking a walk (and probably making some acquisitions), I would go to a nice café for some pastries from Mama Framboise (true French style, with high quality offerings) or perhaps Crêperie Olive, where they have both sweet and salty options and it has a very nice ambience. To wrap up a perfect afternoon, a good option would be to go to a rooftop to watch the sunset, such as the Nice To Meet You in Gran Via.
I think that a really cool place to go for a special occasion would be Platea, located in el barrio Salamanca, and which could be considered a gastronomic haven. It used to be an old cinema and it preserves all its decoration with several floors, each dedicated to a different type of cuisine. Different floors offer different high quality tapas with examples of cuisine from Spain, Peru, Japan, Mexico and Italy, and very flexible price ranges. The upper floor “Arriba” is Ramón Freixá’s restaurant, a space with bistro vibes and a full-on menu (unlike the tapas you'd otherwise find). You can choose either option and have a drink afterwards while enjoying a live show and entertaining events (you don’t have to pay extra for them).
Pink Monkey, a restaurant with a “carefree and rogue atmosphere” fusions cuisine from different parts Asia, Peru, Mexico and the Mediterranean. All their creations are made on the spot and you can see how they prepare the food since you can see straight into the kitchen. If you like food and eating, you’ll love the experience! Also, they have great reputation for cocktails!
Another funky place as a backup for Pink Monkey would be El Hortera.
In the evenings the city gains atmosphere, people get fancy and go out to have a drink with friends. At the beginning of the week, it's more of an afterwork vibe, not getting back home too late since we still need to work the next day, but the real activity starts from Wednesday onwards. Here are different places (most popular) depending on the day, or the ones which I find cool and unique.
Thursday: La que se Lía
On Thursdays we go to La Que Se Lia. During the day it's a restaurant and place to grab beers ran by the group Lalala (which host very famous and good restaurants), but at night it turns into a nightclub. It is known as “Cerveceria-discoteca”. It starts as a afterwork spot, but then transitions into a music club with the DJ playing music and people dancing. It is a very popular place, but it is small, so the basement floor gets pretty packed sometimes.
Liberty; The trendy place to go out in Madrid right now (usually Friday or Saturday), age range 20-30, 15€ entry on average which includes one consumption, but you can enter with guest-list free before 2am. It has two main floors for different music styles: electronic downstairs and reggaetón upstairs.
Saturday: Uñas Chung Lee
I discovered this place this year and I think it is just amazing. It is so surreal, and a place where you will have fun 100%. The concept itself is crazy: an asian-style club with live shows AND since it’s a nails bar during the day, you can also do your nails whilst partying (and the outcome is pretty decent!!) Its opening time is 23:30pm-5am.
I have many favourite spots to chill depending on my mood, the day, the area, and the temperature. But certainly, some of the nicest places to hang out, or just go for a walk and get lost ,is Retiro Park. Here, you will find people of all types and ages, walking, practicing sports, singing, having a picnic, street performances, etc. You should take a rowboat at the Retiro pond (and get that very “instagramable” photo) and visit the Palacio de Cristal, another point of interest.
One of my favourite rooftops in Madrid would be the one at Circulo de Bellas Artes (one of EU’s most important private cultural centres). Besides its architectural complexity and all the design elements it has, its rooftop offers stunning views of the city, especially of the Gran Via and Cibeles area. It is a great place where one can have a drink and enjoy the views!!
Yet another place I love going, especially for sunsets, is Templo de Debod. It has amazing views, and you will likely see an incredible pink sky which has become so typical of Madrid. I would advise you to double check what time the sun sets, as it can vary greatly depending on the season!
Madrid has plenty of things to do, but if you find yourself with a little bit more extra time, you could venture outside of the city and take a road trip to somewhere close to Madrid. 3 places that come to mind: El Escorial (North of Madrid), Segovia or Toledo (nearby provinces). Regarding the first; I have been many times and I still find it beautiful…
As for Segovia, it is mostly known for its preserved Roman aqueduct which crosses the whole city. It is very medieval and nice to walk around, visit the cathedral, the Alcazar and eat the typical “cochinillo”. One of the most well-known places for food there is Mesón Cándido, but remember to make a reservation as it is always full. It won't disappoint, and you will get to see how they make their food and do some kind of ritual when serving it.
Toledo would be another really good option, it has spots with amazing views, nice shops, streets made of stone... I would probably recommend going in spring, for temperature reasons, not too cold, not too hot. Here you can take a train-tour, visit the cathedral, and take a zip line across Puente San Martin (a really cool option for the adventurous bunch!)
I guess the best area to stay/sleep both because of proximity to cool stuff and price would be Salesas-Chueca area or Malasaña, Fuencarral, Conde Duque. If you want to get into the inner Madrid and experience the traditional, perhaps Chamberi, a neighbourhood with a university atmosphere, trendy restaurants and places to go for a drink. The “aperitivo” there is particularly good because you’ll be able to experience the authentic local life without tourists. Another option could be el Rastro, La Latina or Zona Sur area. It is the most international, liveliest, and exotic area of Madrid, full of little bars, shops, terraces and cultural places. All these 4 different “barrios” (as we call them) would be perfectly suitable and within a decent and similar price range.
I think Madrid is a place for everyone depending on what you do, where you go and what your plans/intentions are. Madrid can be a beautiful place to visit with your family, it is full of culture in the streets and there are many museums and galleries worth visiting. One of the best things is that 3 of the most famous ones are right next to each other: Reina Sofia, Thyssen and el Prado. But at the same time, I think it is a wonderful place to go with friends, explore the day and night life, the people, the traditions, get involved with locals and simply getting lost in the streets. Same applies to couples; I think Madrid has a certain magic and little areas with charm which will make you and your partner build up wonderful and memorable experiences together you will never forget!