How to survive the heat – Madrid style



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You know what they say… “¡Vaya vaya! aquí no hay playa” – which roughly translates to “Well, well, there is no beach here”.

It is the title of an infamous song by Los Refrescos – an 80’s ska band from Madrid, that perfectly embodies the attitude of fellow Madrileños between June and August every year.

Now, most locals tend to leave the city between these months to go to the coast or up north where the temperature is a little more bearable. Your neighbourhood general stores and bars will also typically be closed down for the month of August despite the fact that Madrid receives its highest amount of tourism in that time of the year. So whether you find yourself visiting or simply ‘stuck’ working here, fear no more! I have shortlisted some tips and tricks that will get you out of siesta abode into a fiesta mode (social distancing rules apply)!

A gelato a day makes the heatwave go away

Zúccaru | @zuccaru_gelato | Calle Vergara 16 (metro: Ópera) & Calle Palafox 20, Plaza de Olavide (metro: Bilbao)
Stracciatella, coffee and peanut butter with chocolate | Picture credit: Zúccaru

I have taken almost everyone I know to this gem of a gelateria. Although their freshly made Sicilian cannoli was initially what drew me in (gotta love a well-made cannolo filled with a generous pump of ricotta), it was their gelato that kept me going back. It was exactly what the doctor prescribed.

Rossana from Sicily and Juan, a Madrileño, opened their small corner gelateria, Zúccaru in 2017 near Madrid’s Royal Palace at Plaza Oriente. Their philosophy is to worship the Sicilian gelateria tradition of using quality and seasonal ingredients to create something that is 100% natural. Not only do their gelato offerings change with the season, they also create other Italian delicacies such as Neapolitan sfogliatelle, brioche and cannoli that are to die for.

Fast forward to 2 years later, to my delight, they opened up a second store less than 5 minutes away from my house, next to Plaza de Olavide. There began my addiction. There was never a week during that entire summer that I did not treat myself to a scoop of Zúccaru gelato. To the point where Zúccaru simply became an excuse to get out of the house to meet up with my friend, Emily as it is halfway between our houses. It was our weekly gelato get-togethers.

Must try flavours: 100% Chocolate – a water-based gelato that is oh-so creamy yet light (non-vegan), Pistachio (imported from Sicily), Zúccaru (their in-house vegan-friendly creation of refreshing lemon, basil, green apple and celery) and last but not least, Peanut Butter & Chocolate for when you’re feeling a little bit naughty.

If you do go to the Olavide store, say buongiorno to Luca, who will be there with a big smile and most likely a sample of their new gelato flavour for you to try. My happy place.

Gelato filled brioche with homemade pistachio cream | Picture credit: Zúccaru

No beach, but we have pools!

Yes, in Madrid technically there is no beach, but that does not mean that there are no other ways to cool off in 40 degree days! Madrid is filled with beach alternatives ranging from trendy rooftop pools such as Hotel Emperador and Axel Hotel, a reservoir 1-hour away from the centre that has been coined the term’ Madrid’s beach’ – Pantano de San Juan, as well as public swimming pools that are scattered around the city that offer a cheap and centric option.

These are my picks: (please double check the below websites for current restrictions and opening hours before going. Please adhere to regulations.)

For the ones who love a refreshing dip in the pool with a metropolitan vibe and a cocktail in hand.

Terraza de Óscar Hotel | $$ | @roommatehotels | Plaza de Pedro Zerolo 12 (metro: Chueca)
Hotel Santo Domingo | Day pass: from $60 for 2 people (incl. rooftop & pool access + hotel room during the day) | @hotelsdmadrid | Calle San Bernardo 1 (metro: Santo Domingo)

Both have excellent rooftop pools with a view of the capital.

Rooftop pool of Room Mate Óscar Hotel |  Picture credit: @roommatehotels

For the ones who crave a quick city escape in nature whilst trying different water sports without going too far.

Pantano de San Juan | take M-501 or hop on the bus 551 from Príncipe Pío

Virgen de La Nueva beach | Picture credit: Virgen de La Nueva

Apart from swimming and sunbathing, beach goers can also participate in watersports such as canoeing and wakeboarding. Make sure to also visit Virgen de la Nueva beach in the area.

For the ones who want a no-frills refuge from the city’s heat where they can chat with friends over a picnic.

Casa de Campo Municipal Pool | adult: 6€ | Paseo de la Puerta del Ángel 7 (metro: Lago)

Ample in size, this public pool is mostly frequented by locals. It features plenty of grass shaded areas where you can bring your own food and drink whilst enjoying the summer breeze and catching up with friends. Children’s pool is also available.

Like all the other public swimming pools, new regulations only allow the pool at 50% capacity and tickets must be purchased online in advance.

Picture credit: Culture Trip

Keep it indoors

If you’d rather be inside in an air-conditioned room, then these are more your cup of tea.

Mercado de San Ildefonso | $$ | @msanildefonso | Calle Fuencarral 57 (metro: Tribunal)
Best for groups & Sunday Fundays | Suitable for vegetarians & vegans

A popular street-food market with a huge selection of international food kiosks and a great watering hole for beer and wine lovers. It has a great atmosphere, music and an open courtyard. Good for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free friendly.

Sala Equis | $$ | @salaequismadrid | Calle Duque de Alba 4 (metro: Tirso de Molina)
Best for dates or intimate gathering

Once you go through the unassuming hall and a set of doors, you would be pleasantly surprised to discover a charmingly decorated art-house cinema showing classic movies as well as independent ones. You don’t have to watch a movie to enjoy the surroundings, there is a bar offering snacks as well. Their “Summer Cinema” session is now on. Check out the programs here.

Sala Equis | Picture credit: @salaequismadrid

Museo de Romanticismo | 3€, free from 2pm on the weekends | @museodelromanticismo | Calle San Mateo 13 (metro: Tribunal)

Madrid’s Museum of Romanticism offers the public the perfect oasis in a charming garden where you can take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Musei Garden | Picture credit: @museodelromanticismo

Now, with temperatures set to reach into the 40s, don’t forget to bring a fan, keep hydrated, stay in the shade, take a dip in the pool and make sure to have your regular gelato intake. Stay cool, Madrid.

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