Malasaña

This is the barrio that I chose to live in! People call it an artsy hipster neighborhood, and it is true that it is full of students and little boutiques. Despite some peoples’ concerns it is definitely possible to find a nice apartment in this area without spending an arm and a leg, and I recommend it as it is always full of people and I always felt very safe walking around alone at night. It does have a reputation as a big part neighborhood, which is true. As I lived on the fourth floor of my building, the parties going all night didn’t keep me awake on the nights I stayed in.IMG_5362

Cafes:
Toma Cafe, C/ de la Palma, 49, 28004
As someone accustomed to the quality of coffee brewed by the coffee snobs in Portland, OR, I feel comfortable saying that this cafe has really fabulous coffee. It’s a nice place to work, has soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries (including gluten-free) and the baristas do all speak English if that’s a draw.

La Bicicleta, Plaza San Idelfonso, 9, 28004
This cafe is also a bar, has great coffee as well as food, cocktails, and food. It is usually really packed full of people both working and socializing.

Bars (In addition to these, make sure to check out the bars with terazas around Plaza Dos de Mayo):

El Rincon, C/ Espíritu Santo, 26, 28004.
I love this bar/cafe/restaurant. They have, in my humble opinion, the best tortilla española in Madrid! And that is saying something. Additionally, the food on their menu is always delicious. It’s a nice place to hang out with a friend at any hour of the day may you be drinking café con leche, un tinto de verano, zumo de naranja vermut de grifo, or a caña.

Bar Sidi, C/ del Barco, 15, 28004
Named all too appropriately, this bar has copas de vino and cañas for one euro each.

La Camocha, C/ Fuencarral, 95, 28004
Asurian sidra and food.

Casa Camacho, C/ San Andres, 4, 28004
It was always an easy decision to hit up this little ”old-man-bar” as we liked to call it. Known for having vermouth on tap (vermut de grifo) this bar is always IMG_3991packed on weekend evenings. Delicious olives come as tapas. Try a ”yayo,” a traditional cocktail using the vermut.

Ocean Rock Bar, C/ San Vicente Ferrer, 27, 28004
Fun to go to late at night, this bar fills up quickly. There is a strange mirrored room in the back. We would sometimes get their calimochos, which were giant and with a discount if you bought two at once.

Destino Malasaña, C/ Manuela Malasaña, 33, 28004.
This is a good bar to go have some copas with friends at all hours of the night.

L’Absinthe, C/ San Vicente Ferrer 32.
As the name states, this is an absinthe bar. It’s quite small and it has a homey vibe to it, full but with enough room to join in the bustle comfortably. They have some of the best White Russians I have ever tried.

Restaurantes:

Circo de las TapasCorredera Baja de San Pablo, 21, 28004.
Delicious tapas. Also a very popular location so you will want to arrive early or go on a week night.

Restaurante Etíope Nuria, Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 6, 28004.
Fabulous Ethiopian restaurant. The owner is really nice. I recommend ordering the specialty platters and sharing them. I was a big fan of the lamb (cordero) and the vegetarian plates, not to mention the honey wine. When I crave special food, it is the food from this restaurant.

El Kartel de Malasaña, C/ San Vicente Ferrer, 6, 28004.
Great Mexican restaurant. Evidently the owner is from DF. I was overjoyed to find super Mexican tacos de huitlacoche (a delicious fungus that grows on corn) and tacos de flor de calabaza. The nachos are overflowing with guacamole, and the tamal that I shared with a friend would go quite well with a sip of mezcal if I do say so myself.

Herbolario/Specialty:
Veggie Room, C/ Espiritu Santo, 30, 28004.
This little natural food shop is run by a really sweet man and woman. Always nice to chat with, they made shopping here a joy. With good prices on coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and pan de fruta (basically date and nut all blended together and shaped in a patty) I couldn’t go a week without swinging by this centrally located vegan shop. They actually sell a vegan tortilla española that’s made with garbanzo beans instead of eggs!

Centro Diético, San Bernardo 58, 28004.
I loved this herbolario because it didn’t close for siesta! I could conveniently stop by and pick up my dried figs, seeds, nuts, flax, and of course, echinacea tea or extract (working in a school you’ll want to be taking a lot of this). Run by nice people too.

Cantaro BlancoManuela Malasaña, 29, 28004.
This adorable lechería is new and opened right before I moved so I wasn’t able to come in as much as I would have liked because they are just wonderful! They sell fresh eco-milk that you can buy in bulk by bringing in a jar of any size (or buying one there) that they fill up for you. This milk is so delicious and inexpensive. Much of the milk in Spain is ultra pasteurized so I was very happy to find this spot. As if this wasn’t enough, they also have a yogurt buffet bar! As a big fan of the yogurt and muesli/fruit/nuts/etc. breakfast, you can imagine my joy to see the many topping options for your fresh yogurt; granola, marmalade, strawberries, almonds, nutella, the list goes on. Last but not least, the lechería sells milk, cheeses, and yogurts from cows (vacas), goats (cabras), and sheep (ovejas) dairies.

Bookstores:
Librería Tres Rosas Amarillas, C/ Espiritu Santo, 12, 28004
Walking into this bookstore feels like walking into the Victorian childhood you never had. Pop-up books and paper cut out contraptions line the walls. It’s a very inspiring place to look around in.

Arrebato Libros, C/ de la Palma, 21, 28004
Used books mostly in Spanish with a great ‘zine and little local original books in the front of the shop.

J&J Books and Coffee, C/ Espíritu Santo, 47, 28004
Used English language books. They host a popular trivia night here.

Only a weekend in Madrid?! Destinations for a short trip

Heading to Madrid with limited time? Perhaps only a weekend? It may seem overwhelming to visit such a big city with so little time, but I promise you can enjoy Madrid on more than a superficial level. Read through this list for inspiration and the things I find to be most important on a tour through Madrid. I aim to help you personalize your destinations to your interests so that you can have a fascinating, enjoyable, and relaxing vacation in Madrid. Keep in mind that Spain takes a siesta, so many shops and exhibits (in the Matadero especially) may be closed.

Note: If you are around on a Sunday check out the section of my list called La Latina, and/or the Matadero market. I believe that going to one of the big markets with stands is a great way to interact with and enjoy the city and culture.

In Malasaña:

Go to Toma Cafe or La Bicicleta (depending on if you’d like the chill quite vibe of Toma or the boisterous cafe plus bar vibe of Bicicleta), Camacho (for a yayo), and you must go to El Rincón (for incredible tortilla).

Centro:

Go to El Riojano for mazapán and turrón (great gifts) and to San Gines if you want churros y chocolate. Five-minutes away from Puerta del Sol is Plaza Mayor, perhaps take the free walking tour that begins there.

Lavapiés:

Get a tapa on Calle Argumosa. Go to any of the typical Spanish bars or the Asturian bar that’s across the street from them. If you are hungry enough for a whole meal go to one of the the two Senegalese spots that I mention in the Lavapiés list.

La Latina:

Are you in Madrid on Sunday? Perfect! Go to El Rastro flea market in La Latina. After this, head straight to the Mercado San Fernando, which has a wonderful old fashioned feel, delicious food, and full of locals enjoying a tapa and spending time together.

Art:

Go to the Reina Sofia museum to see Picasso’s Guernica. Go to El Prado to see Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.

If you have time and it’s the weekend, take the yellow line out to Legazpi to the Matadero, see exhibits, have a drink/tapa, and enjoy the cool outdoor market (Mercado de Productores) which is only on certain weekends, full of free samples and great gifts of typical Spanish artisan foods, and definitely worth checking out.

El Parque Retiro:

You must go to Retiro! Have a picnic, read a book, go to the crystal castle of Reina Sofia Annex, or just walk through.

Books!

Perhaps you need a book to read in Retiro or Toma Cafe? Never fear! If you want to find a great book to read in English, go to Desperate Literature. I can’t recommend them enough!

Take heed of siesta and mealtimes

It is important while perusing Spanish cities to remember that many shops and businesses will close midday for a siesta. Generally closing between 2-2:30pm and reopening between 5-6pm. On Sundays shops are generally closed all day.

Siesta may make eating out at a restaurant confusing especially if you are accustomed to mealtimes that are different from the Spanish.

Usually people eat a small breakfast (desayuno) early in the morning with a café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and some pastries or toast, and maybe a juice or ”zumo de naranja!”

Next there is a small snack called ”almuerzo” around 10:30am-12pm. The schools I worked at both had a small break around this time for us to eat and have a coffee. This usually consisted of bread, meats like jamón, chorizo, and sliced ham or turkey, perhaps some cheese, and a fruit. Very rarely the cooks would make tortilla española, and it was always such a treat.

Lunch isn’t eaten until later, between 1:30-3:30pm or so. Called ”La Comida” which literally translates into ”the food,” this meal is appropriately the largest meal of the day. On the weekends you may see people out having this meal at restaurants accompanied by some vinos or cervezas. By the time people have Comida, the kids are out of school and back home. This is also when siesta takes place so after your big meal you too may want to take a nap, or go have a lie-down in el Parque Retiro.

Next, is merienda, another small snack as dinner won’t be until much later at night. This is more of an eating time for children.

Last but not least, for dinner there is the ”cena,” which is a light meal taken between 9pm and midnight. People may just go out for tapas or ”tapear” for the cena, ordering a drink (which often comes with a tapa) and then switching locations after each one.

Because of these meal time, if you are going out to dinner understand that the restaurant or the kitchen may have closed at 5pm, and won’t open again until 8:30pm. This is less common with international restaurants, and more typical of Spanish run joints. You can always ask for a places’s ”horario” or schedule.

Check out this page for a more detailed description of the schedule of typical Spanish mealtimes.

Living in Madrid for a while – Introduction

Ariel's guide to Madrid
Ariel

This is a guide to living in Madrid written by Ariel. It is a compilation of all the useful and interesting stuff that she learned in the 8 months that she lived in Madrid. If you are going to visit Madrid for a few days or a few months it will be very useful. Follow the links in the categories to see information about accommodation, places to go out etc.

Language Exchange

Many Auxiliares in Madrid teach private language classes to insulate their paycheck and earn travel funds. People generally charge between 10-20€ per hour but you should look around on the Auxiliares private classes pages to make sure you are asking a fair rate.

Some good places to find private students and people interested in conversation exchange are Tus Clases Particulares and funnily enough, Couchsurfing.com, which has a big network of groups for interests in addition to language learning such as football and rock-climbin.

Another program is called Mingles, and they host language exchanges in bars. I know some people who have worked for them although not long term. They hire people to lead the discussions and though you do get free beers, your hourly rate isn’t all that high. A euro is a euro and a beer is a beer though!

This page about learning a foreign language is interesting.
Click here
Find Spanish intercambios anywhere in the world click here

The Metro Pass/Abono Transporte

Madrid’s public transportation system is absolutely fabulous. I highly recommend choosing the area you live in based on the metro stops surrounding it, and the difference it makes if you have a long commute (as people in the Auxiliares program usually do). I chose to live in Malasaña and although this wasn’t the ideal location for the shortest commute (I could have lived closer to Moncloa, the bus station that connected me to my bus to my pueblo) living in Malasaña did set me up in the center of town, right next to Tribunal (line 1) and close enough to line 3 that although it took me 20 minutes to reach Moncloa, it also only took me 20 minutes to get south to La Latina or Lavapiés.

If you will be taking the metro a lot, it is recommended that you purchase an abono transporte, which is essentially a metro pass that you put money on every month, the amount of money depending on how far out of the city you have to commute. The center is zone A1, then there is zone A2, A3, B1, B2, and so on. I ended up having to go out to zone C1 everyday, making my monthly payment a heart wrenching 86€! If you are under the tender age of 23, you get a youth discount, but alas, I was not so fortunate.

Hiking Around Madrid

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La Pedriza, January 2015

Surrounding the city of Madrid there are many towns with great hiking trails. Whenever possible, on the weekends we would take a bus out to a pueblo, and hike through rocky mountains or along a river. It was a welcomed therapeutic escape after spending all week in the concrete jungle.

La Pedriza at Manzanares el Real

About: Most days that I went hiking I would choose La Pedriza. A short 45 minute bus ride away from Madrid, this hike is very accessible and easy to moderate in difficulty depending on how far you want to hike. The trail ambles along up and down and is FullSizeRender(8)never steep.

I really enjoyed hiking here because every few km the terrain completely changes. The hike travels along the river Manzanares, first along boulders, then under trees, then you will pop out over a valley for a tremendous view of the river and both green and snow covered peaks at once. IMG_3205Continuing you will go beneath trees, forest, and across the river. Eventually there are more little bars and if you make it far enough to a little mountaineers’ bar on top of a hill. Some mules carry wine there everyday on their backs and you may see them resting by the river. When you reach the Pueblo of Manzanares by bus go to the tourist info center which is right beyond where the bus stop is. They have helpful maps as well as a public restroom. Next you walk up the road towards the rocky mountains for about 30 minutes before finally reaching the beginning of the hike. There are a couple cute little restaurants here. I recommend the hummus from the one with murals.FullSizeRender(7)

There is also a castle in the pueblo that is definitely worth checking out, and I believe the entrance cost is 5€.

Transportation:

Take the 724 bus from Plaza Castilla. It should cost around 4,50€ and take 45 minutes to get there.

CercedillaFullSizeRender(6)

About: Another lovely place to go hiking, though I haven’t been here as many times. You begin in the pueblo or Cercidilla, and walk up this hill where you’ll find the tourist information center. This hike is primarily beneath trees, and there is a small river that you hike by too. Part of the Camino de Santiago crosses one of the trails here which is always exciting to see.FullSizeRender(5)

Transportation:
Take the 684 bus from Intercambiador de Moncloa or take the Cercanías (fairly cheap trains) from Atocha.

Navacerrada:

About: I worked at a school in Becerril de la Sierra, a little pueblo surrounded with beautiful mountains. I was lucky as two of my coworkers where big fans of hiking too, and took me hiking with them in the mountains of Navacerrada, which is close by. In the winter many people go skiing in the mountains of Navacerrada.FullSizeRender(4)

Transportation: You can take the 691 bus from the Intercambiador de Moncloa. When I went hiking here I arrived in a car and drove right up to the trail head so I am not completely clear on arrival by bus.

 

 

 

Legazpi – El Matadero

This art center is described on its website as an interdisciplinary laboratory of creation open to the public and was always a joy to visit.

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From the Guerilla Girls Exhibit in 2015

El Matadero, Plaza de Legazpi, 8, 2804.

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Roberto Bolaño exhibit at El Matadero 2015

Take the yellow line to metro Legazpi.
El Matadero originally was slaughter house and was opened to the public as an art center in 2007. There is an ever changing array of exhibitions; film, sculptural installations, and other work of all sorts of visual artists can be found there. There is a taberna and a cafe in the building, and a ship museum. I went to a wonderful installation about the author Roberto Bolaño, as well as a fantastic Guerilla Girls exhibit. El Matadero’s Mercado de Productores should also be attended as it is an wonderful outdoor even with local artisan venders and stands where you can grab a bite to eat.

 

Chueca

Chueca is very similar and right next door to Malasaña, and is considered the barrio gay. There are lots of bars here for going out and I found a wonderful dance studio here.

Dance Class:
Karen Taft, C/ Libertad, 15, 28004.
This studio has many kinds of dance classes. I took a contemporary dance class here that I really enjoyed. Here the classes continuous and you work on the same combination over the span of weeks which gives the studio a more serious and professional feeling whereas at El Horno in Lavapiés the classes are all more suited for drop-ins. It depends on what you are looking for, and I ended up enjoying a little of each.

Dance Bar:
Bogui, C/ del Barquillo, 29, 28004