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

Gran Vía

This barrio is for shopping and not much more. There is am H&M on each side of the street and Zara, Mango, many other big stores all around, not to mention El Corte Inglés in one direction and Fuencarral in the other, you have your work cut out for you. I have, however been to a couple good concert around here such as Jolie Holland and local band Hinds.

Music:

Sala El Sol, C/ Jardines, 3, 28013 is in this area, and you may want to keep an eye on their upcoming shows.

Opera

English Bookstore:

Desperate Literature, Calle Campomanes, 13, 28013
This little used bookstore was really a dream come true to discover. Stocked with a great book selection and run by really interesting and kind people. I cannot recommend this bookstore enough. The first time I stopped by they were having an open house. It was winter, and in addition to the abundance of quality conversation they served us whiskey and mulled wine. They have bookstores in Brooklyn, NY, US, and Santorini, Greece as well.

Sol/El Centro

The center of Madrid, and a big tourist trap, I do not recommend spending much time in Sol if you can avoid it, though it is definitely worth a gander. Ultimately there are two main reasons (besides seeing the plaza of Puerta del Sol) that a sane person would venture into this barrio.

Sugar:

El Riojano, Calle Mayor 10, 28013.
This is a sweet shop that opened in 1854 and continues to use many of the same recipes from over 100 years ago! Lots of traditional Spanish candies are sold here such as turrón and mazapán. There is also a little tea shop hidden in the back that you mustn’t miss!

Chocolatería San Ginés, Pasadizo San Ginés, 5, 28013.
Go here to try the traditional treat of churros y chocolate.

Plaza Mayor: This Plaza is certainly a tourist trap, but also definitely worth walking through on your tour of Madrid. The buildings in the square are beautiful and old. In the wintertime there is a big Christmas market in Plaza Mayor, and a huge nativity scene that people line up to see. You will see many stands selling figurines and boards with moss growing on them. These are for people to build their shop window or home’s nativity scene on. There is a great free walking tour of Madrid that begins in this plaza.

Retiro y Paseo del Prado

This neighborhood is home of the glorious Parque Retiro, Plaza de la Independencia, 7, 28001
This is the perfect place to go and have a picnic on a sunny day, bring your guitar, or as do the young Spanish couples, to furiously make out in public. There is a little lake where you can take out a row boat. In the Parque Retiro you will find the Crystal Palace, a big glass structure that often houses art exhibitions, and The Reina Sofia Annex is, a small extension of its larger museum counter-part.

Museum:
El Prado, Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014
National art museum in Madrid, home to many famous works of art. My favorite part is room 56, where you will find Bosch’s magical work “The Garden of Earthly Delights.´´ It has been housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1939. Dating from between 1490 and 1510, when Bosch was between about 40 and 60 years old, it is his best-known and most ambitious complete work.

Garden of Earthly Delights
Garden of Earthly Delights

Atocha

Home to the Atocha Train Station, this centrally located barrio is right on the edge of Parque Retiro.

Museum:
La Reina Sofia, C/ Santa Isabel, 52, 28012
This huge contemporary and modern art museum is a must-see on anyone’s trip to Madrid. It’s full of treasures such as Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, and other exhibitions that are always changing.
Check the website to see what’s currently there are to find out about the tickets and hours, most museums have a day or time that is free, and it’s always a good idea to look into as the Reina Sofia is no exception!

Guernica
Guernica

Guernica is one of the most famous paintings by Picasso- The painting is believed to be a response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed, and believed to have helped bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.

Herbolario (natural food shop):
Nutrición Y Dietética, C/ San Eugenio, 1, 28012 right by metro Anton Martin.
This is one of my long-time favorite natural food and vitamin shop run by really nice people. I would always make sure to go in and buy some fresh goat milk or eco-honey if I was in the neighborhood.

 

La Latina

This barrio of Madrid had an old traditional feel to it. There are lots of beautiful classic buildings to see.
All along the street Cava Baja are places to go out for cañas (little beers) and tapas. Sunday afternoon locals traditionally go out for tapas or a menu del dia in this neighborhood, and msot places you go should be nice.

Exercise/Dance Classes/Yoga:
Yogaldía, Ronda de Toledo 16, 28005
Great Ashtanga yoga classes taught with a gentle and theraputic philosophy.

El Rastro Flea Market, along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo, 28005.
This market streams through the calles of La Latina every Sunday and is a big tourest spot so watch your backpack. People consider it a must-see for tourism in Madrid, and I’ll admit that I once bought a cheap fake leather jacket there.

Accommodation

Finding a Piso (flat/apartment):
When I came to Madrid I had a solid level of conversational Spanish thanks to studying abroad in Mexico during university. While searching for an apartment, I stayed with the friend of a friend who I hadn’t met before (connecting with new people through friends is a hundred times more appropriate when traveling, I windowmet some amazing friends by staying with people I didn’t know but was connected with through a mutual friend). It’s definitely best to wait until you get to the city to find a flat, because all the neighborhoods are very distinct and you will want to figure out which metro or bus you will be using for your daily commute.
If you don’t know of anyone in the city with an open couch, I recommend staying with someone you find using Couchsurfing and/or Airbnb while you apartment hunt. Staying at a hostel can be a good tactic at first, but can get expensive after a while. I am of the philosophy that one should hold out and wait until their ideal piso comes along, as it will strongly affect your experience all year. It’s true that working out a month to month renting situation is always possible, many landlords will make it a difficult process if you decide to move out early, although, for me (I needed to move out two months early, this was not the case but I think I was lucky.

I found my apartment on Idealista and looked at quite a few before deciding on it. People often will want to communicate via Whatsapp, a smartphone app that allows people to text using the over the internet instead of by sending SMS. This is helpful if you haven’t set up a Spanish phone number yet. By wary of who you choose to live with, do you want to live with English speakers? This can be helpful for a transition to a new country but also not ideal for a Spanish learning immersion. I actually ended up living with a great Italian girl who didn’t speak English or Spanish! Between my Spanish and her Italian we communicated with a surprisingly efficient combination of gestures, and an interesting blend of ”Castitaliano” that we made up on the spot, and we bonded over our shared confusion of the landlord’s super fast Spanish and our mutual love of art museums.

I choose an apartment in the barrio Malasaña, which for my daily commute gave me a ten minute walk to the yellow metro line, which took me to Moncloa bus station, and then a 50 minute bus ride out to the pueblos (towns) where I worked. I could have lived out in the little pueblos and had a shorter commute, but for me it was easily worth it to live in the city center, which gave me quick access to everything in the city and to all the friends that I made there.

Hostels:

Madrid has many kinds of hostels and you can easily stay in a nice safe place. Although I haven’t personally ever stayed in one, friends have shared their favorite spots with me.

Room 007 located in both Chueca and in Ventura, I have heard that this hostel is a pleasure to stay at. With an artsy vibe and delicious food, this is a great option for a hostel.

About Ariel

My name is Ariel and I just spent eight months working as a language assistant teacher in Madrid, Spain. This vibrant city has so many ins and outs to it that practically anyone can find their niche. I will share a bit of my personal experience in moving to Madrid, my opinions on the ups and the downs, navigation via my Madrid Barrio Guide, and I’ll share the special bars, cafes, and such that my friends and I would frequent around the city.

I hail from the west coast of the US, born in Los Angeles and eventually moving up to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012, and trained as a yoga teacher at Freedom Yoga and Meditation in Eugene, OR.

I worked as an English teaching assistant through the program Auxiliares de Conversación, in Madrid.

All the information I have is from my personal experience and I am sharing my perspective in hopes that it is prove itself useful and interesting for you.

Auxiliares de Conversación

After graduating from The University of Oregon in 2013, I found out about a program called Auxiliares de Conversación in people can come to Spain to work as assistants to teachers in classrooms. The program is through the Spanish Ministry and open to native English speakers who have at least a Bachelors degree. Technically one doesn’t need to have any experience speaking Spanish, as the job requires that you speak strictly English with the students to immerse them, however, I would highly recommend that anyone applying for the Auxiliares program have at least a base level of communication skills. Spanish speaking comes in handy at times such as the program orientation, working your way through the visa process and foreigners office, opening a bank account, renting an apartment, setting up your Spanish phone, communicating with your coworkers and boss, and the list goes on. For anyone interested in the program, I recommend doing research online as there are many helpful blogs and posts about the process, such as the Young Adventuress, a wonderful blog written by an expat with loads of info on the program as well as on regions, payment, hours, etc.

There is also an infinitely helpful Auxiliares group on Facebook that I referred to throughout the year and really came in handy when maneuvering through Spanish bureaucracy and whenever Murphy´s Law played out. I cannot emphasize enough how life-saving this online community ended up being.