Signified by a deep blood red, possibly first associated with the famous Muleta used in bullfights, Spain is a country with culture and diversity, stemming from a tumultuous history. With nearly 11% of its inhabitance being born outside of Spain, Madrid has a lovely sense of worldliness that might make a traveler feel she can have a more expansive experience.
The food culture is a huge part of the culture; most people in city limits are conversing about what they have eaten the night before, what they will eat today and next week. This makes for an especially fun place for foodies who want to indulge in international, traditional Spanish-born, or even, Chinese-inspired cuisine. When in Madrid, you must eat of the food that was born right in central city–cocido. It is characterized by meat and chickpeas, served in a stew-like base. Of course, you must grab some tapas too!
If you are usually an early riser, be aware of the schedule change, as Madrid businesses usually open back up for dinner around 9:30 or 10:00 and spend the rest of their evening dining, talking, and laughing with friends until midnight or after. It is quite the test of a traveler’s circadian rhythm but when in Spain, do as the Spaniards; it is a change, but we promise, it will be well worth the experience!
Fun, Unique Festivals in Madrid
- May 1-2 (Dos de Mayo) – In 1808, on May 2nd, a huge revolt took place against the Spaniards and French occupiers. Starting in Puerto de Sol, this battle was beginning of the country actually obtaining full independency from France. This day is filled with festivals, dance, and parades. This being a public holiday that spans for two days, some local shops and eateries will be closed.
- Late June to Early July (‘La Semana del Orgullo’) – This affair first took place in the 1980s. As the LGBT movement has continued to grow, so too has this festival that takes place in Madrid every year. It is a safe space for expression, love, and acceptance built around the idea of equal rights. Characterized by parades and bright colors, it is an interesting piece of modern-day Madrid culture.
- First week to Last week in October (Madrid’s Autumn Festival) – It is the country’s most recognized music festivals with entertainment companies coming from all corners of the world. Prestigious events are held in the capital’s main theaters including the Teatro de la Zarzuela, Teatro Madrid, the Círculo de Bellas Artes and Teatro Albéniz.
Keep in Mind
Because Madrid is a rich, cultural place, there are many inhabitants and visitors at all times. With it having been built to only hold a small fraction of the people it houses now, car jams and lengthy waits are quite usual.
If you can, it is recommended to stay within city center. Keep to the districts of Retiro, Salamanca and Chamartín, if you can. There, you will find many shops, eateries, nightlife, and hotels without spending hours in your car.
Cultural Notes and Must See Places in Madrid
With many places to see and visit in Madrid, a traveler could place a month-long trip and not see it all! We recommend that you select a couple of places you want to see, explore them fully with consciousness, and soak it up. There is always ‘next time’ if you cannot pack it all in the first time!
Buen Retiro Park is a perfect place for a picnic, as you can enjoy one of the largest green spaces in Madrid. Having been created in the 19th century for the monarchy, exclusively, it was open to the public a little under a hundred years later. It now provides a fresh space for locals and tourist alike; this is a place where you can tool around at your leisure, sip wine, gaze into rose gardens and fall into intricate fountains.
With Madrid’s long standing history of monarchy, takeover, and decreet, the Palace of Madrid is worth a look around. Although it is still declared the residency of Spain’s Royal Family, it is only used for ceremonies and celebrations. Traditional to the monarchial society, it is a breath of history in architectural form.
For a completely different, diverse experience. One can journey to Temple of Debod, which was brought from Egypt and rebuilt in lush green landscape. A shrine originally constructed outside of the city of Aswan in upper Egypt. First created in 2nd century BC, it was moved to Madrid in 1970 after there was fear of the Aswan Dam ruining its integrity.