Madrid is the city of choice for many students studying Spanish due to its wonderful lifestyle, buzzing nightlife, pleasant climate, perfect location and its variety cultural activities and sights. What more could you ask for? It’s for this reason that in the last year, Madrid saw nearly 10 million tourists come to enjoy everything the city has to offer. Start planning your trip now, you won’t regret it!
Madrid is the ultimate city for partying. It’s well known for its vibrant clubbing scene, and is known as the European capital of nightlife. It also has acquired the nickname of “the city that never sleeps”, as there are always people out on the street, no matter what time of day! Because of this, you will find it to be much safer than a lot of big cities. Getting home is never a problem as the fast metro runs until very late, nightbus services run uninterrupted throughout the night, and there is always a taxi around the corner. All you have to worry about is having a good time!
You can’t leave Madrid without experiencing night clubs like the Teatro Kapital, which, with seven different floors each showcasing its own style, is one of Europe’s most famous clubs. There’s also the Joy-Eslava, a converted theatre which is open every day of the year! Nor can you leave without having a drink in some of the historical bars, like the Vía Láctea or the Penta in the Malasaña district, where you can get a taste of the famous “movida madrileña” of the 1980s.
Don’t be surprised if you get a call from one of your friends asking you to have dinner at 11pm, because in Madrid the party usually starts at this time! Therefore it’s important to make sure that you have a siesta after lunch, as many bars and clubs stay open until the following morning. Make the most of the night and then refuel yourself on your way home with a hot chocolate and some delicious “churros”.
The food in Spain is quite simply-delicicious! Among the most typical dishes are the well known Spanish omelette (tortilla), paella, cocido,
cured ham (jamón serrano), gazpacho, suckling pig and Galician octopus, you’re bound to have heard of them!
Another Spanish tradition no to be missed is to “ir de tapas” (which means to go for tapas). Tapas are small portions of food, usually served to accompany a drink. It has become the most popular thing to do with your friends; to go to bars for a beer and some tapas, the streets of Madrid are full of bars! You will also no doubt see people enjoying tapas and a beer out in the street, making the most of the fantastic climate.
Another typical snack is a “bocadillo de calamares” (a squid sandwich). AIL Madrid organizes a “noche de copas” (drinks night) with your classmates most weeks so we can show you some of the best bars in Madrid!
For those who love to shop, you can count on Madrid for a huge range of shops, boutiques and shopping centres. Everyone wants to visit the popular market in La Latina el rastro on Sundays and Bank Holidays, where you will find gifts, clothes, jewellery and much more for next to nothing. Seeing the sights, eating in the street and getting a feel for the cosmopolitan vibe all comes together to make the perfect Sunday. And of course Madrid is home to many shops belonging to the most prestigious and glamorous brands. Have a walk along Gran Vía, Calle Preciados or Fuencarral and you’ll see how it’s impossible to not buy something!
You’re bound to have heard of the best football club of the 20th century, Real
Madrid! The stadium tour is a must— the Santiago Bernabéu has a capacity of 85,000 and is home to such footballers as Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas. Of course, when you come to Madrid you have to make the decision between Real Madrid or Atletico de Madrid, which side are you on?
Madrid has a multitude of museums to satisfy all interests. The three main museums, with a big international pedigree, are obligatory for all tourists. One of the most important art museums in the world, the Prado Museum boasts 6,500 sketches, more than 3,000 sculptures, nearly 2,800 decorative pieces of art, and 8,000 paintings, amongst which you can find works of Velázquez and Goya. For a more modern look at art, there is the Reina Sofía which houses an extensive collection of contemporary Spanish art, like the works of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró. Finally, we have the Thyssen Bornemisza, which sees millions of visitors every year, and has a collection of over 800 works from the 17th century to the 20th century. If your thirst for art still hasn’t been quenched, there is still a long list of other museums and galleries to visit. Some of note include the Casa-museo de Sorolla , where you can toy with reflecting light, the Museo del Romanticismo, set in the daily lifestyle and customs of the 19th century. Also, there’s the Casa-Museo
Cerralbo, which transports you to the 20th century where you will find paintings, sculptures, ceramic works, coins, watches, weapons, armour and other archaeological objects. At the Caixa
Forum you can see expositions, workshops and cultural lectures, and at the Archaeological Museum you can discover million year old items.
Bullfights are a strong part of Spanish culture, either you love them or you hate them! The bullring in Madrid, Las Ventas, is the biggest in Spain, and the third biggest in the world. It’s one of the most important venues for the bullfighters as success is hard to come by there—the Madrid crowd take a lot of pleasing!
Thanks to its numerous parks and gardens, Madrid is one of the greenest cities in Europe,perfect for relaxing in the sun, enjoying the environment, recovering after night of partying, or going for a picnic. Among these is the great “Retiro Park”, only a few minutes from AIL
Madrid and right in the centre, where you can go for a walk, ride a bicycle, hire a rowing boat on the lake, or practice yoga.
You will also be able to find small secret gardens, or the Royal Botanical Gardens which is home to 5,000 different species of trees and plants from all over the world. Enjoy a walk down the 10km long bank of the Manzanares River, or lose yourself in the 1722 hectares that make up “Casa de Campo” (popularly known as “Pulmón de Madrid”).
Madrid is full of theatres showcasing the best plays and world famous muscials, such as The Lion King or Cirque du Soleil. Also, opera lovers have to get themselves to the Royal Theatre.
In addition to theatre, many international bands come to Madrid on their tours for concerts and festivals, and obviously, it’s a mecca for Spanish groups. Groups and artists such as Noel Gallagher, Manowar, Coldplay, Juanes, Wire, Skunk, Elton John, Sting, Shakira, Guns’n’Roses have graced Madrid in the last two years.
Geographically, Madrid is right in the centre of Spain, and thanks to an excellent transport infrastructure of highways and trains, it’s the perfect base for if you want to travel around Spain. If you’re looking for places nearby to go for a short trip, Madrid is surrounded by beautiful towns that make the perfect destination for a day trip.
You will surely love visiting towns like Toledo (only 35 minutes from Madrid by train), which is a world heritage site. You can’t leave without seeing the impressive aqueduct en Segovia, or the marvellous Plaza Mayor in Salamanca. You will be amazed by the 16th century San Lorenzo de El Escorial monastery, or Alcalá de Henares, another world heritage site, and the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes.
Madrid is the top Spanish destination for everyone, including Spaniards! It’s a city that’s easy to fall in love with, and has everything you could possibly want. It’s such an infectious city that “everyone who lives in Madrid feels like a Madrileño”. Many of the students come again and again, and some even call it home!