The locals' guide to... Madrid

Victoria Beckham no longer lives there, but that's not the only good thing about Madrid. With amazing food and drink in a beautiful urban setting, there's few better.

MAdrid

How do I get away from large tour groups wearing matching caps?

Ok, so you may be on city break in Madrid, you may have been up until 6am explaining to a baffled local why Nobby Stiles was actually superior to Pelé, but you'll just have to drag your lazy head out of bed early if you want to beat the rush at the city's main attractions, such as the Prado museum, Royal Palace and the Reina Sofia museum. Recover in La Latina, a perfect spot to hang out and soak up some local culture, before strolling to the nearby Royal Palace. La Latina is also home to Madrid's bustling Sunday flea market, El Rastro. Again, hit it early if you don't want to get jostled and possibly pick-pocketed.

Where do the locals party?

Wherever it is, it's way beyond your bedtime. Everything happens later in Spain, so if you want the authentic experience be prepared to bid farewell to your old friend sleep. La Latina gets going about 10pm and El Viajero is perfect for a couple of beers, while there are heaps of good bars on nearby Calle Fuencarral and in Malasaña. After midnight, the party rolls onto the lively gay district of Chueca. Those wanting to party on right through their Madrid holiday should try Pacha or the more reasonably priced Kapital for some pre-dawn action.

Restaurants without an 'all-you-can-eat tourist buffet'?

For tapas deposit yourself in the street Calle Huertas or the Opera or La Latina areas. You'll be able to pick at whatever delicious dishes pass under your nose here while sat at the bar quaffing wine as if you actually know what you're doing. For a rural Spanish meal have a look at Casa Mingo, a northern Spanish restaurant where you can order whatever you like, so long as it's chicken and cider.

The locals' absolutely secret number one tip : During the spring and summer the locals flock to El Parque de Atracciones Madrid, a theme park with loads of concerts and other entertainment that's open until midnight.

A quick guide to where the locals hang out

Madrid

The beach : A beach in Madrid? Well, there is a popular lake called El Pantano de San Juan outside the city commonly known as ‘the beach' by locals.

The late-night snack: The Spanish love their hot chocolate and fritters (churros) and the Chocolatería de San Ginés, near Opera metro station, is the place to get them.

The snack: A local delicacy is squid sandwich and the large square La Plaza Major has plenty of places to get it.

The shops : For factory outlets selling High Street brands head to Las Rozas Factory and Las Rozas Village, north-west of Madrid. Calle Augusto Figueroa also has designer shoes at sample prices - music to the ears of bargain-hunters on a cheap holiday to Madrid.

The trip: The historical town of Alcalá de Henares, a world heritage site, is well worth the short trip from Madrid. It's also the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.

The cocktail : The three great cocktail joints of Museo Chicote, Del Diego and the surprisingly-named named Cock are an olive's throw from each other on Gran Vía.

The coffee: Coffee literally forms the fabric of society in Madrid and one of the best places to get your caffeine fix is Café Gijón, a couple of minutes walk from Banco de España metro.

The place to be seen: You're likely to see Real Madrid footballers hanging out in Serrano, Madrid's seriously exclusive and pricey part of town.

Can I drink the water?

The eight essential questions you'll need answering

Which local animal is likely to hospitalise me?

If you venture into surburbia and get disturbed by a jabalí - a dangerous wild boar - run like a maniac.

Which native liquor will make me think I am attractive?

Forget your beer or red wine, Patxaran is where the party is at. This Basque liquor, made from wild sloe berries, will take your evening onto a new level.

How can I avoid a beating by the local hard nuts?

Behaving like the Brits in coastal parts of Spain is a sure fire way to attracting attention, so perhaps it's best to take it easy on the Patxaran after all.

Will I get lost?

Possibly to start with, but armed with a map and a metrocard you'll quickly be able to relocate your Madrid hotel.

Will I find myself?

Not a typically spiritual destination, but you should find the late nights, lie-ins and siestas very much to your liking.

Should I take an umbrella?

Travel to Madrid in autumn or spring and it might be worth packing a brolly, but Madrid generally gets very little rain by British standards. But then, who does?

What should I order in a restaurant to impress the locals?

Anything apart from paella, really. Morcilla de Burgos (blood sausage) will certainly help you stand out from the typical tourist.

Can I drink the water?

Absolutely, although you'll find that fizzy mineral water is popular in Madrid. If you have enough bubbles in your life ask for agua sin gas - the still version.

 
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