The life of an American in Madrid
Stroll through Cibeles, go shopping in Sol, go to the cinemas and theaters on Gran Vía, barhop in Huertas, or listen to music in the various nightspots in Malasaña. Madrid offers tourists an infinite amount of possible plans, and those who live in the capital know all the different ways they can spend their free time and have fun. But what about American students that are going to be in Spain’s capital for a time? What activities should they be up on? What is their life like in Madrid?
Brandon is an American student who, in Escuela Sampere’s video, shows what a normal day is like in the life of an American in Madrid: visiting the school to learn Spanish and discover the secrets of the language, walking around the city, meeting people from all over the world, having lunch or dinner at restaurants or going for drinks and tapas in the most authentic neighborhoods, and also the possibility of going out on the town any night of the week. There are countless things to do.
Here’s the video The Life of an American in Madrid. We invite you to take a look and tell us what other activities you like to do in the capital, be them educational, for fun and leisure, shopping, related to history and culture, music, sports, or shows and performances.
The video was designed and filmed by Escuela Sampere, a Spanish academy for foreigners that offers courses in five different cities: Madrid, Salamanca, Alicante, Havana, and Cuenca, Ecuador. Thousands of students have studied at their centers, and in addition to learning Spanish and sharing experiences with classmates from all around the world, have enjoyed the extracurricular and free time activities offered in each of the cities.
Trash is never too fun to see – worse if you are literally walking in it day after day! And this is probably what the people in Madrid are going through after its garbage collectors and street cleaners took a strike.
The strike was fuelled after private maintenance companies in the city planned of laying off about a thousand of its people, or about a fifth of Madrid’s street cleaners. From November 5 to November 17, all the street cleaners in Madrid walked off their jobs; thus the sight of garbage-strewn streets. Tourists and locals alike suffered the stinky situation which rooted from the country’s five-year economic and budget crisis. In a bigger perspective, the cut-off of workers in the maintenance industry was not the only one that reflected Spain’s budgetary struggles; public spending for hospitals and schools was cut as well.
Fortunately, after marathon talks between union representatives and company owners. Finally, the first agreed to a new deal where there wouldn’t be any lay-off but each “would have to take six weeks without pay each year through 2017.”
Roberto Tornamira, the secretary general of UGT labor federation expressed his pleasure with the deal saying, “We’re very satisfied because the lay-offs have been withdrawn.”
Twelve days after the strike, the street cleaners, who get to save their jobs, are not the ones pleased with the agreement. In fact, more than the cleaners it is really the people (both locals and tourists) who are really glad with the news. Having to endure a stinky and healthy-risky environment, they finally can get to enjoy the city again sans the trash.
Partying in Madrid
Madrid is one of the world’s most famous capitals. People all over the world are familiar with its importance in the tourism sector as well as its nightlife. The wide variety of activities, among others, offers an interesting range of options to party in a city that acquires a special quality when the sun sets.
Here are some of the most popular areas in the city where tourists will find a nice atmosphere to enjoy a great evening of entertainment and making new friends:
Huertas: One of the most popular and lively streets in Madrid – capital. Visited mainly by tourists and foreign students in the evenings. Located very close to the Puerta del Sol, one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.
Malasaña: Neighborhood located in the city centre. Broke in the 70s and 80s with the movement known as “Movida Madrileña”, whose atmosphere is characterised by an alternative and bohemian aura with rock and roll tones. Malasaña is the name of one of it’s streets, but is now used to name the whole area.
Chueca: Small neighborhood, centrally located, one of the most cosmopolitan and eclectic ones. Although it’s famous for being considered the “gay area” of Madrid, people of many different urban tribes enjoy their pubs and restaurants together. Many of the highlights in this area surround the Plaza de Chueca, where you can find lots of terraces, great for in hot weather, housing the most important nights of Madrid.
Torre Europa: Located near the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, is one of the most “cool” areas, expensive bars and an environment in which beauty and fashion are two of the most important components.
Some issues to keep in mind when partying in Madrid are transportation and lodging. The underground (“metro”) is one of the best in Europe, but it’s closed from 02:00 a.m. to 06:00 a.m. So, if you want to go back during this period the best option is to take a taxi because the night buses that cover the same metro lines can be slower.
The best alternative is to stay in the city centre, so you can walk to most areas. The downtown area has plenty of hotels, hostels and other types of accommodation. If you’re travelling with friends, the tourist apartments offered by GoWithOH can be a good choice, because the price per person per night is usually lower than in a hotel and you can cook and have a drink with your friends before going out.
No matter what your goal is when visiting Madrid, its nightlife is waiting for you everyday to show you a wide and varied mix of people and things to do.
Picture: Thanks to Tinou Bao, http://www.flickr.com/people/tinou/
With its picturesque setting and relaxing atmosphere, it is actually not a surprise to see Madrid even in Hollywood big screens. Here are a few Hollywood flicks with scenes shot entirely or partly in Madrid. You may have known it already or would be surprised of not noticing it.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, and Ewan Mc Gregor, it is a drama/thriller film directed by Marcel Langenegger. The story tells of an accountant “introduced to a mysterious sex club” called The List by his friend who is a lawyer. In this new world, he unfortunately becomes the prime suspect to the disappearance of a woman and a multi-million dollar robbery.
La Plaza Mayor and the Paseo del Prada were among the places in the movie shot in Madrid.
Several keen movie watchers also took note of an error in the movie about Madrid taxis.
“In Madrid, S takes a taxi with a letter W on its side. In Madrid, the letters stand for the weekdays the taxi is off-duty (except for Wednesdays, which is symboled with an X). There are no weekdays spelled with a W in Spain.”- submitted by a user named Sacha in http://www.moviemistakes.com/film8162
Surprise! Surprise! Although the Oscar-nominated film which starred Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor was filmed in Sydney, Australia, the director had to pick up shots in Madrid as the film ran out of schedule in Australia to give way for the shoot of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (which by the way also had Ewan McGregor).
Starring Nicole Kidman, the 2001 psychological horror film was inspired partly from the novel The Turn of the Screw. It was the first English language film to have ever received the Best Film recognition from the Goya Awards, the country’s national film awards. Although most of the film’s exterior was shot in Los Hornillos Palace in Cantabria, Spain, there were still a several scenes taken in Madrid.
Quantum of Solace
This 2008 film which served as the 22nd James Bond film also had some scenes shot in Madrid. Several articles about the film pointed the Royal Opera and the Royal Palace to be among the places in the city where the Bond movie shot.
Madrid isn’t just a place to do vacation; it has also been a favorite hub of Hollywood. The next time you see some scenes in the city in the flick you are watching, you can simply tell yourself, “I can’t blame them…”
Salsa and flamenco are two famous forms of entertainment in Madrid that do not just make the nightlife in the city more vibrant but also make its culture more interesting. As you visit the capital of Spain, whether for a short or long vacation, try not to miss doing some salsa moves or catching a flamenco show as this will make your visit to Madrid even more unforgettable.
Salsa is dance accompanied by salsa music. If you are wondering about its etymology, yes, it pretty much has the same meaning of that Spanish word for ‘sauce’; only this case it refers to the flavor and style that allude to the sensual and hot style of the dance. The dance’s music is a fusion of rhythms from several cultures, Cuban, traditional African, and Latin-American.
A spot or slot dance, salsa is so unlike Tango as it doing not require the couples to go around the dance floor; instead, they just have to move on a fixed area. Compared to other dances, salsa does not have any strict rules on how it should be or should not be danced – as long as you do some styles and moves that are distinguishably salsa. Among the common salsa styles are the Los Angeles style, New York style, and the Cuban style. Of the three, the last is most popular one in Madrid.
Salsa is not complicated to learn at all, especially if you already have that innate rhythm in you. However, if you find it hard to follow with the Madrileňos in their salsa moves, you can actually enroll yourself in a dance school in the city and learn the basics of the dance by joining dance classes.
Although Flamenco has its origins in the Andalusia, many of the best show venues and schools are found in Madrid. Yep, the Spanish capital.
For those of you who just heard Flamenco for the first time, Flamenco is considered a performing art composed of 3 main elements: singing, dancing, and guitar playing. The show was said to have come from the gypsy communities in southern Spain where the singing expressed the community’s loneliness, sorrow, and suffering. Later in the 19th century, guitar and dance were integrated to make it livelier.
There are various ways to enjoy Flamenco in Madrid. One could be in tablaos, where you will sit in a table with drinks and meals served, and enjoy the Flamenco performers perform on a relatively small stage. Because this gives you a more intimate feel of the presentation, expect this to come a bit pricey. Another option to check out a Flamenco performance in the city is through a few bars scattered around town. Although cheaper than those in tablaos, many of these performances are just improvised version of the original Flamenco; although there are still a number which present authentic Flamenco shows.
Entertainment is essential in enjoying a city, and there is no better way to savour Madrid’s offerings than salsa and flamenco.
Here’s a dare, will you be able to explore and experience the beauty and treasures of Madrid in just 24 hours? Well sure you can! Try this 24-hour itinerary guide to embracing the capital of Spain.
Madrid is often known to be where the old and new Spain meets. Let’s begin our 24-hour journey to the city by having our breakfast at 7:00 am at El Brillante in Plaza Emperador Carlos V 8 (Metro: Atocha) and fill in yourself with freshly squeezed orange juice, strong coffee, and tortillas. If you want to try the city’s best churros though, you can have your breakfast instead at Chocolateria de San Gines at C/ Pasadizo De San Ginés 5 (Metro: Sol). After an hour of breakfast, you can start your exploration by enjoying the sights in the busy railway of Atocha Station. With over 500 botanical species displayed in the area, you’d get to enjoy the relaxing ambiance in the station.
By 9:00 am, you can kick off your Madrid tour by paying a visit to one of the Golden Museum Triangle in the city, The Prado Museum. Although the other two museums, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza are just stones away from each other, Prado is considered by many to be the “jewel of the crown”. Feast your eyes with the creations of El Greco, Velasquez, and Goya in the museum. After a 2-hour tour in the museum, you can then head on for a little shopping at Calle Fuencarral (Metro: Gran Via). One of the coolest shopping avenues in Madrid, Calle Fuencarral offers various shops and boutiques ranging from designer labels to clubwear. After an hour or two, head to J&J Books to feast your eyes with a wide range of books and magazines in the English language; here, you’ll also get to meet a lot of English speakers, so it’s perfect for those who isn’t really good in their Spanish. By 2:00 pm, have your lunch at Ribeira do Muiño in Calle Santa Brígida 1 for fantastic and fresh seafood.
After a relaxing and sumptuous lunch, get ready to move on with your Madrid tour by walking into some of the city’s famous spots, which include the Royal Opera, Plaza de España, and Plaza Mayor. You can spend up to 2 hours taking pictures and sightseeing at this part of your tour. By 5:00 pm, you can go straight to El Parque del Buen Retiro to do boating in the lakes or just sit back and relax with the sight of its immaculately kept gardens. You can also keep yourself entertained with the street performers and puppeeters.
At 8:00 pm, get yourself in a mythical emotional state by listening through flamenco in Las Carboneras in Plaza del Conde de Miranda 1. Have fun experiencing one of the finest shows in town! After two hours, it’s dinner time at Taberna Txakoli in C/ Cava Baja 26. Savour its Spanish ham as well as crab dishes.
By 11:00 pm, get ready to start the nightlife in the city starting with cool jazz entertainment in El Junco at Plaza Santa Bárbara 10 and a walk-in cinema at the Cines Princesa in Calle Princesa 3-5. At 2:00 am, head to one of Madrid’s coolest venues, Demode and enjoy its techno music strangely combined with chandeliers. As 3:00 am approaches, you can then proceed to Torero for some Spanish pop entertainment. Here, you’ll meet guys and gals all dressed up for some salsa-style dancing.
As the dawn approaches, you can meet the sunrise by enjoying some chocolate con churros at Cafetería San Gines in Calle del Arenal 11.
And that’s how you spend your 24 hours in Madrid!
Merriment in Madrid
Madrid is a busy city with year-round celebrations. Home of the fiesta, from February to December there is a reason to be cheerful and take part in festivals, carnivals and outdoor performances. Whenever you decide to visit Madrid, be sure to check out one of their famous parties and be part of the vibrant atmosphere.
Festival de Otoño
Translated as Autumn Festival, the Festival de Otoño is a fantastic display of Madrid’s artistic and theatrical spirit and always includes dancing in the street and contemporary theatre. The festival has been running for more than 25 years and has grown significantly to be a much anticipated event of Madrid’s cultural calendar.
Although the festival is named after the autumn season, and usually runs throughout October, in 2012 it actually took place in springtime, for the majority of the month of May, so be sure to check before you travel. The festival attracts artists from across Europe including some of Spain’s most popular musicians.
La Noche en Blanco
White Night is a European free festival to promote and celebrate art. In the UK, White Night is held in cosmopolitan Brighton, usually around the same time as Halloween. Students of Spanish lessons in London can pop down to the coastal town to experience white night in the UK before they test out their new language skills the following year at Madrid’s version of the outdoor festival. White Night also takes place in Brussels, Paris, Riga and Rome and often the same artists will travel to each city.
A more traditionally Spanish festival is San Isidro. On 15th May each year, the Patron Saint of Madrid, San Isidro, is celebrated with a fiesta normally beginning the weekend prior to the 15th of May. The festivities continue with daily bullfighting in Plaza de Ventas: it is Spain’s largest event in the bullfighting calendar.
After dark, residents continue to celebrate by gathering and enjoying a drink or two in Madrid’s parks.
Madrid’s residents often choose to dress is traditional Spanish costume and the end of the fiesta is marked with an open air concert and firework display.
Festimad is a dedicated alternative not-for-profit music festival that has been running for more than 20 years and hosts a variety of popular music acts. The festival has changed its format several times over the years, including a trial of its own festival currency, but still maintains a healthy attendance figure of around 40,000 revellers.It commands performances from worldwide acts such as Metallica and The Prodigy.
Satellite festivals such as Cinemad and Fotomad run at the same time as Festimad, bringing not just hard rock and metal music to Madrid but also an interesting array of alternative art and film. Students that enjoy the alternative side of London and study at a language school such as UIC London can enjoy the same alternative vibe while learning the language through film and music.
Madrid may always be in the shadows of Barcelona with the latter’s more fashionable and more fancy image, however, despite its more snobbish image, the gay life in Madrid is a tad more colourful and fun than that in Barcelona. With more guys, smiling, flirting and having fun in the city, Madrid has been an insider tip for the party guys coming from all over Europe.
With the progressive laws in Madrid with regards to anti-discrimination and gay marriage, Madrid was picked in 2007 to host the EuroPride that year. With over a million participants every year, Madrid has become the center of the parade, making it the most colourful and hottest gay pride parade all throughout Europe.
Held every first Saturday after June 28, the Madrid Gay Parade which is also known as the Orgullo Gay, is organized by the Madrid GLTB Collective also referred to as COGAM. The very first gay parade in the city was held after Franco’s death, which also marked the arrival of democracy in the city. Among the companies supporting the parade are Google, Microsoft, and Schweppes. As the biggest gay demonstration in the continent, gay parade in Madrid also features hundreds of events for over a week. The city’s gay district, Chueca, which is also Europe’s biggest gay district, becomes the center of the celebration in Madrid. With support from the city government as well as the national and regional government and private sectors, Madrid gay parade is always financially successful.
Aside from the parade, which is participated by hundreds of LGBT groups every year, Madrid gay parade events also include a week of white party, sound festival, a Mediterranean cruise, and circuit festival.
Gay or not, the Gay Parade in Madrid will make any visit to the city more meaningful and unforgettable. So get on with your party clothes and be one with the LGBT community in celebrating their freedom and supporting their cause.
You may not be a huge sports fan or not a bit interested about its players, but when in Madrid, you might want to consider getting to know the most popular sport in the city as well as its most popular team – football and the Real Madrid.
Football is a team sport which generally involves kicking a ball using the foot and manipulating it with the use of all parts of the body except the hand in order to score a goal. Not to be confused with American football, football, specifically association football is what the American’s call as soccer. The sport requires each team to have between 11 and 18 players to play in a clearly defined area (mostly in a field). In order to score, each team will have to battle moving the ball to the end field of its opposing team where its goal keeper awaits.
Although the sport’s name can be generally assumed to be in reference to the act of kicking the ball, its etymology actually has a historical explanation. It goes back to the time in medieval Europe where the peasants play on foot contrary to the horse-riding sports played by the aristocrats.
In Madrid and generally all over Spain, football is the most popular sport. Like in Brazil, most of the people are huge and avid fans of the sport, and thus, it is expected to get to see many teams to play in the city whether in amateur and professional football.
In the field of professional football, the most famous team that brings the city’s name is the Royal Madrid Football Club or simply, the Real Madrid. Founded in 1902, the word “Real” in the club’s name refers to the Spanish word “Royal” as was given to them by King Alfonso XIII in 1920 along with the royal crown placed on its emblem. The club has a long-standing rivalry with Barcelona’s FC Barcelona.
When it comes to its players, probably the most famous football player that has played for the Real Madrid is David Beckham (currently playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy). Playing from 2003-2007, Beckham has made 116 appearances for the club and bagged a total of 13 goals. Next to Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo would also have to be the biggest star kicking for Real Madrid. The Portuguese national team’s captain as well, Ronaldo’s move to the Real Madrid from Manchester United made him the most expensive football player in history.
Whether or not you are interested in sports, catching a football match in Madrid would make any vacation to the city more unforgettable.
Madrid’s cost of living is high, as to be expected in a large European city. If you are not wise enough in your expenditures, you’d see yourself running of cash in no time. Aside from making a budget and sticking with it, another way to save in the Spanish capital is to know where to get the cheap buys.
If you are looking for unique but of course inexpensive souvenirs, the best places to go are Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. With a great concentration of souvenir shops, you will find here a wide array of souvenir items at relatively cheap price; among the best souvenir items to buy in these shops are the toro (miniature of the Spanish bull), abanico (hand held fan), miniature monuments, and football souvenirs. Because Madrid is also known for its art pieces, art and paintings would also make a good souvenir. However, these items may come at a ceiling high price so the best option to have as souvenir would be the high quality prints of the paintings displayed in the city. You can buy these prints for very cheap prices in many of Madrid’s art galleries.
On average, T-shirt souvenirs in the city would cost around 5-18 euros (depending on the quality of the cloth; decorated plates can start at 5 euros; baseball caps 12 euros, and post cards at 1.50 euros.
In general, shopping for girls items in Madrid is far cheaper than with the boys. Although it may depend on the brand and style, girls will have more economical choices than the boys.
Hortaleza, which is located just of Gran Via, is the paradise for hipsters. Here, one will get to buy many different shoe styles at affordable prices. If you, on the other hand, has fetish for computer hardware, then do no miss to buy at PCBox as many locals and tourists consider it a haven for the best and cheapest computer hardware in the city. For video games fans, GAME, which has over 27 branches in Madrid sells cheap video games, both new and second-hand.
Aside from the interesting yet cheap buys in Madrid, the best thing about shopping in the city is that it is tax free! Just ask around about where to go and what to do to get back 17% of your purchase price prior to your departure. So enjoy shopping in the capital of Spain without totally emptying your pockets.