I moved to Madrid for a period of 2 months to complete my internship at Inhispania. This proved to be one of the most eye opening experiences I had ever been through. Both, the people I had the opportunity to meet as well as the charm of the city itself, combine to create a wonderful community feel throughout Spain’s capital city.
My top 5 below consist of a combination of topics ranging from neighborhoods, city sights, local festivities, sporting experiences, and finally, an iconic landmark for Spanish food and culture.
Madrid’s city center varies along the different areas and neighborhoods. Some more grandiose, main and public areas would include more touristic areas such as Sol and Gran Via or so. Other adjacent neighborhoods such as Malasaña and Chueca have a more hipster and vintage feel to them.
The area can be considered to be the multi-cultural entity of Metropolitan Madrid. Its streets speak out an attitude of diversity and community, whether that be through the variety of people walking its paved lanes or the art and graffiti splattered across some of the walls. Although most of the art is of an artistic nature, some of it is anarchist or revolutionary orientated. This form of art was especially used as a type of freedom of expression during post Franco era. The atmosphere varies with an energetic and slightly chaotic community feel in the day, which then flips over to a more bohemian vibe covering terraces and other alternative bars or so.
Certain iconic landmarks of the area would include La Tabacalera, Mercado de San Fernando and La Casa Encendida.
2. La Fiesta de la Paloma
I feel a special mention must be done to La Fiesta de la Paloma which took over my preferred area of Madrid for a period of two weeks. The local festivities have a strong community feel as well, with all demographics roaming around the decorated and lantern filled streets at all hours.
Young children accompanied by their parents, young adults on a night out and older couples going out for a nice gelato, all shared the narrow streets to enjoy ‘la fiesta de la calle‘. These celebrations, I feel, perfectly portray the energy this city brings onto an individual: ‘Simply be comfortable and have a good time’.
The streets are closed off to cars and have food and drink stands along the sides, catering until the early hours of the morning. Additionally, local bars and shops also have speakers pumping up the music from their entrances; pop up stages are set up in public squares and areas for artists to come and perform for the river of an audience.
3. Faro de Moncloa
Another moment that left its imprint on me would be my visit to Faro de Moncloa on my first week in the city, in fact my very first Inhispania excursion to lead. I knew little about Madrid or what the landmark we were about to visit, and was exited to get exploring around the city.
Embarking on my first sight-seeing trip in the country, I headed off with Izzy, the other intern, and a group of students to the attraction. Once arrived, I was faced with a structure standing around 100 meters in height. I then realized that I had to lead an excursion to the top of a tower… with a fear of heights. The window-surfaced elevator ride to the top floor put to text my ability to keep a straight face while freaking out on the inside. The view from the top was simply sublime, with a 180 degree skyline view of the south of Madrid.
Overall, the experience was a thrill, filled with excitement and adrenaline fueled by a fear of heights.
4. Bouldering and walk around Rio Madrid
As I got settled into the city, I got the opportunity to join a friend bouldering at Roc30, a climbing centre based in Madrid Rio. The centre was well maintained with helpful, social staff and lots of climbing. This would be one of my first times attempting to get at a climbing wall. Despite my excitement and efforts regarding the sport, my lack of fitness and technique ended my experience at it around an hour in. I enjoyed it thoroughly and found that there is a ‘gripping’ aspect to holding onto a wall by a few fingers on a little ridge. Pun intended. Body broken and physically drained, we headed off for a little drink by the river to enjoy and relax for the remaining hours of the evening. Living the Spanish way.
5. San Gines
No article can be done on Madrid without the inclusion of the infamous San Gines, Madrid’s most iconic Chocolateria. It has been serving Chocolate con Churros since 1894, long, deep fried, dough-based sticks accompanied with a cup of authentic, Spanish, hot chocolate. The Churros are sublime, filled with flavor and taste.
What I found impressive about the place is that not only is it open 24/7, has more than affordable prices, but has an original feel to it when there. Everything from the green themed paneling and seats to the frames of famous people who have visited the shop make the customer feel like they are part of the tradition. I once went there, far past the hour of midnight, entertaining scene to say the least.
The different interactions ranging from intoxicated tourists, locals that are used to the scene, and staff that seem to be all too familiar with what is going on.