Spanish culture has always intrigued me, particularly the importance residents place on siesta. Everyday, shops close down from about 2-5 and bars and restaurants roughly from 4-9. This coveted nap time can definitely feel strange for first time travelers to Spain, which is why it’s best to make the most of your day before and after siesta so that you can fully embrace this local tradition.
Here are 5 Tips for First Time Travel to Madrid
1) Become a Local from the Start
While it’s always a good idea to research a destination before you arrive, it’s hard to find real local hubs from a guidebook mainly targeted toward tourists. A good first step in finding local bars and restaurants is to ask your hotel or hostel attendant. These people are here to help you so don’t be afraid to use them as a resource. Tell them the atmosphere you are looking for and they will steer you in the right direction.
2) Take Advantage or Free Tours
If you are looking for a brief overview of Madrid, check out the free or discount tours that many hostels offer daily. Not only will you meet other culturally curious travelers, but you will learn about Spain’s capital city straight from a local. If you are on the hunt for a specific tour, these are also offered and not terribly hard to track down. A variety of short breaks at a low cost are available through various tour operators.
3) Bike Your Way Through Town
Biking is a popular form of transportation throughout Europe and Madrid is no exception. It’s a fast and eco-friendly way to really experience a city. I recommend picking three to four neighborhoods that interest you and coming up with a route for that day. La Rosaleda garden and Parque del Buen Retiro ideal attractions to explore by bike.
4) Don’t Save Museums for a Rainy Day
If you are on a budget, a great way to experience global art and culture in Madrid is by taking advantage of the city’s many museums. Prices aren’t terribly expensive and if you are traveling during the hot summer months, you will need a break from the heat. The Museo del Prado is a good place to start because they have free entry on select evenings.
5) Get Your Siesta On
Finally, going back to the beginning of this post, partaking in a little siesta is the perfect way to live like a local. Most people in Madrid don’t have dinner until around 9 or 10pm, meaning the real partying goes well into the morning hours. The artsy triBall neighborhood is perfect for the bohemian traveler.
Image: Greenwich Photography/Flickr
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