When visiting a city, it’s so necessary to visit all the tourist attractions—but the touristy locations are not always where the true gems of the city thrive. Although it’s a great way to understand the vibe of the city and to check the necessary boxes off your bucket list, the question still remains in the minds of every traveler: where do locals go? What makes this city amazing for those who stay here longer than the occasional weekend getaway trip? Well, the answer is not necessarily in one single restaurant or café, but rather in the neighborhoods that locals flock towards or avoid with a ten-foot pole.
Not to diminish the value of Puerta del Sol or the Royal Palace—which in fact are must-see’s in and of themselves—but this guide is more of a mixture of how to fill traveler’s needs to see the sights as well as to scratch beneath the surface of Madrid’s most spectacular places.
Munchies at Mercado San Miguel
It’s most definitely a tourist attraction, but there is good reason for it. One could say there is no better place in Madrid to get amazing Spanish tapas and drinks than Mercado San Miguel. Tourists and locals alike flood this beautiful market everyday to enjoy not only the food, but the vibrant atmosphere of this glass covered monument. Any food your heart—and stomach—desires can be found here, from deep-fried delicacies to perfectly crafted pastries. Why limit yourself to the menu of one restaurant when you can bounce around from bar to bar and try a little bit of everything? Plus, the central location of Mercado San Miguel makes it hard to miss and its earned popularity makes it practically impossible.
Shopping in Salamanca
While Gran Vía has every store you could possibly think of (and then some), the barrio of Salamanca is notorious for it’s shopping as well. The environment of the Salamanca district is hard to beat; Ma & Pa cafés and small boutiques are intermixed with big brand names, giving everyone the opportunity to find what they need. The hustle and bustle of Gran Vía is amazing and exciting, but it’s easy to get worn out from the busy sidewalks and even busier streets.
Getting Lost in La Latina
Spain is known for its nightlife and great social scene, but Calle de Cava Baja takes the cake when it comes to the late night hospitality in Madrid. Not only does La Latina have a historical significance—being one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city—but it also has some amazing, hip places to check out as well! On that street, La Chata is a must-visit for both the atmosphere and the history that covers its walls.
Best Tacos at…Takos!
For something a little less traditional—and less expensive—Takos Al Pastor is the best place to find amazing Mexican street tacos at an even more amazing price. Located in between Puerta del Sol and Gran Vía, people from every walk of life visit Takos to order some of their infamous one Euro tacos. As a favorite place among students, there’s a chance you will see (or make) friends while waiting in the long lines that are almost as infamous as the tacos themselves. Although the line may be long, the quality and price make Takos well worth the wait.
Grayson Hennelly is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Madrid, Spain, and is currently studying at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.