Miguel in Spain: My Madrid Experience
What is it like to live in Madrid? Would you recommend it? What is the city like?
Madrid is a city with a lot of history. There are little street corners, restaurants and museums, all of which you must visit or at least take walk down. Don’t be put off by the slight incline!
As a university student, I had the fortune of meeting many other foreign students spending their year abroad in Madrid as well and I always asked them the same question: "What do you like best about the city?". To which all of them replied, and I mean all of them: the people.
Madrid is a city driven by the people in it. Despite not being in the top 10 Spanish cities architecturally, in terms of day-to-day life, it would be without a doubt my number 1.
All types of people come to Madrid. Whoever you are, you’ll always find your perfect place. Whether that be a specific neighbourhood, park, town square, bar, club, you name it, you will find the place for you.
I would recommend the city to absolutely anyone as it will provide for all of your needs, whatever they are.
You are never alone in this city.
What is the student lifestyle like in Madrid?
Madrid has a lot of universities and they provide all different types of courses: from the more classic degree such as architecture, engineering and law; to the more modern ones, the likes of fashion and interior design to name just a couple.
All these universities take in foreign students, something that makes the student atmosphere in Madrid one of the most unique.
There are clubs that host specific nights for Erasmus students too, the perfect excuse to get out and have a good time as well as meet other people from other courses, countries, and universities.
How much does it cost to live in Madrid?
You should try and find out where abouts you want to live in Madrid. Of course there are apartments of all different shapes and sizes, prices and quality, but choosing the right location helps you massively when trying to sift through the tons of offers you will find.
Neighbourhoods like Argüelles, Salamanca or Alonso Martínez are fairly exclusive, although there are always flats you can share, something that may interest you should you prefer to live in one of these larger areas of the city. Argüelles is the closest to the student parts of the city and is traditionally known as the student neighbourhood. Here you will always find flats and apartments to share.
Neighbourhoods like Cheuca, Malasaña or San Bernardo are the most central. It's littered with Bars, shops and clubs and is by far the best place for young people. You can also easily walk to the more historic and famous parts of the city from here. These areas are obviously very popular among the younger people so you'll find the cheapest flats to share here, as well as some very expensive ones. One thing is for sure, where there are young people there is always a good quality of life, and the same thing applies here. It’s cheap and lays claim to the best atmosphere in Madrid.
Is it difficult to find accommodation in Madrid? Is there any advice you can give?
A small piece of advice for those looking for accommodation on the internet: always visit before deciding! So many times the photos advertised are nothing like the actual place and what can appear to be a huge lounge is more like a small prison cell in reality.
I’d also advise those of you who have already found an apartment to take photos and note down all the things wrong with it. It may well be an inhabitable flat, but you can always use the photos as proof if the landlord accuses you of causing any of these problems yourself.
What is the food like? What are your favourite dishes?
Spain has an international reputation for its paella, but this isn’t the only thing we eat here!
Spain is a country with a vibrant and varied gastronomy. From North to South you'll find something to everyone’s liking.
- In the North: Pintxos from the Basque Region and Asturia’s famous Fabada.
- In the Centre of Spain: Cocido Madrilleño and plenty of squid.
- In the East: Valencia’s famous paella.
- In the South: Gazpacho, Salmorejo and food cooked in the typical Malaga style.
Of course there are also millions of other dishes that you will find when you visit.
Make sure you avoid the touristy restaurants as they are usually expensive and not they only ones that know their way around the typical Spanish dishes.
What places would you recommend visiting in Madrid?
Madrid is full of culture with its many monuments, theatres and cinemas, restaurants and clubs.
To start, I’d recommend everyone buys a brochure for all cultural attractions in the city: “La Guía del Ocio” (for shows, museums and other cultural activities) and “Guía Metrópoli” (for the best restaurants and bars in the city). Both guides are kept up to date and tell you about all the things you should see, do and try whilst in the city.
In terms of specific places to visit, there are loads: The Royal Palace and La Plaza de Oriente, La Gran Vía, La Plaza Mayor, La Calle Fuencarral, La Plaza de Colón, La Terraza del Circulo de Bellas Artes o del Edificio de Correos, El Paseo del Prado with its famous Museo del Prado, and so on. I’ve left many places off the list, but if you don’t manage to find them yourselves, you can’t be in Madrid in the first place.
Is it good to eat out in Madrid? Can you tell us your favourite spots?
Going out to eat in Madrid is fun, cheap and there is something for everyone.
Depending on where you are in the city, you'll have no problem finding the best spots with the liveliest atmospheres.
Like I said before, Spain has a spectacular reputation for food and Madrid is no different in providing the very best the country has to offer.
If you don’t have time to visit San Sebastían or Bilbao (for its Pintxos and incredible Basque food) or Valencia (for its famous paella) or Andalucía in general (for traditional Mediterranean cooking), don’t worry (although you should still go), Madrid has a bit of everything.
This is my list of the best places to eat in Madrid:
- La Gabinoteca: modern Spanish cooking with a touch of foreign cooking as well.
Price: Fairly expensive.
- El Mercado de la Reina: the best Spanish cooking around.
Price: Fairly expensive price.
- Bazaar: offers both international and national dishes. Presented beautifully.
- The famous secret Chinese restaurant in La Plaza de España: amazing Chinese food. It doesn’t look like much but the food is something else. To find it you have to go down towards the parking they have in the square.
- Lateral: tapas and typical Spanish dishes.
Price: Fairly cheap.
- St. James: the best rice dishes in Madrid. Caution: it is expensive but if you want proper Spanish rice dishes, then this is the place to go.
- La Latina: this isn't a restaurant as such, it’s a place in Madrid where you can find loads of nice places to eat, all for a very good price.
- Carmencita Bar: the best brunch in Madrid (well, the best I’ve had anyway). Only open at the weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).
- La Bicicleta: breakfast, lunch, snacks or a bite after work.
- El Jardín del Romanticismo: inside a museum of the same name you'll find this quaint little cafe with the best cakes I've had in Madrid.
Is the nightlife good in Madrid? Where is good to go?
In Madrid there are all kinds of different nights out and once again it offers something for everyone. The cheapest, and far from the worst clubs can be found in Sol and Malasaña.
Chueca is the gay part of the city. There are lively clubs with amazing shows and great music, and whether you’re gay or not, I’d like to see anyone go out here for some drinks at least one night and then tell me they didn't have a good time.
El Independance, Cuenca Club, Moma, Ocho y Medio are all great clubs too.
What advice would you give future students heading to Madrid?
Madrid sleeps when you do. There is always something you could be doing, a place you should be visiting, or somewhere you need to go out to eat.
The public transport is really efficient but walking is the best way to get around, and do a bit of exercise at the same time. You’ll never get tired of walking around this beautiful city.
In Madrid you can get up early grab a coffee and head to uni, then come back home at 2 in the morning still wanting to do and see more.
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