Discovering Madrid's secret spots like a local


3 minute read
Updated on 14 Nov 2023

When you are considering European countries for your upcoming international exchange, you’ll definitely want to learn more about Spain and what this vibrant country has to offer. Full of well-known universities, along with cultural experiences like no other place on earth, Spain can be the perfect destination for your studies. However, while Spain boasts a number of exciting locales, including the world-renowned Barcelona, yet another city might come to mind as you begin your quest for the best place to spend a semester or two.

Madrid is not only the largest city in Spain, but it is also its capital. If you are even thinking about relocating to Madrid, you’ll be blown away by the exhilarating things that it can offer to students of all different nationalities. Of course, you can learn about its state-of-the-art university facilities, visit its outstanding monuments, dine on delicious foods and revel in one of the best party scenes that you can imagine.

But let’s toss out the guidebooks and learn more about the real Madrid. Before long, you’ll be seeing Madrid right through the eyes of the locals. Are you ready?

When hunger calls

It’s common to hear that one of the best things about living in Madrid is the food. Spanish delights abound, whether you want to dine at a well-established restaurant or at one of the newer, trendier options that line the most popular student areas of the city.

However, you haven’t actually eaten in Madrid unless you’ve had an octopus sandwich in the Plaza Mayor. Piled high on fresh bread, if any item could be dubbed the “official sandwich of Madrid,” it would definitely be this delicious morsel. But beware, because we’ve heard that it can be nearly addicting!

If you’d like a more traditional dining experience, there are numerous restaurants with very reasonable prices. A popular spot is Pez Tortilla, which offers tortillas and croquetas, made with a variety of fresh ingredients and tasty fillings, including Nutella.

Now, if you have a sweet tooth, you are definitely in the right city. There are many fantastic places to get ice cream in Madrid, but San Ginés is practically famous for its chocolatiers, but the locals know the best tasty treat. During your time in Madrid, it should be mandatory to indulge in the chocolate-covered churros, the ideal snack to take on-the-go as you run to the university for your final exams.

Sights to see

During your stay in Madrid, there are so many places you should visit that you’ll find that you’re filling up your weekends with explorations of your current home, dragging along your new-found friends as company. But with so much to do, where should you start?

Everyone should spend a fair amount of time at Buen Retiro Park, which is considered to be the Central Park of Madrid. Built in the 17th century, this gorgeous green space makes its visitors feel as if they are stepping back in time to enjoy this wondrous area. But even though this park is very well-known, it still has its secrets to keep. Located at the south end of Retiro, there is an outdoor habitat for peacocks, where you can approach these beautiful creatures and even feed them. This is a fantastic place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the university, even if for an hour or two.

To go even further back in history, be sure to visit the Temple of Debod, which is a set of Egyptian temples and monuments that were moved from Egypt and reassembled in Madrid. While this is a fascinating place during the day when you can enter the spaces and learn about their history, it is absolutely magical at sunset, and should not be missed!

Yet another intriguing place to visit is the Royal Palace of Madrid, which is one of the homes of the Spanish Royal Family. While this interesting attraction offers tours and plenty of ways to learn about this building’s significance, it’s also a memorable sight to see under the moonlight.

And when you’re riding the city’s Metro, look out for the Chamberí station and its nearly etheric, ghost-like presence. The train no longer stops at this station, but it does rumble through it, offering a quick glimpse at its mystery. If you’d like a closer look, though, you can enter its museum and peruse to your heart’s content.

Dance until dawn

What is it they say about all work and no play? Well, you won’t have that problem in this city. Madrid is known throughout Europe for its colorful, energetic nightlife scene, full of discos and dynamic spots to have a drink or try out your dance moves.

If you're looking for the most exclusive club, sporting seven different floors with multiple themes and music genres (including karaoke), then make Teatro Kapital your favorite new hangout. If you consider yourself to be a bit of a “hipster”, then head over to the well-liked student district of Malasaña, which is known for its bars and popular meeting places.

Finally, if you’re hoping to rub elbows with the elite in Madrid, then a visit to Vanila118 should definitely be on your agenda. Expect to find athletes, actors and actresses, socialites, models and other up-and-comers sipping champagne or a perfectly-concocted martini. Patrons may hit the L-shaped dance floor or perch on velvet chairs on a raised platform so that they don’t miss a moment of the action!

As you contemplate the next few months of your life and plan to pack up for your next big adventure, you’ll find that Madrid can offer plenty of extraordinary opportunities for your international exchange. Several months before you leave, be sure to search a trusted housing platform to find a room that suits your needs, and be ready for one of the best experiences of your entire life!

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