Unlocking Madrid: 20 Insider Tips for a Memorable Experience

Updated on 14 Aug 2023

Even for the most avid globetrotters like me, Lizzy, a travel enthusiast, committing errors is almost inevitable when exploring an uncharted city. However, these blunders can be significantly minimized with a touch of advanced planning. In this blog post, I will be sharing essential do’s and don’ts for your journey to the stunning capital of Spain, Madrid. This majestic city brims with remarkable sights to see and unique experiences to relish, but it’s also a place where one can easily commit cultural missteps. Therefore, I’ll be guiding you through the common pitfalls tourists should dodge in Madrid to prevent any discomfort or embarrassment.

Madrid Travel Guide: 20 Essential Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s in Madrid:

Madrid Tips

Partake in the local cuisine: Madrid is known for its culinary delights. Try traditional dishes like paella, tapas, and churros con chocolate.

Enjoy the art: Visit the “Golden Triangle of Art” which includes three of Madrid’s most important art museums: the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Experience the nightlife: Madrid’s nightlife is known to be vibrant and diverse. Enjoy an evening in a traditional flamenco bar or a modern dance club.

Discover Madrid’s parks: Spend an afternoon in the beautiful Retiro Park or the Botanical Gardens, both offer a peaceful respite from the busy city.

Learn some Spanish phrases: While many people in Madrid speak English, locals appreciate when visitors make an effort to use the Spanish language.

Respect local customs and traditions: Attend local festivals, observe local customs, and always show respect for the city’s history and culture.

Visit local markets: Madrid’s markets, like El Rastro and Mercado de San Miguel, are perfect for finding unique items and experiencing the local culture.

Don’ts in Madrid:

Madrid Do's and Don'ts

Avoid disrupting the siesta: Even if you do not take part in this midday rest, respect the quiet hours from 3-5pm. Keep noise levels low during this time.

Dress appropriately: Madrid is a city that values appearances. Avoid wearing flip flops unless you’re by the pool, and resist the urge to wear shorts before summer. Opt for sturdier, stylish footwear and comfortable, chic city clothes.

Follow local dining hours: The Spanish eat lunch and dinner later than most cultures. A good rule of thumb is to not eat lunch before 1pm or dinner before 9pm.

Breakfast customs differ: In Spain, eggs are typically not a breakfast food. Try a traditional breakfast of tosta con tomate – a baguette slice with tomato, olive oil, and salt.

Be mindful of dining locations: Avoid dining in the Plaza Mayor as the food can be overpriced. Grab a coffee or beer and enjoy the views, then head elsewhere to eat.

Guard your belongings: While Madrid is generally safe, tourists can be targets for pickpockets. Be vigilant, especially in crowded places.

Leave your passport in a safe place: It’s better to leave your passport in your hotel safe to avoid the hassle of getting a replacement if it’s lost or stolen.

Mind your language: Be careful with Spanish-English false cognates. For instance, saying you’re ’embarazada’ means you’re pregnant, not embarrassed!

Drink responsibly: While it’s socially acceptable to drink at any hour in Spain, it’s not common to get excessively drunk. Enjoy a drink when you feel like it, but always in moderation.

Enjoy food sharing culture: Spanish food culture encourages sharing, especially tapas and raciones. Order a variety and share with your companions for a true local dining experience.

Embrace the local term ‘guiri’: Don’t take offense if locals call you a ‘guiri’, a colloquial term for foreigners. They usually mean it in a good-natured way, showing their hospitality and eagerness to interact.

Don’t neglect the local football culture: Even if you’re not a fan, experiencing a match at the Santiago Bernabeu or Wanda Metropolitano can be quite the cultural event.

Wrapping up Madrid’s Must-Dos and Avoidable Faux Pas

As a seasoned travel enthusiast, I, Lizzy, can confidently tell you that the true essence of a place is best captured by immersing oneself in its local customs and habits. The 20 do’s and don’ts I’ve shared about Madrid should serve as your practical roadmap, enhancing your trip to this grand city while ensuring you avoid common missteps. Remember, travel is about exploration, discovery, and above all, respect for the cultures we are privileged to encounter. Happy travels, and I hope Madrid will charm you just as much as it did me.

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