Hello everybody! Today, I want to introduce you to Paul from Take Ya There, a 25-year-old writer currently trying to blend in as a madrileño. He’s going to take you on a trip to some of the Spanish capital’s lesser-known gems. Here are his top 5 secret things to do in Madrid!
Perhaps the greatest dilemma facing a travel writer today is whether or not to give up a truly well-kept secret. Sure, while we want to share the love and rave about all kinds of great little places – hidden cafés, underground bars, and rooftop clubs you’d never dream of finding – in doing so, we are essentially ruining what we love so much (it’s a secret!) and inviting a wave of invaders to spoil all the fun.
That being said, sometimes it just feels good to let others in on a few of the places that can make a city truly special. Of all the cities in the world, Madrid, Spain surely has more than its fair share of incredible bars, restaurants, and cafés. Madrid is perhaps the most vivacious city in the world – a city where dinner starts late and is less of a sit-down-meal and more of a moveable feast of tapas, with a procession of well-suited drinks to boot.
It should then come as no surprise that when list great things to do in Madrid, they all revolve around food and drink. This list may look basic (a dive bar, rooftop restaurant, and university library), but each spot is in a different neighborhood, or barrio, of the city. All of them take you to a well-known area of the city and showcase something important. Perhaps they’ll even uncover something you didn’t know existed.
The true test of any guide’s recommendation can be measured once you’ve finished. Any city will tend to look the same through a guise of dimly lit restaurants and resort hotel rooms. Istanbul, New York, and Buenos Aires all feel the same inside a Ritz (one imagines). But take a stroll and follow a well-designed guide, and you’re sure to experience a kaleidoscope of colors, sights, and cultures which only that city can offer.
Madrid is no different, so to experience a bit of everything here, seek out these 5 spots:
1.) El Palentino
A true madrileño dive bar – on the weekend this bar is packed as the smoky smell of bacon and thin steaks on the grill fills the bar and mixes with the raucous laughter and clinking of glasses for a brindis or cheers. Elderly bar men quickly pour incredibly cheap classics like gin & tonic and rum & coke for €3 to the delight of all.
El Palentino. Calle Pez, 12, 28004 Madrid, Spain. Near metro Noviciado.
2) Bar Pontepez
Pontepez is set just around the corner from the Palentino and is a warm and welcoming little hole-in-the-wall bar. There’s a loyal hoard of customers who pile in again and again for the small plates of Spanish fare with a clever twist. The vibe here is one you won’t find anywhere else – it’s almost as if a gastro bar and a dive bar had a baby.
They serve dishes like potatoes, mushrooms, and a fried egg with truffle oil. Or try the crunchy chicken: a plate of chicken slices soaked in coconut milk and curry powder, then covered in corn flakes and fried up. Come by on a weekend for a good time. The food is unique and whipped up by the grunting chef in the back while the bartender smiles and cranks up the eclectic music.
Bar Pontepez. Calle Pez, 8 28004 Madrid, Spain. Near metro Noviciado.
3.) Bar Pittu
Set in the upscale and shopper’s dream suburb Salamanca (not to be confused with the famous town two hours from Madrid), this bar has an elegant bar feel straight from the north of Spain. Their speciality is Basque pintxos, small tapas of bread with brilliant toppings like smoked salmon, cream, and blackberries, or a skewer of grilled mushroom, caramelized onions, and crispy jamón ibérico.
Bar Pittu. Calle de Claudio Coello, 30 28001 Madrid, Spain. Near metro Serrano.
4.) Gau & Cafe
Maybe Madrid’s best kept secret, this hip terrace bar and restaurant sits on top of the local university library and is plopped right in the middle of the lively, bohemian barrio of Lavapiés. Look for the ruins of the escuela pías and you’ll find it’s been converted into a sophisticated library and bookstore. The restaurant is on the top floor.
Gau & Cafe. Calle Tributelete, 14 4ª planta 28012 Madrid, Spain. Near metro Lavapiés.
5.) Mercado San Antón
OK, this one’s no secret at all! Madrid boasts two world-class markets, the Mercado de San Antón and the Mercado de San Miguel. Both showcase some of the city’s incredible food, produce, desserts, olive oils, and wines. While you should peek into both, visiting the San Antón market will mean you’ve strolled the lively district of Chueca – the gay neighborhood and home to some of the best bars and restaurants.
The market has three floors. The first is a standard market, the second a bevy of restaurants and wine bars. On the top floor you’ll find the luxurious open air terrace, perfect for a drink in the sun.
Mercado de San Antón. Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24 28004 Madrid, Spain. Near metro Chueca.