Madrid On a Budget
Madrid's climate is relatively dry with a hot and dry summer season and a cold winter with occasional snowfall. Spring and fall are moderate in temperature but do get the most rain. These are the best times to visit as the temperatures are comfortable and you avoid some of the summer crowds.
SightsThere are many historic and cultural sights throughout Madrid. Don't miss the Museo del Prado, which has an excellent collection of art, perhaps one of the best in the world. Also visit the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), and Plaza Mayor, the most famous plaza in Madrid. Take in a Flamenco show and have a meal of tapas. Both are quintessential Spanish experiences. Also head over to Mercado de San Miguel, which is an impressive indoor market in Madrid. Parks are great places to pass time in Madrid as well. It's fun to people watch and simply relax in the sun. Some of the most popular parks include El Retiro Park, Parque del Capricho, and La Casa de Campo.
NeighborhoodsMadrid has a diverse population with many interesting and unique neighborhoods. Some of the most interesting include Alonso Martinez, with its many pubs and clubs, Barrio de las Letras, with its rich history and Plaza de Santa Ana, and Chueca, with its eclectic shops and trendy cafes. Tribunal and Conde Duque are known for their rock and pop music clubs. Gran Via is also a popular area for nightclubs. La Latina is where you want to go to try tapas. Nearby Lavapies is an ethnic area with a large population of African, Asian and Latin American residents. Both Moncloa and Ciudad Universitaria have large student populations.
ActivitiesPopular activities around Madrid include Flamenco shows, concerts, the opera, football (soccer), bullfighting and basketball. Any of these activites offer visitors a unique experience and are worth checking out. Popular festivals include La Transhumancia, which is a yearly event when shepherds take over the city with their sheep and livestock for the day. La Paloma is a huge street party in the La Latina neighborhood. The bars play music and food stalls line Carrera de San Francisco.
Food and DiningMadrid has typical Spanish cuisine with a few local specialties as well. Some of the local dishes include Gallinejas and entresijos, which is lamb that is fried in its own fat, Callos a la Madrilena, a spicy beef tripe dish, and Cocido Madrileno, which is a chickpea soup. There's also great seafood available, which is a little surprising given the city's inland location. It can be expensive though.
Paella is a popular dish in Madrid, but if you're going to try it, go ahead and pay for a good restaurants. The more budget options found in the Sol and Plaza Mayor areas are not good and are best avoided. Instead head to the La Latina neighborhood where you'll find some great restaurants. For take away food that is good, go to the shops along Calle Arenal.
Lunch is usually served late, around 2pm or 3pm and dinner isn't served until 9pm or 10pm. Some touristy restaurants may serve meals earlier, but in general this is the norm. Bars generally stay open all day long and offer tapas and bocadillos for a good price. Fast food chains are also open around town all day.
TransportationThe best prices for buses and trains in Spain can be found on Omio (formerly GoEuro). They let you search across all train, bus, and plane routes throughout Europe.
Within Madrid there is a wonderful public transportation network that successfully integrates the bus and subway systems together. It is also one of the largest transit networks in Europe, and is one of the best ways to travel around the city with relative ease. While taxis are another option, they can be surprising difficult to find as there are few taxi stands around town. Particularly during the late hours on weekends or during rainstorms, you're less likely to find a taxi with ease. Driving yourself around this city is incredibly frustrating and not at all recommended unless you are familiar with the city and it's traffic patterns. With such a successful public transit system, there is little need to drive in Madrid, so it is best avoided.
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