My Madrid – Josh of Spain for Pleasure

Welcome back to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other people’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today’s post comes from Josh, who moved to Spain at the tender age of 23 and now calls Granada home. It is here where he has developed an ever-growing appetite for Spanish food, culture, lifestyle and Spanish as a language. You can follow his adventures, misadventures and everyday expat musings at spainforpleasure.com or his part-time travel endeavors at cheekyjaunt.com.

josh spain for pleasure

Hi Josh! So, tell us about your experience with Madrid.

I’ve never lived in Madrid. I’ve only visited twice and both of those occasions were far too short-lived. I spent most of my time wandering the colorful Lavapies bario and consuming vast quantities of curry-based tapas and beer buckets– also in Lavapies.

Well that doesn’t sound half bad! How was your first impression?

Unfortunately it was raining the first time I visited, which sort of put a dampener on things. However, I always think a bit of rain makes for a true test of a city’s character; if you still enjoy yourself despite being soaked to the bone then you know you’re on to a winner. I enjoyed myself enough to go back several months later when, thankfully, it was no longer raining.

madrid palacio real

Though we love Madrid rain or shine, the sun always brings out the best of the city!

What is one thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing?

Visiting El Bernabeu. Even if you’re not a football fan or you prefer Barca to Real Madrid, it is worth seeing, even just for the stadium tour. I am yet to go to a game, but I am told that the atmosphere is incomparable to that of English football matches. El clásico or the Atlético Madrid derby is the dream fixture for every Spanish football fan.

Do you have a favorite Madrid experience?

My favorite and most memorable experience– on each of those two occasions I have visited –is simply ambling around the Mercado de San Miguel– an indoor food market in the city centre. Since I have lived in Spain I have become something of an olive obsessive, and I have never tasted better than at the San Miguel market. They were enormous and stuffed or skewered with all sorts of other savory flavors, from jamón serrano to creamy Izbores goat’s milk cheese. All of my favorite experiences are usually to do with food.

San Miguel Market

Fruits and vegetables on display at the San Miguel Market.

We love the Mercado de San Miguel, too! In fact, that olive booth is a stop on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour!

Now, how about your favorite Madrid meal?

Menu del día. Paella for starter, lomo/pescado a la plancha for mains and either a lemony yogurt or fruit salad for dessert.

What would be your ideal night out in Madrid?

One ideally planned by a local, and a local who you can trust. That first experience in Madrid was slightly blemished by the hasty and regrettable decision to sign up for an organized bar crawl. As tourists with no friends in Madrid (at the time) we really had no clue about where to go– and this was before I used blog posts as a reference for EVERYTHING – so the idea was a last resort. Huge mistake. We were led to the crappiest, showiest bars, given the most vile shots to drink (included in the €10 sign-up fee) and then made to wait for anyone who had paid €10 extra for a free bar tab whilst our ears were ruthlessly humped by the most tedious Spanish chart music imaginable. And it was raining outside (which wasn’t there fault but I blamed it on them anyway). So yeah, hook up with a blogger or open group on CouchSurfing and let them take you out…

Favorite day trip from Madrid?

So many options here. If I had to choose, which clearly I do, I’d go for Segovia. On a nice day, there aren’t many other better sights in Spain. The ancient Roman aqueduct is a vast, imposing example of architectural brilliance, and the food, at least when I went two years ago, is to die for. There I go again with the food, which, to be completely honest, is great everywhere in Spain.

Words of wisdom! Thanks so much, Josh! Let us know next time you’re in Madrid and we will set you up to redeem your rough first night out. With the right guidance, it’s almost impossible to have a bad time in Madrid! 

Eating in San Sebastian

best pintxo bars in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is one of Spain’s most popular food destinations, known for its wide variety of pintxos and Michelin Star dining. From cheap local eats to the finest of fine dining, this small seaside city truly offers a bit of everything. We can’t claim to be experts on eating in San Sebastian (we’re working on it with frequent visits, however!) but here are some of our tips, along with recommendations from our fellow food blogging friends!

Pintxo Bars in San Sebastian

For those unfamiliar with this strange word, all you need to know is that pinxtos are a food lover’s dream come true. Similar to tapas (small portions of food), pintxos are often (but not always) spiked with a toothpick and served atop bread. Displayed on top of the bar, it is common practice to take a plate and help yourself, and later tell the bartender how much you’ve eaten.

Bar Haizea: When a place is said to be the favorite of San Sebastian legend, Juan Mari Arzak, you go there. A humble pintxo bar, the explosion of flavors is almost unexpected. Order the foie gras!

Bar haizea foie gras

Bar Azkena: Crammed between market stands in the modern food market at La Bretxa mall, this tiny place has about five pintxos on display. Don’t let the lack of selection turn you off, as the food is gorgeous, prices are low, and the flavors are spot on.

La Viña: While their pintxos are likely delicious, La Vina is known among sweet lovers for having the best cheesecake in San Sebastian. Squeeze into the corner of one of their wooden tables, and order a slice or two of their delicious, light and fluffy version.

cheesecake la vina san sebastian

For a Famous Basque T-Bone (Txuleta)

Casa Urola: Small and cozy yet at the same time refined, this restaurant makes you feel loved as you walk up the stairs to the intimate dining room. Order the bloody T-Bone for two, and share the green beans with hake as a starter. Save room for desserts, as they’re some of the best in town!

best txuleta san sebastian

Txuleta: One of the city’s most popular steak restaurants. Make sure to reserve in advance as its key location in the old town makes it tough to score a table in its rustic dining room.

Food Bloggers’ Favorites

A Fuego Negro: The Inquisitive Couple’s pick for ” the most innovative pintxos bar in Donostia”.

Borda Berri: Eat Your World recommends this popular bar for their cod tempura and foie gras on toast.

Casa Gandarias: For a mix of classic and creative, this is where you’ll find Foodie International who calls it her “favorite pintxo bar on the strip”.

Bar Goiz Argi: The Boy Who Ate The World recommends the shrimp skewers and the smoked salmon with anchovies at this top rated San Sebastian pintxos bar.

La Cuchara de San Telmo: On nearly every blogger’s “must” list, but the picture of their foie gras on Pig Pig’s Corner makes our mouths water!

Bar Nestor: And if you want to try the most classic of Spanish dishes (done right) take Marti Kilpatrick’s tip for AFAR and line up for Bar Nestor, the city’s most famous place for tortilla de patatas (Spanish potato omelet).

We certainly hope to be eating in San Sebastian again very soon, to be able to try all of these recommendations and more! If you stumble upon a must-visit pintxos bar in San Sebastian while there, please leave us a comment and we’ll add it to the list!

My Madrid – Chelsea of Andalucía Bound

Welcome to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other people’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today’s post comes from Chelsea of the Spain blog Andalucía Bound

chelsea andalucia bound

The lovely Chelsea!

Hi Chelsea! So, tell us, what is your experience with Madrid? 

I’ve been to Madrid three different times as a tourist in both winter and summer, and a bunch of times to catch flights. Most of those times I met up with people I knew there, so part of my time was spent with them and part of my time was spent wandering alone. Once I went with my best friends for a few days before heading to Amsterdam.

How was your first impression of the city?

My first impression was great! It was Christmastime so all of the beautiful lights were hung and it felt really magical. I loved how easy it was to navigate the metro, and I also liked that I knew I’d be back in a couple of weeks so I didn’t feel pressure to see and do everything. I was really able to relax and enjoy the beautiful architecture and just absorb the feeling of Madrid. I was surprised buy how clean and quiet it was compared to NYC and I really liked that.

How to Celebrate New Year's Eve in Madrid

Beautiful Madrid at Christmas time

What is one thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing?

Every time I’m in Madrid I make sure to eat somewhere that has international food, even if that just means Wok to Walk. Since I’ve been living in small towns in southern Spain for the past three years, international cuisine is really hard to come by! Next time I go, I’m on the hunt for a good Mexican place.

Do you have a favorite Madrid experience?

My favorite Madrid experience was probably two summers ago when I was there with my best friend and the morning after a late night we grabbed some sandwiches and took a nap in El Retiro park. It was so sunny and beautiful and it felt great to be in a big green space, something I didn’t have in my little town.

Parque Retiro

Everyday is a good day for a stroll in Retiro

Name your favorite Madrid meal.

The best meal I had in Madrid was probably this pad thai that I ordered at a place called Phucket (can’t forget that name), I think near Atocha. I went with a friend of mine, and we each had wine, an entree and dessert for less than 20€ each which surprised me for being in Madrid.

What would be your ideal night out in Madrid?

An ideal night out for me would be something pretty chill. I’m not one for big discotecas- super expensive drinks/covers, flashing lights and throbbing techno make me cringe. I much prefer a more relaxed atmosphere, enjoying some drinks outside maybe, being able to talk, but in a neighborhood with other bars around so we could bar hop if we wanted and maybe end up at a fun place with some dancing.

Favorite day trip from Madrid?

As for my favorite day trip from Madrid, I couldn’t say as I’ve never been there long enough to be able to take a day trip. I’d really like to visit Toledo though. I’m hoping to move to Madrid next year actually, so I’m looking forward to day tripping from there!

Thanks so much for giving us your perspective, Chelsea! Next time you’re in town, you’ll have to hop on one of our Food Tours so we can return the favor! 

My Madrid – Kate of Tales of a Brit Abroad

Welcome to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other people’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today’s post comes from Kate of the Spain blog Tales of a Brit Abroad. Originally from Preston in the UK, Kate has been under Spain’s spell ever since she spent a year living near Seville as part of her Spanish degree. Now living in Madrid, she works as an editor and spends her spare time blogging, eating and drinking her way around the city.

Follow Kate at: @katebritabroad

Tales of a Brit Abroad

Kate

1. Tell us your history with Madrid?

I first moved to Madrid in 2009 when I found a job here for a year. When that contract ended, I returned to the UK, but work brought me back here in March 2013. I was living in Oxford and had the choice of relocating to London or Madrid, and instead of moving just an hour away, I chose to come back to Madrid. I mean, it’s sunnier and cheaper than London: you can’t argue with that!

2. You definitely can’t! What was your first impression of Madrid?

I remember visiting a friend who lived here back in 2007 and I was drawn in by the hustle and bustle of the city on a Saturday night. Having previously lived in Seville (the city that still has my heart, I must admit), Madrid seemed like a huge, buzzing metropolis, moving at a completely different pace to the southern city. I knew I could certainly never be bored here!

3. One thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing?

Some of the ‘classics’ on a Madrid itinerary, such as a walk in the Retiro, are classics for a reason. I think it’s well worth getting off the beaten track as well though, and trying a few alternatives such as checking out the exhibitions at the Matadero rather than one of the big galleries. The architecture of this restored slaughterhouse and cattle market is stunning (and amazingly photogenic). In summer, you can’t beat a rooftop drink at the Círculo de Bellas Artes. The terrace has the best views of the city (and beyond to the mountains in the sierra) and, once you’ve paid the €3 entry fee, the drinks aren’t too badly priced compared to similar bars.

4. We love the Círculo de Bellas Artes! Any other favorite Madrid experience?

I love hiring a bike and cycling down by Madrid Rio and into Casa de Campo, stopping off at cafés along the way. On a less active note, one of my favourite things to do in Madrid is meet friends in the city’s different neighbourhoods and see how the afternoon or evening unfolds. With such a high concentration of bars and restaurants, there’s always something new to discover, and the prices are low enough in many areas that one quick drink can easily turn into an all-nighter!

Madrid bloggers

5. Favorite meal in Madrid?

It’s got to be Naia in Plaza de la Paja. The setting and service are excellent, there’s a good wine list and the modern Spanish/European food they serve is just divine. And as for dessert: Oreo cheesecake may sound childish, but their spin on it is heavenly.

6. We will have to check it out! Do you have any insider tip on bars/restaurants in Madrid?

Although the most famous street to taste tapas is Calle de la Cava Baja, it can get ridiculously crowded at weekends with tourists and locals alike. Calle Ponzano in Chamberí is emerging as another key address for tapas bars. There’s a good balance of traditional and modern places, and my favourite in the latter category has to be Sala de Despiece. It’s modelled on the backroom of a (very high-tech) butchers’, which should turn off a non-meat eater like me, but the menu is full of interestingly-prepared dishes made with high quality ingredients – and caters well to pescetarians and vegetarians!

Sala de Despiece

7. What’s your idea of the perfect night out in Madrid?

For me, it’s got to be Malasaña. It might not be a particularly original choice, but I like the relaxed-but-cool atmosphere and the bars and restaurants that are emerging month by month. I particularly like the Tribal area for restaurants like Bar Galleta and Clarita and the combination of bares manolos (traditional places) like Palentino alongside the hip cocktail bars like Dry on Calle Pez. Anything goes in Malasaña – I guess it reminds me of the UK in that respect!

8. Favorite day trip from Madrid?

While I love visiting the grand monuments in Segovia and Toledo, my favorite day trip is the more low-key town of Manzanares el Real, in the sierra north of Madrid. It’s compact and easy to explore in a day without feeling like you have to rush round ticking off sights. It’s located by a lake, so it’s perfect for summertime lounging. There’s also a castle, which is well worth exploring, and plenty of restaurants with terraces if the weather’s good (and cozy dining rooms if it’s not).

A lakeside day sounds heavenly with this summer heat! Thank you so much for sharing your Madrid tips Kate!

Would you like to be featured in the My Madrid series? Get in touch! And for a locals look at a food lover’s Madrid, sign up for one of our tempting food tours!

 

My Madrid – Jessica of Barcelona Blonde

Welcome to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other blogger’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today we’re talking to the lovely Jessica from the fantastic blog and video series, Barcelona Blonde. Check her out on Twitter and Facebook too!

what to do in Madrid

The beautiful Jess from Barcelona Blonde!

Hi Jess! So, what has your experience been like in Madrid? 

I’ve only been to Madrid for quick weekend trips, but I would love to go back soon! In total, I’ve probably spent about two weeks there and that’s definitely not enough time to see everything it has to offer.

You definitely have to hop over and let us show you around! How was your first impression? 

I really liked Madrid. I’m a city girl, and this one has everything going for it – amazing museums, pretty buildings, lively street life, gorgeous parks, great markets, and more. It’s got a great pace and vibe to it.

We totally agree! What is one thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing? 

Ana Botella might think the best thing to do is have a “café con leche in the Plaza Mayor” (the Madrid highlight the city chose to promote for their Olympic bid), but I can’t believe she didn’t say the museums! Madrid has world-class museums, and because they’re all so close together it’s easy to hop from one to the next. As a bonus, entry is usually very cheap or even free depending on the day.

Do you have a favorite Madrid experience? 

I really enjoyed going to the Rastro flea market. I haven’t seen anything else quite like it, and I found some amazing Spanish leather goods there for really cheap prices. I’m also a big fan of picnics in the Retiro park. It’s so relaxing and pretty!

el rastro what to do in madrid

Searching for treasures in El Rastro market

Picnics in Retiro are the best! Now, onto the foodie stuff: name your favorite Madrid meal.

I had a really tasty fish sandwich drizzled in Spanish olive oil from a restaurant serving food out the window during El Rastro. I wish I could remember where it was from, it was such a great mix of salty and olive oil flavors.

The other great place I ate was the Mercado San Miguel, which is just packed with amazing food.

Generally, the quality of food I had in Madrid was excellent. There’s some great eating to be done!

That’s our favorite part about our city! What would be your ideal night out in Madrid?

Hmm…I love a good night out! Walking around the city center squares and feeling the buzz of Spanish nightlife is a great way to start off. My friend who lived there took me to Populart for very good live jazz music. I’ve also heard there’s a legendary 7-story club that I didn’t make it to on any of my last three trips; I wouldn’t turn down a night out there either.

Favorite day trip from Madrid?

Even though I’m no expert on Madrid day trips, I have traveled quite a bit around Spain and Segovia is one of my favorite places I’ve been. It’s a pretty little cobblestoned city with a fairytale castle (the Disney castle is said to be inspired by the Segovia one) and a Roman aqueduct that still works.

I’ve also heard great things about Toledo day trips from Madrid, but my parents had the nerve to go without me :) I’m joking, although I do wish I could have gone with them.

retiro what to do in madrid

We love strolling through Retiro as much as Jess does!

Thanks so much, Jessica! Let us know next time you’re in Madrid and we will show you all of our favorite spots!

Complete Vegan and Vegetarian Guide to Madrid

Mushrooms vegetarian food in Madrid

A city known for jamón, manchego cheese and sautéed pigs ears can be very off-putting to a vegan or vegetarian, but don’t let our meat-loving reputation deter you from visiting Spain’s capital. Though the bull-fighting fans still fill the bars near the Plaza de Santa Ana, the younger Madrid crowd is moving away from their country’s bloody history and on to a more healthy and environmentally conscious lifestyle. In the city center you can almost always find a vegan or vegetarian tapa option, if not a whole menu, when you stop by one of Madrid’s vegan or vegetarian cafés and restaurants.

Being vegetarian in Madrid is surprisingly easy if you know where to go and what to order, and being a vegan isn’t much harder as long as you do a bit of advanced planning and learn a few phrases. We’ve put together an all-inclusive vegan and vegetarian guide to Madrid to help you out.

Key Words and Phrases

vegetarian guide to Madrid

Don’t worry, you’ll eat more than just this while in Madrid!

When you have dietary restrictions it’s important to understand exactly what you are ordering, a task that seems impossible in a country where you may not speak the language. It doesn’t have to be difficult, we say. Just print out our list of key words and phrases and pop it in your pocket for a quick translation of any menu. If your Spanish is more than a little rusty, just write down the phrases we’ve provided on a piece of paper and hand it to your waiter…he should be more than happy to help!

  • I am vegan – “Yo soy vegano/a” 
  • I am vegetarian - “Yo soy vegetariano/a”
  • I don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy products – “Yo no como ni carne, ni pescado, ni huevos, ni productos lacteos” 
  • Can you recommend me something tasty please? – “¿Me recomiendas algo rico por favor?”
  • I can’t eat… – “Yo no puedo comer…” 
  • Meat – Carne 
  • Pork – Cerdo
  • Fish – Pescado 
  • Seafood – Marisco 
  • Milk – Leche 
  • Cheese – Queso 
  • Butter – Mantequilla 
  • Cream – Nata 
  • Egg – Huevo 
  • Honey – Miel 
  • I can eat… – “Yo puedo comer…” 
  • Vegetables – Verduras 
  • Salad – Ensalada 
  • Beans – Judías/Habichuelas/Alubias 
  • Lentils – Lentejas 
  • Soy – Soja 
  • Soy milk – Leche de soja 
  • Almonds – Almendras 
  • Nuts – Nueces 
  • Rice – Arroz 
  • Oil – Aceite 
  • Bread – Pan 
  • Mushrooms – Champiñones/Setas 
  • Spinach – Espinaca 
  • Fruit – Fruta 

Tapas

One of the most important parts of Spanish food culture is the tapa, and knowing what to order as a vegan or vegetarian can be tricky in a crowded bar. No need to worry, there are plenty of delicious animal-free options to choose from; check out our favorites below.

vegetarian restaurants in Madrid

  • Tempura de verdura: Batter-fried vegetables are usually a safe and delicious bet for vegans in Madrid, just be sure to double check that the batter is egg-free (¿la masa lleva huevo?). A lot of times, tempura veggies will be served with a yogurt sauce, so ask if that can be substituted with salmorejo sin huevo y jamón for dipping.
  • Pimientos de padrón: A favorite among all our vegan and vegetarian friends, these fried green peppers are a real treat and can be found in most tapas bars in the center. They come out of the kitchen with a slightly crispy skin, tender inside and a dusting of sea salt, making for a succulent start to dinner.  
  • Berejenas: Strict vegans will have to pass on the berejenas con miel, or lightly fried eggplant with honey, but no worries; you can always ask for the traditionally North African plate sin miel, or con salmorejo vegetariano to spice it up.
  • Patatas bravas: Another tapa you can find in almost any bar, patatas bravas consists of flash fried potatoes with a spicy tomato and paprika sauce and is sinfully delicious. Authentic patatas will be mayonaise-free, but double check that yours are sin mayonesa before digging in.
  • Setas al ajillo: It’s easy to be vegan in Madrid with mouth-watering veggie dishes like these garlic-sautéed mushrooms. Made with mushrooms, a healthy amount of olive oil, white wine and lots of garlic, setas al ajillo is one of the most hearty dishes vegans can order at a tapas bar. This plate will often come with jamón, so make sure your waiter you know you want a plato vegetariano and you won’t have a problem.
  • Pan con tomate: Always a safe bet for breakfast or tapas, this dish takes toast to a whole new level. Perfectly toasted bread is rubbed with garlic, drizzled with good olive oil and slathered in fresh tomato, making for a belly-filling and very tasty bite.
  • Gazpacho: If you’re visiting Madrid in the summer time, you’ll be offered fresh gazpacho nearly everywhere you go. This refreshing soup (or drink, depending how you choose to enjoy it), is tomato-based and spiced up with plenty of garlic, crusty bread, vinegar, cucumber, pepper and onion all thrown in a blender. It is the perfect pick me up on a hot day and, even better, it’s totally vegan.
  • Salteada de verduras: Vegetable stir-fry is a go-to dish for all vegans, and vegans in Madrid are no different. Here chefs use great local olive oil and garlic to make the plate extra special, and will sometimes even use a little flour to thicken the sauce. It’s a little harder to find veggie stir-fry in tapas bars, but any sit down restaurant will happily serve it to you if you ask nicely.
  • Falafel: Spain is very influenced by Arab culture, food and art, and many fusion tapas bars in Madrid offer falafel on their menus. Better yet, you can pick up falafel at any 24 hour kebab after a late night on the incredible Madrid party scene.
  • Lentejas: Lentils are one of our favorite dishes, especially in the winter. Spanish chefs make excellent lentil soups and stews, and often include them on their specially-priced midday menu. Double check that yours comes without chorizo and jamón, and don’t forget to mop up the sauce with some crusty bread like a true madrileño.

Restaurants

If you’ve had your fill of tapas, pop over for a full vegan or vegetarian meal at one of our go-to spots. We suggest taking advantage of the mid-day deals and fueling up with plenty of veggies to kick off your afternoon with lots of energy.

vegan restaurants in Madrid

A vegan soup at Rayen.

  • YerbabuenaThe favorite vegetarian restaurant in Madrid, Yerbabuena offers hearty plates of healthy comfort food. Our favorites include the seitan al ajillo sandwich with vegan cheese and tomato, vegan nachos and the eggplant mussaka. Bring your appetite; the portions here are very generous! Calle Bordadores, 3
  • La BiotikaThis vegetarian institution offers both vegan and macrobiotic options, and they even have a specialty vegetarian store next door. Check out their midday menu for €10.90 or their set menu at night for €13.50, including a salad, a vegetarian, vegan or macro entree, dessert, coffee and a drink. Calle Amor de Dios, 3
  • Viva la Vida:  If you find yourself in the artsy La Latina neighborhood, stop by Viva la Vida for a buffet lunch. Here you pay by weight for goodies like veggie paella and meatballs, and can treat yourself to fresh-pressed juices and vegan desserts. Costanilla de San Andrés, 16
  • Loving Hut: We’ve eaten in Loving Hut in London, Paris and multiple U.S. states, and always leave just as satisfied from the Madrid location. The chain is heavy on Asian flavors, but always adds a local twist based on their location; you can even get vegan tortilla española here! Our favorites include the fresh spring rolls, veggie burger (the best in Madrid!), and tomato-ginger tofu with basamati rice. Everything is vegan here, so indulge in some chocolate flan to complete your €10 midday menu. Calle de los Reyes, 11.
  • AbonavidaThis vegetarian café and store is a true oasis smack dab in the middle of Madrid’s center. Both the terrace and eclectic seating inside offer a tranquil escape from the massive crowds of tourists in bustling Callao, just minutes away. Though the café does include a lot of egg and dairy on their menu, not exactly ideal for vegans, it is a great option in a pinch as you can always find a salad or grains dish to fit your needs. Their menu of the day is a little steep at €13.50 for soup, entree, a drink, bread and dessert, but generally includes a vegan option, like their tasty lentils on Mondays and Fridays. Don’t forget to check out their wide array of organic products in the store for all the comforts of home. Calle Navas de Tolosa, 3
  • Green Break: If you’re short on time between power shopping or museum hopping, stop by vegan take-away restaurant Green Break. This San Sebastian-based chain offers fast, fresh and healthy food daily including burritos, pizza, salads, burgers and even raw options. Don’t leave without grabbing one of their amazing brownies for later! Calle Segovia, 17
  • Vegaviana: One of our favorite vegetarian spots in the trendy Chueca neighborhood. Like Abonavida, Vegaviana has a lot of dairy on the menu so you will have to order carefully, but the waitstaff is extremely helpful and willing to take on any requests. Their menu of the day can’t be beat at €8.50, and they even have a tasting menu if you’re feeling adventurous! We love their warm soups for lunch on a chilly day, and their salads and cremas are perfect for summer. Calle Pelayo, 35
  • TiyowehWe discovered this vegetarian oasis while searching for a nearby café that had enough space for our MFT meeting and were so charmed that we returned for lunch the very next day. The café itself has a calming, hippie vibe (they invite all patrons to meditate with them for two minutes every couple of hours) and their menu of food, pastries, teas and juices is extensive. We love their chai tea with hazelnut milk, carrot-apple-ginger juice and vegan brownies. The staff is more than happy to remove cheese from whatever you order. We recommend the carrot salad, tomato carpaccio and veggie meat balls for a fresh and delicious meal. Calle San Pedro, 22
  • Rayen Vegano: This small vegan café is known for homemade cooking in the cutest surroundings. Soups, homemade bread, and even vegan cakes. It is the perfect place to stop for lunch in the literary quarter, right around the corner from Madrid’s most famous museums! Calle Lope de Vega, 7
  • My Veg: Despite its name, My Veg is not a strictly vegetarian restaurant (at all!). But they do place the utmost importance of delicious, seasonal vegetables on their ever changing menu. Simply let your waiter know your dietary restrictions and you will be well taken care of with some of central Madrid’s most delicious food. Calle Valverde, 28

Shops

vegetarian guide to Madrid

Fruits and vegetables on display at the San Miguel Market.

For all the rest of your needs, you can stop by one of the vegan and vegetarian specialty  shops in Madrid, and as madrileños become more health conscious, even the corner stores are filling up with fresh vegan options.

  • Planeta Vegano: A haven for vegans in Madrid, Planeta Vegano offers every vegan necessity you could ever want, from condensed soy milk to nutritional yeast flakes. You can grab veggie chorizo, cheese, tuna, shrimp, cream and jamón and make your own vegan version of any traditional Spanish dish.  Calle Ave María, 34
  • Vegania: Just like Planeta Vegano, Vegania has everything, and we do mean everything; they even carry vegan dog food! It’s not in the center of Madrid, but make the trek if you’re in need of vegan paté, wine and beer, or cleaning products. Calle Jose María de Pereda, 17
  • El Corte Ingles: You’re always a stone’s throw away from a Corte Ingles no matter where you find yourself in Madrid. The trusty Madrid department store offers an expansive grocery section in many locations, where you can head to the health food section for tofu, veggie burgers, dairy-free milks and puddings. The massive store can be overwhelming, so ask an attendant to help you to find the tofu (¿me ayudas encontrar el tofu por favor?), and they’ll lead you right to all your vegan needs.

For more helpful tips, check out our list of the best cafés in Madrid where we note which places to go for café con leche de soja, and our guide to finding the best paella in town, where you can almost always go veggie!

Vegetarian Food Tours:

Madrid Food Tour has plenty of vegetarian options on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour, so make sure to note your restrictions when booking and let us show you the best vegetarian food in Madrid!

If you have something to add to our vegetarian guide to Madrid, please leave us a comment!

24 Hours in Madrid

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Madrid is a city that requires a lot of energy. There are so many tapas to taste, museums to visit and wonders to see that choosing what to do with your time here can be overwhelming. While we generally recommend at least four days to really get to know the city, don’t let time constraints and a miles long Madrid must-do list scare you away; check out our guide of how to spend a perfect 24 hours exploring and eating your way through the heart of Spain.

Morning

Start your day off right with a classic cup of café con leche, or a cortado if you need more of a jolt, in the Plaza de Santa Ana. Relax in the sunny city-center square and take in the early morning bustle around you as you nibble on a tostada, but don’t dawdle; you have a full day ahead of you!

As soon as you’ve downed the strong brew and have a pep in your step, stroll over to nearby Plaza Mayor. Dating back to the Habsburg dynasty, the plaza has been the site of everything from bullfights to public executions to soccer games, though today it is only used to house markets, fairs and the celebration of Madrid’s patron Saint Isidore. Depending on what time of year you visit, you may get lucky and find a specialty market or food fair inside, or just a beautiful plaza filled to the brim with tourists. Either way, the Plaza Mayor should not be missed during your 24 hours in Madrid.

Make your way to the exit near Calle Mayor and get lost in Madrid’s old quarter on your way to the Royal Palace. Be sure to peek into any charming bakery or specialty shop that piques your interest; the old quarter is filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. One spot that’s worth a look is Calzados Lobos, a shoe store that specializes in espadrilles that add a cool pop of color to any wardrobe and make wonderful gifts.

Once Calzados Lobos has you sufficiently suited up, hurry to the palace. You won’t be going in on this trip since you could get lost in the thousands of rooms for days, but the view from the outside is still jaw-dropping. Take your time checking out every corner of the gigantic palace’s architecture and poke your head into the impressive cathedral before heading back towards the center.

Your walk from the palace to the Círculo de Bellas Artes takes you through the Puerta del Sol and down Calle Alcalá, the heart of commercial Madrid. Don’t let the tourist traps distract you; there will be time for shopping later. Climb to the top of the Bellas Artes building and try to keep your heart from jumping to your throat when you see what awaits you. The terrace offers the most incredible view in the entire city, looking out over the center and the sheer beauty is enough to give you an energy boost after a long morning.

Afternoon

Callos, traditional foods in Madrid

Come midday you’ll be hankering for a big, traditional Madrid lunch!

At around 2:30 head down the Paseo del Prado to Garcia de la Navarra for a well-deserved lunch. You’ll be welcomed by smiling host and sommelier, Luis, one half of the brothers Garcia who own the place. The second brother, Pedro, will be busy back in the kitchen, preparing the day’s specials. The menu is small at this farm-to-table restaurant, but we recommend ordering the specials that Luis will describe to you, all chosen based on what was freshest at the market that week. Last time we stopped by, we were treated to a mouthwatering roasted red pepper and fried egg appetizer followed by the most succulent oxtail we’ve ever tasted; you can’t go wrong with anything the Garcias cook up. Don’t forget to ask your sommelier for his weekly wine recommendation as the restaurant has an extensive wine cellar to pair with any dish for a long, luxurious Spanish lunch.

Make your way down to the Museo Reina Sofía with a full belly and a smile; you’ll need a couple hours on your feet after such an incredible lunch. Though the Prado is home to many of the world’s masterpieces, I would choose to spend our time at the modern Reina Sofia if we only had 24 hours in Madrid because of the interesting look it offers into Spain’s recent social and political history. Lose yourself in the Picassos, Miró and Dalís while learning about the significance of modern art in the time of the civil war and dictatorship in Spain, something many visitors miss out on even on longer trips.

When you feel good and cultured, it’s time to head to Malasaña and check out Madrileño fashions. Walk up Fuencarral checking out the shops, from chains to boutiques to vintage, and be sure to pick up some fashion tips from the effortlessly stylish crowd around the neighborhood.

Don’t overexert yourself trying to jam everything into one day; once sleepiness starts to creep in, head back to the hotel, change into your new clothes and prepare for a night out on the town.

Evening

what to buy in Madrid

Aperitivo time!

By 8 pm you should be rested and ready to go for an aperitivo, or pre-dinner drink, at Museo Chicote on Gran Vía. An art-deco style bar once frequented by the likes of Earnest Hemingway during his time in Madrid, Chicote offers good cocktails and better ambience. Enjoy your drink among locals before heading back to the old quarter for tapas.

You will be dining on traditional small plates tonight on the famous Cava Baja in the La Latina neighborhood. Hop from bar to bar, trying a drink and a tapa or two at each. We recommend the solomillo at Casa Lucas, bacalao with honey ali-oli at Basque bar Orixe and croquetas at Casa Víctor. Don’t feel pressured to stick to our route, though; pop in anywhere that grabs your attention…you always eat well on Cava Baja!

Your dinner will be ending on the early side tonight, as you have reservations to see flamenco at 10:30. You will be going to Café de Chinitas, a short walk from dinner, where you will spend the night surrounded by Spanish folklore. Many of the best flamenco artists from the south come to Madrid to work, so you will be treated to a fantastic show with a drink included.

The night is young once you leave the show at 12:30, and you can’t spend 24 hours in Madrid without experiencing the nightlife. Pop over to Calle Huertas for some more bar hopping and gin & tonic drinking. The cocktail is almost sacred here and always finely crafted, served in goblet-like glasses, and should be tasted even if you think you don’t like gin. Act like a true madrileño and let the night decide your plans for you, be it dancing at a discoteca until 6 am or keeping the party going and watching the sunrise at the Templo de Debod.

If partying isn’t your thing, hit the hay after a drink and get up early for a breakfast of chocolate and churros at Chocolatería de San Ginés, the sweetest way to say goodbye to the city.

To learn all about the history, traditions and foods of the city during your 24 hour trip, book one of our Madrid Food Tours. There’s no better way to fall in love with a city than through an intimate guided tour of the best of the best that it has to offer, especially when food is involved! 

My Madrid – Courtney of Adelante

Welcome to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other people’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today we’re excited to talk to Courtney, a Seattle native living in Madrid and working as an assistant English teacher. Besides venturing around Europe, she likes drinking tinto de verano in the sunshine, embarrassing herself by trying to speak the local language, and attempting to seek out the best brunch in Spain. You can follow along with her adventures on her blog Adelante, as well as on Instagram and Twitter.

what to do in madrid

Hi Courtney! Let’s start off with your history with Madrid.

I packed my bags and said adios to the rainy Pacific Northwest last September, and I’ve been eagerly soaking up everything Madrid has to offer since! Technically speaking, I moved here to teach English as an auxiliar de conversación… but realistically, it was the savory tapas, affordable vino tinto and mesmerizing language that lured me over.

The food has captured our hearts, too! How was your first impression?

I first visited Madrid in 2010 while I was studying abroad in Andalucía, and I was instantly enamored by its unpretentious charm and sophistication. Dissatisfied with small town life in the south, Madrid possessed everything that I was so desperately yearning for. A mecca of vivacious neighborhoods with diverse personalities, Madrid’s many flavors continue to seduce me even after eight months of living here.

what to do in Madrid

One of the most vibrant neighborhoods is Malasaña, abounding with vintage shops, retro cafés and trendy bars & restaurants

What is one thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing?

I still haven’t visited all of the museums here, which is a shameful thing for an art-lover like myself to admit. Before I go back to the States for the summer, I’m going to set aside plenty of time to devote myself to the city’s many world-class museums. I’ll get there eventually, I promise!

Do you have a favorite Madrid experience?

I love going to the market and picking up an assortment of creamy cheeses, buttery jamón ibérico de bellota, dried figs and plums, some freshly made chips and a bottle of Rioja, and then bringing it to Retiro for a picnic with friends. I prefer parking myself near the pond, so I can soak up the sun and relish my snacks with a gorgeous view!

What to do in Madrid

A Spanish picnic done right.

A picnic is one of our favorite activities, we’re so lucky to be able to enjoy them all year long! Now, name your favorite Madrid meal.

Despite being a Celiac and an ardent seafood-hater, I still manage to constantly embrace my inner foodie here in Madrid. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d want my last meal to be a pincho de tortilla and huevos rotos from Juana la Loca in La Latina, generously washed down with a few glasses of tinto de veranoTortilla española and huevos rotos are my most perilous addictions, and after half a year of vigorous taste testing, I’m convinced that Juana La Loca offers the best of both.

What to eat in Madrid

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a heaping plate of huevos rotos.

What would be your ideal night out in Madrid?

I would start the evening out by watching the sunset from a rooftop bar such as La Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes, admiring the sublime views of the city with a glass of vino tinto in hand. After that I’d surely be craving some tapas, so I’d venture to La Latina or Huertas to various hole-in-the-wall bars with long wine lists, like Casa González or Almacén de Vinos Casa Gerardo. The older, the better! I’d cap off the night with a few smoky glasses of Ribera del Duero and good conversations with friends.

what to do in madrid

La Azotea del Círculo de Bellas Artes: the most picturesque place to savor a glass of wine.

And last but not least, what’s your favorite day trip from Madrid?

While everyone should experience the rustic quaintness of Toledo at some point, I much prefer the magic of Segovia. Between the regal Roman aqueduct, ornate cathedral and whimsical Disney-esque castle, it’s no surprise that this town emanates charm. The colors are warmer, the streets are more inviting, and trying traditional dishes such as cochinillo, or roasted suckling pig, is a culinary experience that can’t be missed.

 Thanks so much for contributing, Courtney! We love seeing you on our tours and hope to have you again soon! 

Eating Organic In Madrid: Where to Gorge on Organic Goodies

I blame the tomatoes. The first time I stacked a thick slice of a cherry-red organic Spanish tomato on my fresh-bought bread doused in bright green olive oil I knew I would never go back to ordinary tomatoes again. How could I? This organic slice of heaven was a symphony of flavors and smells. Those run-of-the-mill grocery store tomatoes seemed like mushy red water balloons in comparison.

eating organic in Madrid

Beautiful Spanish tomatoes on our Huertas Market Tour.

And thus began my search for the best organic produce in Madrid. My months-long search has brought me to explore dozens of markets, hear stories from a handful of passionate distributors and taste some of the most inspiringly delicious foods Madrid has to offer.

In a country where many families have vegetable gardens and recipes often include less than five ingredients (including spices!), the bar is set extremely high when it comes to the deliciousness of raw ingredients. Whether it’s produce, meat or seafood, Spaniards celebrate great ingredients. Corner grocery stores carry grass-fed, free-range Galician beef and wild salmon filets. Markets are bursting fragrant strawberries and cheeses that are certified by a Denomination of Origin board. And restaurants boast produce that is freshly picked from their gardens and breads freshly baked in centuries-old ovens.

Eating in Madrid is delicious experience. But eating organic in Madrid takes the scrumptiousness of Spanish food to a whole new level. Here are our favorite places to find eco-friendly food in Madrid. 

Restaurants

La Biotika

This vegetarian restaurant situation in the center of the city serves up an array of dishes prepared with organic vegetables and ecologically-produced grains sourced as locally as possible. Besides delicious dining options, La Biotika also holds cooking classes, discussions and other community events. Adjacent to the dining room is a small store which sells organic, vegan and vegetarian items.

Where to find it: Calle Amor de Dios, 3 in the Barrio de las Letras neighborhood. Closest metro: Antón Martin

La Vaqueria

For a more upscale organic dining experience head to La Vaqueria, where their elaborate dishes are prepared with only seasonal, organic produce. Meals here are a bit pricer than the other options on our list, with tapas ranging from 7€ to 9€. Main dishes run from 8€ to 12€.

Where to find it: Calle Blanca de Navarra, 8. Closest Metro: Alonso Martinez

Al Natural

At Al Natural the chefs take the restaurant’s name to heart, using the freshest of ingredients picked from their organic gardens in the outskirts of Madrid. Al Natural’s philosophy is to cook with few spices, allowing their quality ingredients to speak for themselves. The average price for a vegetarian meal here is between 15€ and 25€.

Where to find it: Calle Zorrilla, 11 along the Paseo de Prado. Closest Metro: Sevilla

Abona Vida

This cosy vegan cafe offers a three-course organic menu starting at 8,50€ which includes a first course soup or salad followed by one of their hot dishes of the day. Their daily dishes range from, for example, baked Spanish lentils over a couscous and vegetable salad to wheat pasta with a vegan legume loaf. Alongside their small restaurant Abona Vida sells a variety of grocery items for a range of dietary restrictions like Celiac disease, Diabetes and Lactose-intolerance.

Where to find it: Calle Navas de Tolosa, 3. Closest Metro: Callao

Restaurante Pepa

If you’re looking for great chemical-free food that goes beyond the vegetarian menus listed above, Restaurante Pepa is the place to go! Chef Pepa opened this centrally-located restaurant in June of 2013, ten years after her first restaurant Qüenco de Pepa opened in the north of Madrid. She uses only organic produce, many of which come from her gardens in Avila, and ecologically-produced meats and seafoods. While the menu is a bit pricier, the food’s flavor and thoughtful preparation make those extra few euros well worth it.

Where to find it: Calle General Gallegos, 1. Closest Metro: Cuzco 

Rayén

Rayén brings together three of my favorite things: organic flavors, vegan healthfulness and brunch. Hot tofu scrambles and soups,  homemade muffins and breads and delicious coffee are just what the doctor ordered after a proper night out in Madrid. This small vegan café also serves lunch.

Where to find it: Calle Lope de Vega, 7. Closest metro: Antón Martin. 

Markets

Semilla Nativa at Mercado de Vallehermoso

With Spring in full force here in Madrid, picnic season is upon us. And there is no better place to stock up on fresh park snacks that at Semilla Nativa, the organic produce stand located in Vallehermoso Market. The all-organic produce at Semilla Nativa is sourced from small farms around Madrid. It’s fresh, seasonal and bursting with flavor. Bonus tip: The folks at Semilla Nativa will throw in an extra item (usually a lemon or an orange) if you bring your own bag!

Where to find it: Calle Vallehermoso 36, within the Mercado de Vallehermoso. Closest Metro: Quevedo

La Monde at Mercado San Fernando

The best tomato I have ever tasted I bought at Le Monde. This organic produce stand is located with the San Fernando Market, which we highly recommend visiting for a tapa and a beer or glass of wine! Besides stellar produce, La Monde also offers dried fruit and nuts and shockingly low prices. 100 grams of shelled pumpkin seeds are a mere 1 € and you snack on 100 grams of dried organic figs for 1.50€!

Where to find it: Calle de Embajadores, 41. Closest Metro: Lavapiés.

what to do in Madrid

Organic produce at the San Fernando Market.

Mama Campo

Mama Campo looks exactly what you’d imagine an organic food shop to look like. Wooden baskets filled with gorgeously imperfect produce line the walls along with shelves of grainy breads. This small all-organic store is one of Madrid’s newest places to shop for organic produce, having opened in February of 2014. The best finds here are their organic yogurt selection, ecologically-produced beef and pork and organic jams and olive oils.

Where to find it: C/ Trafalgar 22. Closest Metro: Quevedo 

What are your tips for eating organic in Madrid?

My Madrid – Trevor of a Texan in Spain

Welcome to My Madrid, a new series here on the Madrid Food Tour blog in which bloggers from Madrid and all around Spain tell us a little bit about what Madrid means to them. We love hearing about other people’s Madrid favorites, and who better to ask than a bunch of adventurous bloggers? 

Today’s post comes from Trevor Huxham. Trevor teaches English at an elementary school in a small coastal village but calls the capital city of Santiago de Compostela home. When he’s not seeking out the next best free tapas bar, you can usually find him eating octopus with friends. Follow his stories and photos of life abroad and travels across Spain on his blog, A Texan in Spain, on Instagram, or on Twitter.

Trevor Huxham

Trevor after finishing the Camino de Santiago!

Hi Trevor! So, what’s your experience with Madrid?

Madrid has always been a city of crossroads for me, whether it be traveling from the airport to Andalucía, from the northern coast to the plains of La Mancha, or from Spain back to America. So it’s not a surprise that my first experience with Madrid was also my first with Spain as a whole. Having emerged from my first overnight trans-Atlantic flight, I was faced with the prospect of waiting half a day in the Atocha train station, so I decided to do a little exploring (and breakfasting) to kill time. So I dragged my 50-lb. suitcase, hiking backpack, and messenger bag onto the Metro (this was before I learned about lockers) and got off at the Bilbao stop because, to 2012 Trevor, “it sounded cool.” Thankfully I made a good decision because I ended up convalescing outdoors over a long-awaited cup of chocolate con churros at the historic Café Comercial. People-watching, shivering in the shade, and just taking in the buzzing life of Madrid’s morning commute was a great introduction to the city and the country.

We love the energy of Madrid in the morning, too! How would you describe your first impression of Madrid?

I was really struck at how short, for lack of a better word, the city was. Although Madrid is Spain’s biggest city, it somehow managed to make it into the 21st century without a distinguishable skyline, much like central Paris or Rome, which are similarly devoid of skyscrapers.

What’s one thing you wouldn’t leave Madrid without doing?

Going to the Prado Museum! It’s free for students, so I just flash my “Estudiante” residency card and get shooed in to one of Europe’s premier art museums. I usually head straight to Goya’s chilling pinturas negras or his extremely-moving Tres de Mayo. 

Prado Museum famous museums in Madrid

The Prado Museum is as stunning outside as the art inside

And your favorite Madrid activity?

Back in September I had a layover between arriving in Barajas and catching the train up to Santiago, so I went up to the Círculo de Bellas Artes terrace (the best lookout point in Madrid!) and had a refreshing drink in the late-summer sun with a friend who happened to be in town—a wonderful “welcome back” to Spain.

The terrace at the Circulo de Bellas Artes is such a gem in the middle of the city! What meal do you like to enjoy after a busy day in Madrid?

This past December I spent 10 days exploring Italy, re-entering the country via Madrid. Although I loved eating gnocchi, panini, and gelati across Italy, the food was shockingly-expensive and a bit foreign, so I was really looking forward to an all-inclusive, comfortable, and affordable menú del día when I got back. Somewhere in Malasaña I ended up at a packed restaurant and had the most warming, refreshing callos con garbanzos (Madrid-style tripe with chickpeas) of my life: I was clearly back in Spain. The set menu also included drink, bread, meat course, and dessert (a mere 12€!), but the comfort-food callos have stuck in my mind ever since.

circulo de bellas artes

A refreshing Gin-Tonic on the Circulo de Bellas Artes rooftop

How about your idea of a great night out in Madrid?

I’m not a big ~Night On The Town~ kind of guy, but I am a big ¡¡¡Free Tapas!!! sort of person, so wherever the tapas are, I’m in. (And by free tapas, I mean something more substantial than olives and chips; I’m so spoiled here in Galicia!) I’m also an old man, so I prefer to have my chocolate con porras (NOT churros, ahem) at the San Ginés joint at 12:00 am rather than pm, please and thank you.

We are big porras fans too! Last but not least, your favorite day trip to take from Madrid?

Segovia, the gateway to the northern meseta. Once you leave behind Madrid after passing through the Guadarrama mountains, it’s as if you’ve arrived in a different country altogether. This typical Castilian city has a lot to offer whirlwind daytrippers: the world’s youngest Gothic cathedral, a taken-care-of Roman aqueduct, and one of the inspirations for Disney’s Cinderella Castle. But beneath the oohs and aahs you can find a humble collection ofarcaded Romanesque-era parish churches, a cuisine that is hearty and decidedly inland, and shaded streets to take refuge from the hot summer sun in.

Segovia is so beautiful! Sometimes we go just to eat cochinillo! Thanks so much Trevor, and can’t wait to see you on a food tour next time you’re in town!