Off the Beaten Path: 7 Unique Tours in Madrid

Planning a trip to the vibrant Spanish capital? Let us help you plan an unforgettable trip with these unique tours in Madrid. Whether you’re a history buff, art aficionado or a foodie, there’s something for everyone. Read on to discover the 7 unique tours in Madrid that await you.

7 Unique Tours in Madrid

Bike Tour

If you’re a bit short on time, a bike tour of the city may be just what you’re looking for. Bravo Bikes offers tours of all the major sights in Madrid, including the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and the Prado Museum. Perfect for cyclists that are used to cycling in a city environment, it’s a fun way to see the city and get a bit of exercises in for the day. If you have more time, and are up for a bit of a challenge, Bravo Bikes also offers bike tours to popular day trip destinations from Madrid. Ride to Segovia to see the Roman aqueducts, or to Toledo to visit the Alcazar.

Flamenco Tour

Spaniards are proud of their cultural heritage, which includes the passion-filled musical style and dance called Flamenco. Learn about the origin and history of Flamenco with Ogo Tours and then visit the place to shop for Flamenco clothing, instruments and accessories. To cap off the experience, you’ll watch an authentic Flamenco show in one of the oldest Tablaos (Flamenco venues) in Madrid.

Unique Tours in Madrid - Flamenco Tour

Segway Tour

Segway tours have been popping up in cities all over the world, but this one comes with a sweet Spanish treat at the end. Standing on an electric, two-wheeled vehicle, you’ll stop by popular landmarks across the city. Without breaking a sweat, take in the sights at Plaza de EspañaPuerta del Sol and the Almudena Cathedral. To finish off the tour, you get to indulge and enjoy a decadently sweet treat of churros con chocolate at Mercado San Miguel.

Madrid Food Tour

Enjoy an authentic taste of Spanish cuisine with a gastronomical tour of the city. Madrid Food Tour offers guests a tasty cultural experience that is sure to leave you satisfied. This experience is much more than just a eating at bars and restaurants. Madrid Food Tour take you on a journey through the history of the city, introducing you to local food artisans and chefs and of course, giving you a taste of Madrid’s best dishes.

Spanish Civil War Sites Tour

History comes alive with Spanish Sites, as they take you on a tour to key sites from the Spanish Civil war. The Spanish Civil War is one of the most important events in Spain’s modern history, and ended with thousands dead and a dictator in power. Learn more about the the conflict, and how it has influenced Spain today on this historical tour.

Hot Air Balloon Tour

For an experience that will take your breathe away, why not book a hot air balloon tour? Aerotours offers a unique view of Madrid’s natural surroundings. As you slowly ascend upwards towards the sky, enjoy a bird’s eye view of the mountains, the Guadarrama river and monuments like the Castle of La Mocha. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Unique Tours in Madrid - Hot Air Balloon Tour

Contemporary Art Tour

If you’re an art lover, you’ll be happy to know that Madrid is home to a number of wonderful art museums, including the Prado and Reina Sofia. These museums house pieces from the biggest Spanish artists that ever lived. However, if you want to discover the current art scene, than a Contemporary Art tour is your best bet. The Art Gallery Tour takes guests to a number of contemporary art galleries showcasing the works of Spanish artists. Don’t know much about contemporary art? The Art Gallery also offers an Initiation Tour, which explains how art galleries work, the different techniques and formats used, and how to appreciate Contemporary Art.

What’s the most unique tour you’ve been on? What’s your favourite way to tour a city?

Photo Sources: Littlemoresunshine on Flickr and Flavio~ on Flickr

Spring has Sprung: 5 Ways to Enjoy the Beautiful Parks in Madrid

There are numerous parks in Madrid, and now is the perfect time to go out and visit them. Read on to find out the best place to have a picnic and a secret event that only happens once a year!

Parks In Madrid

It seems like winter is finally over in Madrid, and we couldn’t be happier. Make the most of an early spring and spend some time outdoors. Looking for some ideas? Here’s a list of 5 parks in Madrid that offer fun experiences we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Get Active at Parque del Buen Retiro

Do you prefer to work up a sweat when you’re outdoors? Then head to Parque del Buen Retiro, a lovely outdoor space formerly owned by the Spanish Royal family. Here you’ll find wide, paved roads that are perfect for bike riding, skateboarding or rollerblading. It’s also a great place to train for marathons, with miles of running trails found throughout the park.

Parks in Madrid Retiro Park Crystal Palace

Not that athletic? Retiro should still be on your list. Take a leisurely walk to admire the fountains, statues and the Palacio de Cristal, a beautiful glass palace. In the summer, the park holds free concerts and outdoor art exhibitions from artists all over the world.

Watch the sunset at Las Vistillas Gardens

After a long day of sightseeing, head to Las Vistillas Gardens to watch a beautiful sunset. This lovely park is on the westside of Madrid, and is known for having amazing views of the Mazanares River, Casa de Campo and the Almudena Cathedral. As various colors fill the sky, and the sun slowly makes its way down the horizon, sip on a cold drink on one of the many terraces on the park grounds.

Gaze at the Delicate Almond Blossoms at Parque Quinta de los Molinos

Located a bit further out from the center, Parque Quinta de los Molinos isn’t quite as popular as the other parks on this list. What this means is that only a few people know about a special secret we’re happy to share with you.

Parks in Madrid - Parque Quinta de los Molinos

The park is populated with over a thousand almond trees, which all start to bloom in early spring. Stroll through the rows of magnificent almond blossoms, and then act like a total tourist and take a few snaps with the beautiful buds. Don’t delay, once the blossoms fall off the tree you’ll have to wait until next year to see them again!

Be Amused at Casa de Campo

Covering over 1700 hectares of land, Casa de Campo holds the title for the largest park in Madrid. On any given warm weekend, the park is filled with families spending some quality time together.

Madrid Zoo Aquarium

Casa de Campo is home to two very popular, family-friendly activities. The first is the Madrid Zoo Aquarium. Here visitors can watch and learn about thousands of animals, including pandas, koalas and dolphins. The other main attraction is an amusement park called the Parque de Atracciones de Madrid. Here families can pass the time on thrilling rides, amusing shows and fun carnival games.

Picnic at the Temple de Debod

Located minutes away from the iconic Plaza de España you’ll find an ancient Egyptian temple. What is an Egyptian temple doing in Madrid, you ask? Well, In the middle of the 20th century – in return for Spain’s help preserving another temple – the Egyptian government gifted Spain with the Temple de Debod.

Temple de Debod

The temple is a popular tourist spot visited by travellers all year round. However, once the temperatures rise, locals are there as well, soaking up the sun. The lush lawns surrounding the temple offer a perfect place for a lovely picnic. Take in the view of a 2000 year old temple while you munch on some Spanish favorites like tortilla, ham and Manchego cheese.

What kinds of activities do you enjoy doing in the spring? Have we missed any of your favorite Madrid parks?

Photo credits: Antonio Tajuelo on Flickr, LWYang on Flickr, Manolo Gómez on Flickr and Rodney on Flickr. 

In the Know: Trendy Cafés and Tea Rooms in Madrid

If you can’t get a day started without some good coffee, you’ll love Madrid. The city has a thriving café culture, which means there is always one nearby. Read on for six trendy cafés and tea rooms in Madrid that are worth a visit.

Trendy cafés and Tea rooms in Madrid

Federal Café

Looking for scrumptious, eco-friendly food? Than look no further than Federal Café, an Australian inspired restaurant in the Conde Duque area. With it’s minimalistic decor and health conscious menu, it’s easy to see why Federal Café appeals to the in crowd. Head over to try their tasty burgers (veggie option available!), fresh pastries, or organic juices.

Visit Federal Café at Plaza de las Comendadoras, 9.

Tekoe

Spaniards enjoy their coffee in many different ways, but in recent years tea has had a surge in popularity. Tekoe, a Swiss tea company, has been earning rave reviews since they opened in Madrid last summer. Dedicated to serving high quality, ethically sourced teas from around the world, Tekoe has gained quite the following. Want to know more about tea? The tea room also holds tea tasting sessions, which includes the fascinating history of the soothing drink.

Visit Tekoe at Calle Huertas, 22.

Fonty

Before opening up this French inspired pastry shop, Marie Valdez honed her culinary skills at the prestigious L’Ecole Ferrandi. Fonty serves a wide range of savory dishes: omelettes, curries, sandwiches and much more. The main stars of the shop however, are the entremets proudly displayed behind the glass counter. These cakes are a bite of heaven and come in fun flavor combinations like gooseberry and yogurt or chocolate and passionfruit.

Trendy Cafes and Tea Rooms in Madrid

Visit Fonty at Calle Castelló, 12.

El Jardín Secreto

This charming café is the perfect place to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing. Once you’ve entered El Jardín Secreto, it’s as if you’ve stepped into another world. The café is decorated with wicker mats, floral garlands and a mix of other eclectic trinkets. Once you’ve grabbed a table, place a drink order. They’ve got everything from cocktails to milkshakes. If you’re feeling indulgent, order something from the dessert menu. El Jardín Secreto’s desserts are all satisfyingly sweet.

Visit El Jardín Secreto at Calle Conde Duque 2.

Café de la Luz

Wandering along the streets of the eclectic neighborhood of Malasaña, you’ll stumble upon numerous cafés. What makes Café de la Luz special is it’s cozy atmosphere, friendly staff and yummy offerings. Decorated with mismatched chairs, vintage lamps and shelves of books, you can’t help but want to stay a while.

Visit Café de la Luz at Puebla, 8.

Salón des Fleurs

Salón des Fleurs is a chic tea room located in the Chamberí area of Madrid. Having opened only a few months ago, it has quickly become a very popular spot. The decor is French inspired, with quirky details and beautiful flowers to finish off the look.

Trendy Cafes and Tea Rooms in Madrid

Take your pick from a list of twenty teas and infusions, which include choices like strawberry and champagne or cherry caramel. Order a slice of violet cake or banana bread to accompany your drink. Want to take some of the beauty home with you? Salón des Fleurs is also a flower shop! Have the in-house florist whip up a gorgeous bouquet for you to take home.

Visit Salón des Fleurs at Calle de Guzmán el Bueno, 106.

What do you look for in a café? What makes your favorite café unique?

Traditional Spanish Comfort Food at Home: Cocido Madrileño Recipe

Cocido Madrileño Recipe
On cold winter days, there’s no better feeling than digging into a deliciously warm and comforting meal. Spaniards have quite a few hearty dishes to choose from, but for most Madrid residents nothing warms the soul quite like a good cocido Madrileño.

The dish originated from Madrid, and grew in popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the dish’s main ingredient – chickpeas – were relatively cheap and easy to acquire, it was often on the menu of taverns and small restaurants. Nowadays, it’s a household staple.

Cocido Madrileño is usually eaten in two courses. Once the chickpeas, meats and vegetables have been cooked, the broth is separated and is used to make soup. This is served as the first course, and then the rest of the flavorful ingredients are served as the main dish.

Enjoy this traditional Spanish meal at home by following this Cocido Madrileño recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 9 oz. veal, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 5 oz. chunk of Serrano ham
  • 1 5” ham bone
  • 1 3” chunk of veal bone marrow
  • 5 oz. 2-inch thick bacon chunks
  • 1 large 10 inch chorizo cut into 4 inch pieces
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 cup pasta noodles
  • Water, enough to cover the ingredients and two inches over
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Morcilla (blood sausage) [can be omitted]

Instructions

  1. Allow garbanzo beans to sit in water overnight; drain excess water and set aside.
  2. Peel the garlic, onion, carrots and potatoes and set aside.
  3. Cook veal, bones, chorizo and ham in a large pot in just enough water to cover. Add salt to taste.
  4. When the water begins to boil, remove the excess foam.
  5. After an hour, add the chickpeas, garlic, onion and carrots, whole.
  6. Cover pot and simmer for an hour and a half.
  7. Drain the stock and reserve the rest of the ingredients on a platter.
  8. Put the stock back into the same pot, and use it to cook the noodles.
  9. In a different pot, boil the peeled potatoes, drain and place along with the rest of the ingredients you reserved.
  10. Cut the cooked vegetables into big chunks and add to the meat platter.

This recipe serves 6.

Have you ever tried Cocido Madrileño? What’s your favourite winter comfort food?

10 Beautiful Spanish Instagrams You Need to Follow

Follow these beautiful Spanish Instagram accounts and discover the spectacular views and sights Spain has to offer.

Spain

best Spanish Instagram accounts

The official Instagram account of Spain’s tourism board highlights breathtaking images from all over the country. They regularly hold themed photo challenges and winners’ photos are shared with their 27 thousand followers. Tag your photos with the #VisitSpain hashtag to share your snaps with them.

Visit Euskadi

best Spanish Instagram accounts

Euskadi is the Basque name for the Spanish autonomous community Basque Country. With everything from majestic mountains to an idyllic coast, Euskadi has an endless supply of beautiful images to share on their tourism board’s official account.

Disfruta Sevilla

best Spanish Instagram accounts

Sevilla is one of the most enchanting cities in southern Spain. During it’s annual Feria de abril de Sevilla (April Festival of Seville), the city spends a week dancing, drinking and eating until the sun comes up. This account reflects the fun and energetic feel to the city, publishing photos of popular attractions and stunning views.

Turismo Asturias

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

This account is dedicated to showcasing the natural beauty of Asturias, a province in the region known as España Verde (Green Spain). Due to this region’s rainy and mild climate, it’s an ideal place for forests and pastures to flourish. When you visit this lush province, don’t forget to try it’s signature dish, fabada Asturiana.

Tsempere

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

This account is based in Alicante, a beachside province on the eastern coast of Spain. The province is a popular summer spot because it has a reputation for having pristine beaches. Tsempere publishes captivating photos of the coast, sandy beaches and other beautiful natural scenes.

Txecinco

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

A mix of urban scenes and natural elements populate Jose’s Segovia-based Instagram feed. A popular day trip from Madrid, Segovia boasts the largest, and best preserved, ancient Roman aqueduct in the Iberian peninsula. It is also home to the lovely Alcázar of Segovia (Segovia Castle). Though you may not have heard of Segovia Castle, you’ve seen one that was inspired by it: Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

Fercabafer

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

Run by Riojano photographer, Fernando Caballero, this account is a treasure trove of gorgeously colorful photos of the La Rioja region of Spain. While perusing Fernando’s account, you’ll notice photos of grapes and vineyards. This is because wine production plays a big part in La Rioja’s economy and cultural tradition. The province has been making wine for over a thousand years, so it’s no wonder it produces some of the best wine in the country.

Barcelona Citizen

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

Barcelona’s distinct architecture plays a starring role in Barcelona Citizen’s instagram feed. Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces, which are scattered throughout the bohemian city, make frequent appearances. Unexpected angles and focus on quirky architectural details result in awe-inspiring pictures of the second largest city in Spain.

J4UM3

gorgeous Spanish Instagrams

Jaume’s exquisite account will tempt you into booking a ticket to the breathtaking island of Mallorca. Unlike its partying neighbor Ibiza, Mallorca is an oasis of calm and relaxation. From ethereal shots of sunsets, to perfectly timed photos of the coastline, Jaume does an amazing job capturing the natural beauty of the island.

Secretos de Madrid

Beautiful Spanish Instagram Accounts

Last, but definitely not least, is the Secretos de Madrid account, a feed that publishes dazzling photos of Spain’s capital city. Photos highlight the architectural beauty of Madrid, including iconic attractions Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. If you ever find yourself in the this vibrant city, make sure to join us on one of our food tours!

And in case you didn’t know, we’re on Instagram too. Follow us for photos from our tours, snaps of our charming city and of course, pictures of mouthwatering food!

Are there any Instagrammers you would add to our list?

Combat the Cold Weather: 5 Spanish Meals to Try this Winter

Have a case of winter blues? Cheer yourself up with a hearty dish from our list of Spanish meals to try this winter! From the classic dish of lentejas, to the lesser known sopa de ajo, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

Have a case of winter blues? Cheer yourself up with a hearty dish from our list of Spanish meals to try this winter! From the classic dish of lentejas, to the lesser known sopa de ajo, you’ll find something to suit your tastes.

Fabada Asturiana

For a taste of north-western Spain, indulge in a bowl of fabada Asturiana, a stew made of white beans, morcilla (blood sausage), chorizo and pork shoulder. Though it originates from the autonomous community of Asturias, this dish has become a national favourite and can be bought ready-made at most supermarkets. For an extra dash of Asturian flavour, enjoy your fabada with a cold glass of Asturian cider.

Spanish Dishes to Try this Winter

Cocido Madrileño

If you have a large appetite, your best bet is a cocido Madrileño. As the name implies, cocido Madrileño originated in the capital, and is a dish you must try while in Madrid. This delicious stew’s main ingredients include garbanzo beans, potatoes, chorizo, beef shank and pork belly. The stew’s flavors can be further enhanced with carrots, cabbage and morcilla.

Cocido madrileno traditional food in Madrid

Once everything has been cooked, the broth is separated from the rest of the ingredients and is used to make a Vermicelli  soup. This soup is served as the first course, followed by a main course composed of the other ingredients.

Sopa de Ajo

Sopa de ajo is traditionally eaten in Palencia, a city in the province of Castile and León. In English it means ‘garlic soup’ so it’s no surprise that a key ingredient is garlic. What is surprising is the other key ingredient: bread! After the bread has been cut into chunks, it is served soaking in a broth of paprika and garlic and topped with a poached egg.

Spanish Dishes to Try this Winter

Caldo Gallego

We’re heading back up north again, but this time to the luscious province of Galicia. Here, locals fight the cold weather with a satisfying bowl of caldo Gallego. This savory soup includes bacon, white beans, potatoes, chorizo and cabbage. If you find yourself doing the Camino de Santiago during the winter months, order a large serving of caldo Gallego to warm yourself up after your long journey.

Caldo Gallego - Spanish Dishes to Try this Winter

Sopa de Lentejas

Another legume-based dish, the simple but classic sopa de lentejas (lentil soup) is a well-loved household staple. This deliciously nutritious dish is easy to make using lentils, carrots, onions, potatoes, chorizo and some smoked paprika. Not in the mood to cook? Head over to a traditional Spanish tavern for lunch, chances are it’s on the menu.

Sopa de Lentejas - Spanish Dishes to Try this Winter

Have you tried any of the Spanish dishes we’ve mentioned above? What’s your favourite winter meal?

Photo Credits: Masaaki Komori on Flickr, Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez on Flickr, G M on Flickr, doronko on Flickr and juantiagues on Flickr.

 

The Yummiest Tortillas in Madrid

Craving a scrumptions tortilla? Good news! We’ve made a list of the yummiest tortillas in Madrid that are sure to hit the spot. Visit any of the following restaurants, and we’re sure you’ll leave a happy (and full) customer.

Yummiest Tortillas in Madrid - Madrid Food Tour

You can’t come to Spain without trying a tortilla, a deliciously simple dish, well-loved across the country. Those of you unfamiliar with Spanish cuisine may be picturing tacos, but a Spanish tortilla is a not a flatbread! You can’t use it to make a burrito (well, okay maybe you can, but it would get really messy).

The word tortilla means ‘little cake’ in Spanish, and is commonly referred to as a Spanish omelette in English. Traditionally tortillas are filled with sliced or cubed potatoes, which resembles a layer of cake.

Yummiest Tortillas in Madrid - Madrid Food Tour

A closer look at a traditional Spanish omelette.

Spaniards’ love of the tortilla can get intense, and has incited some online clashes. Diehard tortilla purists, known as Sin Cebollistas, insist that a true tortilla española (Spanish omelette) should only contain eggs and potatoes. Their opponents, the Cebollistas find this definition to be too narrow, and argue for the inclusion of onions in the dish.

Then there are the radical tortilla enthusiasts. They enjoy their tortillas with a variety of ingredients, including delicious Spanish peppers, tuna and eggplants. Though it should be noted they usually do not contain all these ingredients at once, because that would be just crazy!

Yummiest Tortillas in Madrid - Madrid Food Tour

These aren’t the type of tortillas you’ll find at these restaurants.

Hungry for a tortilla yet? Satisfy your cravings and stop by the following restaurants for the yummiest tortillas in Madrid.

Casa Dani

Though located in one of the poshest neighbourhoods of Madrid, Casa Dani is not at all pretentious, located in one of the city’s oldest markets, Mercado de la Paz. It’s tiny bar is always filled with both businessmen and blue collar workers. It’s a very popular spot largely because they serve authentic Spanish dishes at great prices.

Address: Calle de Ayala, 28, inside the Mercado de Paz

Bar Docamar

Bar Docamar is a family run business that has been in operation for over 50 years. Though they are primarily known for serving one of the best patatas bravas* in town, their tortillas are just as delicious! Enjoy your tortilla with a a bit of their their famous salsa brava drizzled on top.

*Patatas bravas is another very popular Spanish favorite. It consists of fried potato wedges served with salsa brava, a spicy paprika-based sauce.

Address: Calle Alcalá, 337

Bar Cerveriz

Yummiest Tortillas in Madrid - Bar  Cerveriz

Bar Cerveriz’s delicious tortilla

Compared to its neighboring establishment the polished Mercado de San Miguel, Bar Cerveriz is small and nondescript . But bigger is not always better, and looks are certainly deceiving in this case because the food served here is everything good Spanish cuisine should be. The man behind the magic is Carlos, the Galician owner and chef who lovingly prepares all dishes to perfection.

Dine on their signature dishes (including their tortilla) with us when we make a stop at this traditional restaurant on our Ultimate Spanish Cuisine Tour.

Address: Plaza San Miguel, 2

Txirimiri

Txirimiri (pronounced chi-ri-mi-ri) means ‘drizzling rain’ in Euskera, the native language in the Spanish province of Basque Country. Their menu reflects their heritage, offering modern Basque inspired cuisine like monkfish and prawn black lasaña served with coconut milk sauce. Opening their first restaurant in 2003, they have since opened at three more locations.

Be warned: Txirimiri is quite popular and can get very busy, however the wait is worth it!

Address: Calle Humilladero, 6 (La Latina Location)

Juana la Loca

This trendy tapas bar serves some truly creative dishes, so it isn’t surprising they’ve added a little twist to the classic tortilla. In addition to the two key ingredients, eggs and potatoes, their tortilla is filled with a wonderful confit of caramelized onions.

Address: Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4

Skylar

If you like your eggs runny, be sure to try the award winning tortilla at Skylar. They have yet to change their tortilla recipe since opening in 1970, and why would they? Their tortillas have won numerous contests and has been recognized by many as one of the best in the city.

Address: Espronceda 17, Madrid

Have you tried any of the tortillas at these restaurants? What did you think? Are we missing any other tasty tortillas? Tell us in the comments!

Photo Credits: lokate366 on Flickr and David Boté Estrada on Flickr

Top Madrid Blogs in English

Looking to experience Madrid through a local’s perspective? Check out our round-up of seven of the top Madrid blogs in English, and find out what your guidebook isn’t telling you.

Top Madrid Blogs English

Madrid is constantly growing and changing. If you want an authentic experience in the city, forget about your outdated guidebook or you’ll be missing out. A guidebook can’t tell you about upcoming local concerts and markets, or where to find the latest pop-up shop. Relying on a guidebook means not knowing about the new organic bakery everyone loves, or the temporary exhibit that opened a few weeks ago.

How can you find out about the great things happening in this bustling city? One word: blogs! Visit the 7 best English blogs on Madrid below, and get all the insider tips you’ll need to make the most of your time in Madrid.

A Bit of Everything

Naked Madrid

Though it’s less than a year old, Naked Madrid has quickly become one of the best ‘go to’ blogs for the latest events going on in the city. You’ll find articles on restaurant and bar recommendations, information on day trips and other fun suggestions. Articles can also be divided by the various neighbourhoods of Madrid, a great feature for those who are new to the city.

Culinary Delights

Spanish Sabores

I hope you’re not too hungry because one visit to Spanish Sabores will have your mouth watering. Written by Lauren, an American expat in Madrid (and the founder of Madrid Food Tour!), Spanish Sabores features restaurants reviews from all over the city. If you’re looking for a delicious meal make sure to check out her recommendations, or even better, join us on one of our tours.

Best English Blogs about Madrid

Madrid Chow

Hop on over to Madrid Chow to learn more about Spanish cuisine culture. There, James explains some important things all Madrid visitors should know: how to order a tapas, what a menu del día is (and where to find one!) and how to tip in Madrid. After you’ve completed your reading, put it into practice and head over to one of James’ recommended establishments. James is also a partner with Madrid Food Tour and Devour Barcelona Food Tours and as an expert in Spanish history, he designed our ever popular Tapas, Taverns and History Tour!

Budget Friendly Options

Cheap in Madrid

A great resource for those on a budget, Cheap in Madrid provides articles on how to have fun in the city without breaking the bank. Topics covered include how to get into Madrid museums for free, free things to do during the holidays and information on the various markets in Madrid. Visiting Madrid during a weekend? Check out Cheap in Madrid’s weekend guide, a list of all the cool (and inexpensive) things happening in Madrid.

The Spanish Perspective

My Little Madrid

Written by a Madrid native, My Little Madrid is a wonderful resource for finding ways to enjoy the city besides eating your way through it. (Not that there is anything wrong with that!) While there are articles on restaurants, My Little Madrid offers much more than that. Peruse through her articles to learn about the best vintage shops, where to paint your own tableware and how to keep fit in Madrid.

Best English Blogs about Madrid

Madrid y Yo

Madrid y Yo translated means Madrid and I, which perfectly captures the aura of this bilingual blog. The articles read like a letter from a friend who has discovered some place wonderful, and can’t wait to share it with you. Madrid y Yo offers not only noteworthy recommendations, but also shares the stories of the people behind these unique finds .

The Expat Experience

¡Vaya Madrid!

Founded by Anna Bitanga in 2012, ¡Vaya Madrid! focuses on writing articles about the experiences and observances of foreigners in Madrid. This blog is aimed at foreigners who want to get off the sidelines, and immerse themselves in the Spanish way of life. Interjected between articles on topics like culture and style, you’ll find gorgeous photo essays depicting this wonderful city.

Do you have any insider tips about Madrid? Did we miss any awesome Madrid blogs in English? Tell us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Alejandro Pinto on Flickr and Miguel Diaz on Flickr

Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions You Should Know

Many countries have their own special Christmas customs, and Spain is no exception. Perhaps you already know about the Three Kings that bring children presents or the special sweets eaten this time of year. However, there are a few wacky Spanish Christmas traditions that aren’t so well known. Read on to find out what they are!

Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions

Santa Claus is Not Coming to Town

No, instead another strange man is on his way. Spanish children believe the Three Kings will bring their presents on the 6th of January, but some parts of Spain have an extra gift-giving figure that visits on Christmas Eve.

In Galicia, a north western province in Spain, a mythical coal miner named El Apalpador feels children’s bellies to see if they’ve been eating well. Children deemed undernourished are given small, yummy treats, such as chestnuts. He may also leave a little present behind instead of food.

Olentzero brings the gifts on Christmas Eve in the Spanish provinces of Navarre and Basque Country. He is often depicted as being an overweight peasant, wearing farmer’s clothing and smoking a pipe. He leaves gifts for children, and only asks for some food and alcohol in return.

Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions: Olentzero

Children in Basque Country eagerly await Olentzero who brings them gifts on the 24th of December.

It’s the Most Wonderful-ly Fun Time of the Year

In many parts of Spain, children participate in El Aguinaldo. On Christmas day, children visit their neighbours or relatives and sing Christmas carols. In exchange for their beautiful songs, they are given sweet treats or a little bit of money.

Spain’s version of April Fools Day falls on the 28th of December, and is called El Día de los Inocentes (the Day of the Innocents). Pranks are generally harmless; the most popular prank is to stick a drawing of a stick figure on someone’s back.

In the beachside city of Cádiz, Spanish children take part in El Arrastre (The Drag) on the 5th of January, the day before the Three Kings are due to stop by. Children take empty cans and string them along a piece of rope. They then drag the cans around, making as much noise as possible. This custom is meant to call the attention of the Three Kings, so that they remember to leave the children presents that night.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Log

In the Spanish east coast province of Catalonia, children receive presents from a pooping log. Known as Tió de Nadal, or Christmas Log, this smiling figure becomes part of the family during the holiday season.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Catalonian families feed Tió de Nadal little treats every day, and cover him with a blanket each night to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve, children beat Tió de Nadal with sticks to help him poop out presents. Instead of individual presents, he usually poops out small treats, like nuts and candies, that are meant to be shared by everyone.

Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions: Tio Nadal

Various Tio Nadals on display at a Christmas Market.

Catalonia is the birthplace of another pooping Christmas character, El Caganer or The Crapper. He is often shown as a peasant, squatting down over a large pile of poop. El Caganer is usually placed in the Belen, an elaborate Nativity scene that most Spanish households display.

There are various explanations for his inclusion in the otherwise holy scene, but the most widely accepted reason is simply that it’s funny. In modern times, the figure can be made to look like politicians, famous actors or other pop culture icons.

Wacky Spanish Christmas Traditions: El Caganer

Contemporary Caganers include political figures, popular characters and professional athletes.

Which wacky Spanish Christmas traditions are the weirdest to you? Do you have any strange Christmas customs in your country?

Photo Credits: Valerie Hinojosa on Flickr, Igotz Ziarreta on Flickr, OK Apartment on Flickr

A Guide to Ordering Coffee in Spain

Most people are particular about how they enjoy their coffee, but ordering coffee in Spain can be difficult without knowing the local lingo. Read this guide on how to order coffee in Spain and get the cup of coffee that’s right for you.

Ordering Coffee in Spain

At some point during your time in Spain you will want to order a cup of coffee. Simply asking for un café (a coffee) won’t cut it, you must be more specific.

The first thing to know is that coffee in Spain is usually prepared using the espresso brewing method. This method forces extremely hot, pressurized water through finely ground coffee beans. This results in a stronger flavour in a smaller amount of coffee. A cup of coffee brewed in this manner is often referred to as espresso.

Coffee orders in Spain involve taking a cup of espresso and then adding as much (or as little) milk as you prefer. The barista won’t add any sugar, instead you will receive packets of sugar to add to your coffee yourself.

Coffees Served with Little or No Milk

Café Solo
A café solo is a small cup of strong, black espresso. Order this if you need a some energy during a fun day of sightseeing around Madrid.

Ordering Coffee in Spain: A cafe solo

Café Americano
If the intensity of a café solo is a bit much, try a café americano. This coffee contains the same amount of caffeine as a café solo but with more water, resulting in a milder flavour.

Café Cortado
A café cortado is small cup of espresso with just a tiny touch of milk. Other regions in Spain may refer to this drink as café manchado which means stained coffee– but sometimes a manchado will mean a glass of milk stained with coffee, so be sure to specify!

Café con Hielo
This summer time favourite is literally coffee with ice. The barista will give you a cup of black espresso, and another cup containing ice cubes. Pour your coffee over the ice, and enjoy.

Carajillo
The coffee order doesn’t have a drop of milk, instead it has alcohol! A carajillo is coffee served by taking a cup of espresso and adding rum, whisky or brandy.

Coffees Served with a Lot of Milk

Café con Leche
A café con leche is coffee served with equal parts espresso and milk. Sometimes when you order this, the waiter may ask if you want hot or cold milk. If you’re in a bit of a hurry and can’t wait for the steamed milk to cool, ask for cold milk (leche fría o leche del tiempo).

coffee_cafe_con_leche

Leche Manchada
This drink, which means stained milk, is made by taking a cup of steamed milk and adding a drop of espresso.

Café Bombon
A café bombon is coffee made from espresso and sweetened condensed milk. Those of you with a sweet tooth must try it, you won’t be disappointed. If you prefer to eat your sweets, make sure to check out the 7 best pastry shops in Madrid.

Decaffeinated Coffees

Fresh decaffeinated coffee isn’t very popular in Spain, and many cafes may only have it in instant form. If you order a café descafeinado de sobre, you will be served a cup of hot milk and given a packet of instant decaffeinated coffee.

If you’re lucky, the cafe may have machine brewed decaffeinated coffee or descafeinado de maquina. If so, decide how you would like your coffee served and then clarify that you’d like it made with decaffeinated coffee.

For example, if you want a decaffeinated café americano, simply say: “Querría un café americano descafeinado.”

Enjoy Coffee the Spanish Way

Now that you’ve got ordering coffee in Spain down, the last thing to note is that most Spaniards do not take their coffees ‘to go’. Instead they sit down to enjoy their drinks with friends or family. Do as the Spaniards do, drink your coffee in a beautiful public square or a quaint cafe, and take a short respite from exploring the city.

How do you like your coffee served?

Photo Credits: 55Laney69 on Flickr, Michelle Tribe on Flickr and Edsel Little on Flickr.