The night before your trip to Madrid has finally arrived.
Goodbye work, meals on the go and dreary weather. Hello freedom, tapas and sun! You’ve packed your bag, dusted off your DSLR, retrieved your boarding pass, and you’re ready to go and make the most out of your trip to Madrid. But are you really?
In the haste of preparing a trip abroad, we often forget a small step that would greatly enhance our travel experience. How about taking a few moments to really understand your destination?
Choosing to be a responsible tourist in Madrid simply means that you will be making choices that will have a positive impact on the local community. With many destinations battling overtourism, Madrid is hot on the tourist map due to its authentic feel. But keeping it this way is a fine balance! Here are some ways to be a responsible traveler in Madrid.
When to visit Madrid responsibly
Choosing when to travel can have a huge impact on your experience. Think of the difference between enjoying your chocolate con churros as soon as you get the craving versus drooling over the delicious smell as you stand in a never-ending line. Traveling in low season will not only allow you to beat the crowds, but also give you the opportunity to mingle more with the locals you encounter. They will be the ones to introduce you to Madrid’s real culture and hidden gems. You will also find better deals as far as flight and accommodation are concerned and, at the same time, you’ll be helping the city even out its tourism flow throughout the year. Makes sense, right?
Where to stay in Madrid responsibly
Though Airbnb can seem like the right choice every time, there is an ethical debate behind it which any responsible tourist should be aware of. While the traveler may be enjoying a more local stay in a neighborhood, more and more neighbors are being forced out of their homes due to rising rent prices. The solution? Stay in a locally-owned bed and breakfast or pensión, a Madrid-owned boutique hotel, or, for an even more authentic feel, head out to one of Madrid’s peripheral neighborhoods which are all very well connected with the city center.
Our picks for where to stay: Central Palace, centrally located with views of the palace, or Dear Hotel for a luxurious boutique hotel with a terrace offering some of the best cocktails and views of the city.
Where to eat in Madrid responsibly
One of the best ways to experience a new culture is through its food and Madrid is no exception! With a seemingly infinite number of bars and restaurants, how do you make the right choice as a responsible traveler?
First off, forget the chains! Although tempting in their familiarity, chains are often foreign-owned and have little to offer in terms of a local experience. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for independent, local restaurants where you will find seasonal food items on the menu. Also, keep on the lookout for the centennial plaques proudly displayed by Madrid’s older taverns. These are restaurants that have been open for over 100 years and that are often family owned and run, offering an array of local traditional delicacies.
Seasonal and local: La Berenjena for its local vibe and seasonal dishes
Centennial and traditional: Casa Labra for their salted cod croquetas
A responsible travel itinerary for Madrid
Depending on your interests and length of stay, there are so many different activities you can enjoy in Madrid. Do make room for cultural activities such as museum visits or a stroll over to the cathedral and Royal Palace. Also, check-out some of the lesser-known attractions such as the Barefoot Nuns Monastery or the Sorolla Museum.
That said, you will find that even the best planners tend to be led off the path by the Madrid way of life! And that is perfectly okay—as a responsible tourist you do want to let yourself be guided by your instincts! Leave TripAdvisor and Google Maps at home and wander the little backstreets of Hapsburg Madrid. Before you know it, you’ll find a quaint little jewelry shop, an authentic tapas stop or even a local food market.
Our favorite small shops and artisans
Everyone loves to return home with a little memento for themselves or their loved ones after a wonderful trip. But before you add more stuff to your already about-to-burst hand luggage, ask yourself where it came from. Is it a cheap import or a genuine local product? Try to avoid the shops that are flooded with the same type of ubiquitous souvenirs you can find anywhere in the world. Purchasing local souvenirs instead is a great way to support local craftspeople when you buy in the right places. Suss out the specialty shops selling olive oil and wine, pottery or leather goods.
How to be a good tourist in Madrid
- Plan ahead
- Learn a few words in Spanish
- Read up on our history and culture
- Make room for cultural attractions
- Lose yourself in the backstreets
- Mingle with the locals
- Eat locally-sourced and seasonal products
- Buy local souvenirs
- Travel by foot or public transport
- Stay in locally-owned accommodation
- Eat at chain restaurants
- Rely solely on TripAdvisor recommendations
- Leave your trash behind
- Disturb residents on your way back from a wild night on the town
- Act any differently than you would at home!
- Overuse A/C or water
- Overlook lesser-known attractions
Follow these tips and you can leave Madrid knowing you’ve been a great tourist. Don’t stop there—take a look at the rest of our responsible tourism guides:
Half American and half Spanish, Carolyn is a well-traveled hotelier with a passion for food, wine and hospitality. She was Hotel Ritz Madrid’s youngest concierge at age 20 and she has catered to some of Spain’s most elite aristocrats including the Prime Minister.