How to Enjoy Madrid Like a Local

From nightlife to art, make like a Madrilio with these top cultural experiences that will have you fit in with the locals.

From nightlife to art, make like a Madrilio with these top cultural experiences that will make you fit right in with the locals.

#1: Sip cocktails like Hemingway and Almodovar

Ernest Hemingway enjoyed many a drink in the cosy nooks of legendary bar Museo Chicote, and even though the cocktail menu tries hard to be hip, it’s still retains ambience of bygone years in its cosy nooks. For something earthier, try the equally long-established tapas bar Antigua Casa Angel Sierra, as seen in Pedro Almodovar’s 1995 film, The Flower Of My Secret. Forget the fancy drinks – do as the locals do and order a shot of draft vermouth with a dish of olives.

#2: Celebrate soccer at the Bernabeu

Madrid loves its soccer. Prime focus for that attention is Real Madrid FC, arguably one of the world’s finest clubs – in fact May sees an all-Madrid derby in the Champions League final, between Real and their local rivals, Athletico Madrid. In recent years Real has boasted superstar – galacticos – players such as Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo and Beckham, helping them to win domestic and European trophies galore. Get a taste of that glory by joining thousands more Madridistas at a match at the spectacular Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Or join a tour of the stadium to get up close to their dazzling silver trophy room, panoramic view of the stadium, dressing room and high-tech interactive museum.

Real Madrid FC ground, Santiago Bernabau
Santiago Bernabau, home to Real Madrid FC (©Turismo Madrid)

#3: Enjoy the local music scene

Madrid boasts a plethora of live jazz and classical music, but for a truly local experience, try a late-night performance of flamenco or zarzuela. For Spain’s famous dance, head to a late-night tablao (flamenco venue) where top bailaor (dancers) dazzle with guitar and dance. For a different style of local culture, try zarzuela, Madrid’s own version of comic operetta, best of all at Teatro de la Zarzuela.

Late-night concerts at Madrid's landmark venues (©Turismo Madrid)
Late-night concerts at Madrid's landmark venues (©Turismo Madrid)

#4: Have a night out on the terraces

Madrid comes alive after dark—in fact most self-respecting Madridistas don’t head out until after midnight for a night on the town. Their secret to such energy is making the most of an afternoon siesta, especially in the summer months to avoid the afternoon heat. Even if bars and clubs aren’t your scene, join families and people of all ages strolling in local parks, window shopping, enjoying a coffee in an open-air terraza or choosing a deep-fried churros and thick hot chocolate from street stalls. Don’t be surprised to see families with young kids out at midnight, and traffic queues along the Paseo de la Castellana long after you’d usually be heading to bed back home.

Gran Via, Madrid, Spain
Make the most of your afternoon siesta, because Madrid is at its liveliest near midnight. (©Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock)

#5: Get into the local art scene

You may have spent hours absorbing Museo del Prado’s masterpieces by Spanish artists Goya, Dali and Velazquez, but taste a fresh slice of art with Madrid’s eclectic contemporary art galleries. Newcomer La New Gallery opened in 2012, and champions contemporary Spanish artists in all media, from photography to installation and painting. The lively neighbourhood of Chueca is home to Mad Is Mad, an art space for more than 100 artists from around the world. The old municipal slaughterhouse and livestock market is transformed into the huge arts centre El Matadero de Madrid where exhibitions take place in its gallery, the Nave 16.