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10 Things You Should Know Before Going to Madrid

From the clouds of cigarette smoke, through the locals who sit at the bar (not just the young ones) to the odd schedule, here are some things that will surprise you in Madrid at least according to Mark Walters, who travels the world and reports about it on his YouTube channel

Everything here happens late

Lunch only begins at around 13:00 and dinner sometimes opens only at 21:00. You will need to change your eating habits according to the local time. If you’re planning to go out for a party, take into account that the locals go out very late at night.

People do not stop eating

In Madrid there’s this feeling that people here eat all the time. They have breakfast at seven or eight, a second breakfast at 10-11, then lunch, merienda (between lunch and dinner) and late supper. Still, it turns out that the Spanish look great…

They smoke here a lot

In Madrid you’ll see and smell the cigarette smoke. People in all of Spain smoke a lot but in Madrid even more. While the United States and various European countries have many anti-smoking laws, here in Madrid the legislature itself is probably on a coffee break and smoking. If you hate the smell of cigarette smoke in your things or your hair, Madrid will not be very considerate and you should be prepared for that, too.

Paella and sangria are not always that great

There are many tourist attractions in the city center but the Paella and sangria are really lousy here. Do not look for them in the tourist areas but outside. Especially be careful around the Puerta del Sol. Mark Walters also recommends staying away from places where you see ten types of paella. In other places outside of the center, you will probably enjoy excellent Paella and sangria.

Food and beverage deals in Madrid are great

Many bars will offer you a shot or a beer for a single euro. If you sit down for lunch and choose the Menu of the Day you will be offered bread, drink, appetizer (all here are superb in Spain), main course and then dessert or coffee. All this for ten or thirteen euros. The food is great and there is a variety. You can also enjoy large discounts in the open markets as opposed to the tourist areas.

Two prices

There are two prices in Madrid when you go to a bar. One for sitting at the bar and one for sitting at a table. Tourists who do not know the method complain about the phenomenon but that’s how it works here. Older people would also sit down at the bar for a chat and a meal. It’s a good way to meet the locals, of course.

The cops

If you get stuck on the road or need help, try the local police. According to Mark Walters, these are policemen who not only help but also look awesome…

The city in August

Two things will overwhelm you in August in Madrid. One is the heat, especially if you are an American tourist like Mark Walters and the second is the fact that all Madrid residents disappear from the city during the eighth month of the year. If you think about merging with the local population, you may get disappointed as many Madrid people leave in August for a vacation (probably to a cooler place) and the city becomes a hot spot with mostly tourists like you.

The cold in the winter

Madrid is one of those places that evoke an association of summer, vacation and short clothes, but the truth is that in winter it gets cold here and especially after sunset. If you are planning to leave the city for attractions and sites around, consider that some of them are at a higher point than Madrid and therefore will be even colder. December, January and February are the months to wear some extra layers.

Pickpockets at the metro station

Metro stations are a preferred destination for pickpockets and therefore you should be careful. If you notice your wallet is missing, says Mark Walters, don’t freak out, the first thing to do is to go back and look for your wallet on the floor or in one of the garbage cans. Usually the pickpockets will take the money and throw away the rest. They are less interested in cards and more in cash.

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