The Fine Art of Parking in Madrid #1

In: Weird : Quirky : Fun

by Ben Curtis

Parking in Madrid

Madrid, where the needs of the pedestrian always come first ;)

Yarn Shops and Knitting in Madrid

In: Shopping in Madrid

by Julie Espinosa

LanasSeeing as knitting is a current craze for young people, I recently defied my non-crafty genes and picked up some needles. Knitting—known as tejar or hacer punto or just punto in Spanish—hasn’t exactly become hip in Madrid to the degree it has in other cities of the world, but there’s a decent selection of different yarn shops here, including some picturesque weigh-the-yarn places.

My favorite so far has been the small, historic Lanas Sixto, where the shop assistant was very helpful and I bought some Katia yarn (a Spanish brand). I’ve been knitting even on the metro—talk about funny looks and comments—and the yarn’s now a scarf in progress. (Lana refers to yarn, even non-wool varieties.)

In the map below, I’ve tried to compile an exhaustive list of city yarn stores and you can view details for each. (If you have others to add or update, add your comment below).

To my knowledge, three shops offer weekly mixed level classes for €60-70 a month: at Inke, mornings and afternoons on various weekdays, at Lanas Alondra (Príncipe de Vergara location), 11:00-13:00 Wednesdays, and at Punto y Seguido, 18:00-20:00 Fridays.

For community, there’s the monthly get-together or tertulia of expat and madrileña knitters at the grand Círculo de Bellas Artes café (€1 entrance). The meet-up is usually every third Thursday; see their blog for more information.

See map below for yarn stores: Read more »

How to Get an Intercambio in Madrid

In: How To's / Where To's

by Amy Menchhofer

Whether you’re looking for a new friend or just good conversation, the intercambio is one of the most useful tools to help the expat assimilate to his new home (or to help any local to get away from it all). Luckily, it’s also a million times easier than finding an apartment. But where to start?

Make your first stop the forum at Notes from Spain. Find a post or place your own under the Intercambios/Pen Pals section and you’re sure to find others looking for the same — cyber or real. Other great resources are Loquo and craigslist. Most English language magazines available have a section dedicated to the hunt as well.

Be sure also to look into the various language nights offered throughout the city. Located in bars and bookshops and typically starting after dinner, they are the perfect chance to meet a conversation partner. (See details below.)

Remember also that intercambios are like doctors — you can find a really good one by referral. So ask around — at your language school, at the gym, among your friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends. The intercambio “market” is ever increasing and within those seven degrees of separation you’ll certainly find a willing candidate. Read more »

Please Help Us Improve – Take Our 60 Second Survey!

In: Culture

by Ben Curtis

Whether you are a regular reader or first time visitor to the site, taking our anonymous, very short 6 question survey will help us enormously!

Please Click Here to take survey

Many thanks for your time.

Agenda Madrid: Picks for March

In: Culture

by Katie Goldstein


In like a lion and out like a lamb? We’ll see about that. Here are our tips to help you get the most out of March:

1. Flowering trees across the city are in bloom. Perhaps the best place to see them is the 25-hectare park called Quinta de los Molinos, where the almendro is the star. This little-known park is metro accessible (line 5, Suanzes) and truly spectacular at this time of year.

2. Until 11 March you’ll find an exhibit called Así es Madrid… en el cine in the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in the Centro Cultural Conde Duque. The exhibit reconstructs the city during the 20th century through 200 photographs from films by directors including Carlos Saura, Pedro Almodóvar, Álex de la Iglesia, and Alejandro Amenábar.

3. CaixaForum has just joined the art and culture scene in a big way thanks to the obra social part of the Catalan bank, la Caixa. Housed in a former power station on the art-heavy Paseo del Prado, this impressive building and exhibition space is poised to become a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Go see what the hubbub is all about.

4. In Madrid’s Casa Asia, it’s worth it to see an exhibition of large-format photos of India from 1964 to 2007 taken by the Indian photographer Raghu Rai.

5. It’s never been a better time to get to know the terrace at La Casa Encendida. With its garden, seats, and views it’s one of the nicest places to be on a sunny day. And don’t leave the building until you check out the exhibit Generación 2008, the work of 30 young Spanish artists in a variety of disciplines.

See map below for all places mentioned above: Read more »

Where to Buy and Sell Second-Hand Books in Madrid

In: How To's / Where To's, Shopping in Madrid

by Katie Goldstein

Bacchus Bar and BookshopIf you didn’t bother bringing your whole library with you to Madrid, have no fear. Madrid is home to several quality second-hand English bookshops for all your literary needs. The story doesn’t end at books, either: you can take advantage of free WiFi, intercambio and quiz nights, and liquid refreshment, too. And when you finish your books, you can always sell them back.

Petra’s International Bookshop
is a cozy spot with floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with books in all subject areas and many languages (beyond the usual suspects of English, French, and German to Russian, Chinese, and Japanese). Petra’s has a great selection (perhaps the best of the bunch) and offers complimentary coffee and tea to its patrons as well.

Metro: Ópera, Santo Domingo Address: C/ Campomanes, 13 Phone: 91 541 72 91 Hours: 11:00-21:00, closed Sundays.

J & J Books and Coffee is practically an institution in this city, not only for its books, but for its nightly events that nearly always draw a big crowd of expats and English-hungry Spaniards. Tuesdays are teachers’ nights with discounts on teaching materials, Wednesday and Thursday nights are for intercambios (Thursday is more popular), Friday nights there’s a pub quiz at 11, and Saturday nights are all you can drink for 12 euros (beer on tap and wine). There’s free WiFi too.

Metro: Noviciado Address: C/ Espíritu Santo, 47 Phone: 91 521 85 76 Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:00-24:00; Friday and Saturday 11:00-2:30; Sunday 16:00-22:00.

Bacchus Bar and Bookshop
is the newcomer to the bunch and is positioned perfectly in a student-heavy neighborhood. In the style of J & J, it has a bar, plenty of books, WiFi, and nightly events. Mondays from 8 to 9 there’s a tertulia (get-together) in English for the non-native speakers out there, Tuesdays there’s an intercambio at 8 with happy hour the two hours before (to get you loosened up, one would suppose?). And their quiz night is Wednesday at 9.

Metro: Moncloa, Argüelles Address: C/ Meléndez Valdés, 52 Phone: 91 544 73 78 Hours: 17:00-1:00 (24:00 midweek), Sunday 11:00-1:00.

See map below for bookshop locations: Read more »

How to Find a Room in Madrid

In: How To's / Where To's

by Niels Klok

Madrid being the capital of one of Europe’s most popular Mediterranean countries, it will not come as a surprise that housing its four million or so inhabitants is (to put it mildly) an issue of concern. The city rivals its sisters in Northern Europe in price; and with wages often being twice as low as “up North”, problems are bound to arise. As such, Madrid has taken the phenomenon of sharing an apartment to a whole different level: no longer simply a student affair, you may find yourself living with madrileños of all ages and occupations, couples included. Check your cupboards, you might find another flatmate in there.

Most newly arrived will not have the means to rent (let alone buy!) a place by themselves, and are consequently thrown into the madness of a market that is ruled by “castings” in pisos (apartments) of varying merit. How to become one of the lucky ones? The Internet, as is so often the case, is where it all happens:

  • is arguably the most popular and effective portal: every ten minutes or so, a new habitación (room) is marketed. Select Madrid from the menu on your left, and select compartir piso / alq habitación. The endless list that pops up is, to an extent, of limited use: the good stuff tends to be gone within 24 hours (depending on the zona (neighborhood) – you may still find a spot in Aluche or Carabanchel available after a few days, but don’t bother with anything in Chueca or Bilbao if you’re late). Regardless of your pickiness, it’s useful to become familiar with the location of the various zonas – they usually refer to metro stations, so get yourself a map of Madrid on which you can easily spot these.
  • is another popular one, even though the number of rooms advertised is significantly lower. Select Madrid, then Pisos from the drop-down menu, and mark se alquila before clicking Busca to check what’s on offer. Rumor has it that the print version of Segunda Mano (available at newsstands) has more rooms, which are not advertised on the web.
  • has less visibility but can act as an additional resource. Select Busco habitación en alquiler and MADRID from the drop-down menus.
  • has more search options than the others (smoking vs. non-smoking etc.) and you can select your area by navigating a map of Madrid. Do check the date of posting, however: ads are rarely removed. Start by selecting alquilar, habitación and Madrid from the menus on the main page. Read more »

Where to eat a good Fabada in Madrid? … and other Asturian delights.

In: Eating out & Madrid Restaurants, Traditional

by Marina Diez


When it’s cold in Madrid, nothing revives you like a good Fabada, the thick Asturian bean stew with chorizo, ham and morcilla (black pudding). Here are my three favourite Asturian restaurants to sample a great Fabada, as well as other Asturian delights:

Casa Portal:
This is a friendly and traditional restaurant, not far from the Retiro park. For an informal meal or great tapas, the tables located near the bar are fine. For a relaxed full lunch head further inside to the dinning area located beyond the end of the bar. As well as the Fabada, try the assorted Asturian Cheese plate, croquetas made of vegtables or a strong blue cheese called Cabrales, and the Asturian Omelette with white tuna, onion and tomato.

Metro: Ibiza, Goya, O’Donell Address: C/ Doctor Castelo, 26 Phone: 91 574 2026 Opening hours: 13:30-16:30 and 20:30-23:30. Closed Sunday night and all day Monday.

Casa Hortensia:
Formely located in a tiny restaurant in Lavapies, Casa Hortensia recently moved to a much bigger location on the second floor of the “Centro Asturiano” building just off Calle Fuencarral. They have two sittings for lunch, at 1:30 and 3 pm, and it’s essential to book. It’s really important to note that one portion of Fabada easily feeds two, so one Fabada, a Salad and another starter would be a great choice for two people – the same applies to Casa Portal.

Metro: Tribunal, Chueca Address: C/ Farmacia, 2 2º Phone: 91 5390090 Opening hours: 13:30-16:30 and 20:30-24:00. Closed Sunday night and all day Monday.

Casa Mingo:
Famous city-wide for its roast chicken, both to eat in or take away, this traditional family restaurant has excellent service, and is even better value than the two places mentioned above. Although the Fabada portion is smaller (and cheaper) here, Casa Mingo is always worth a visit for its great food and wonderful atmosphere.

Metro: Principe Pio Address: Paseo de la Florida, 34 Phone: 91 5477918 Opening hours: 11-24h.

See map below for restaurant locations: Read more »

Five Vintage Clothing Shops

In: Shopping in Madrid

by Julie Espinosa

ClothesSecond-hand shopping is a fun pastime in any city and Madrid is no exception. Now the prices are nowhere near the rock-bottom steals I’ve found in cities in the U.S., but sometimes prices here are negotiable. Here are five shops to check out:

1. Underground: This place is packed with clothes from the ’50s to the 90’s, and I mean packed. Peek into the back room and you’ll see bags and bags of more pieces. Perhaps they have underground storage too?

2. Holala: This Malasaña shop’s an eclectic mix of used clothing and the quirky new things by Zombie Studio. Take a romp through these retro designs.

3. Humana: This is the most reminiscent of Goodwill stores, in that their purpose is humanitarian and recycling. Their five Madrid locations offer a little of everything at low prices.

4. Corachón y Delgado: This is an upscale vintage boutique with plenty of accessories and designer clothing.

5. Lotta: Another nicer vintage shop worth browsing with hand-picked name brands, lots of dresses.

What other places do you know of in Madrid to buy unique vintage (or vintage-style) clothing?

See map below for addresses of all stores mentioned above: Read more »

Madrid Neighbourhoods: La Latina – Madrid at its Most Happening

In: Bars and Cafes, La Latina

by Katie Goldstein

La Latina

You can think of La Latina as Lavapiés’ more stylish older sister. The neighborhood is one of the most lively in Madrid thanks to the combination of a high concentration of good tapas bars and a young, modern crowd. And it’s happening at about any time of the week. Sundays may be La Latina’s busiest day, with the morning Rastro and the afternoon spillover into the bars and plazas of the barrio. Enter any bar at about 6 p.m. and it’ll feel like Saturday night all over again.

Ben has already made a fantastic map with some of his favorite bars, but here are a few more suggestions for Sundays and beyond:

Drink: Taberna Salamanca is a tiny, old timey place on the famed Cava Baja good for a drink before heading elsewhere—the food is apparently worth it as well. Barrio Alto is a stylish yet laid-back bar that boasts cocktails and reasonably priced light meals set to jazz, funk, and more.

Eat: Taberna El Almendro deserves the first mention for the outstanding price-quality ratio and ambience to boot. Txakoli is an excellent Basque pintxos bar with two locations. Juana La Loca offers innovative pintxos in a sit-down setting. Some complain it’s overpriced, but it’s worth trying the tortilla de patata with caramelized onions.

Picnic: Grab a bocadillo from the Cervecería San Andrés and join the multitudes sitting in the adjacent plaza on a sunny day at any time of year (see photo above!). You can also head down to the lovely Plaza de la Paja to hit up the brand new second location of Viva la Vida, the vegetarian take-away buffet, and eat outside.

Debauch: One word: Contraclub. Copas and great music: funk, soul, rock, etc. No 40 Principales to be found here. Friday and Saturday it’s open ‘til 6 a.m., with free entry until 2 a.m.

What are your favorite spots in La Latina?

See map below for all places mentioned above as well as opening hours: Read more »

How to Buy a Flat in Madrid

In: How To's / Where To's

by Faye Davies

Se VendeIn some ways buying property is easier than renting in Madrid (and prices right now are static if not falling); but here are some points to bear in mind:

1. Have a lot of cash. Although prices in the Spanish capital compare well with some countries, be aware that secondary costs (i.e. taxes and Dickensian bureaucracy) mean that you should count on paying 20% more than the price of the flat, up front.

2. Be legit. Anglo-Saxon minds may boggle at the rigidity of Spanish banks, who will only consider giving you a mortgage if you have a fixed, permanent employment contract. On the bright side, a friend of mine recently got a – to her mind temporary – job through the Adecco employment agency, for which she was given an immediate contrato fijo.

3. Narrow your desires. Focusing on a particular barrio means you can wander the streets looking for private Se Vende (For Sale) signs. An agent-free process should in theory get you a better deal. The most essential thing either way is to secure a copy of the nota simple informativa (del Registro de la Propiedad), which proves that the seller is the person they claim to be, and that the property is free of debts.

4. (But) don’t be scared of agents. It’s the reverse situation to the banks: estate agents here are a breath of fresh air in comparison to some of the sharks I’ve dealt with in the UK. Honest, punctual and friendly, I was very pleased with the service of everyone but Tecnocasa, a mercenary chain to be avoided like the plague.

5. Ask questions. In addition to deciding what’s essential to you (natural light, elevator, terrace etc.), brush up on other factors such as the monthly comunidad fee and status of the ITE (building maintenance and inspection, respectively). I drew quick plans of every place I saw and built an Excel sheet to cross-reference features and prices. I didn’t regret it.

How to see Teatro Real performances for up to 90% off

In: Culture

by Julie Espinosa

Teatro RealSeeing opera, ballet and other concerts in Madrid on the cheap–up to 90% off–is possible with the Teatro Real’s youth tickets program, for youth 26 and under. Here’s the step-by-step guide to getting discounted tickets to the Royal Theater’s highbrow entertainment:

1. Browse the 2007-08 season’s programación.

2. Once you’ve chosen a performance, choose a date to attend. If you can afford the 60%-off price, purchase your “G zone” tickets as soon as possible.

3. If you’re willing to try your luck (and you’re not set on seeing an opening and closing night show) you can hold out for the last-minute 90%-off price. Unsold seats are released an hour and a half before a performance to people (26 and under) with photo ID showing your birthdate. Limit one ticket per person. Go early to queue up at the ticket office, on the west side of the theater. Since many functions sell out in advance, you can always call the ticket office the day of to check if any seats are left.

So, if, unlike legions of [Spanish] youth, you aren’t ambivalent about opera, ballet and the like, take advantage of this come-on, and just maybe I’ll see you at the Orphic concerts this May.

Metro: Ópera Address: Plaza de Oriente s/n Phone: 91 516 06 60 Curtain times: vary.

See map below: Read more »

Agenda Madrid: Picks for February

In: Culture

by Katie Goldstein

February is the shortest month of the year. Here are five recommendations to make the most of it:

1. So you may not like Valentine’s Day (many Spaniards I know say it was invented by the Corte Inglés), but what better excuse to grab your significant other or group of friends and relax in Madrid’s very own Arabic baths?

2. A winter’s day is the perfect time to discover the Círculo de Bellas Artes. For the one-euro entry fee you can visit any of the exhibitions and then refresh yourself in the gorgeous cafetería.

3. Among the highlights at the Filmoteca in the historic Cine Doré this month are the Brazilian slum tale City of God (9 February) and a retrospective of Fernando Fernán-Gómez’s films. Full schedule is here.

4. Check out the Modigliani exhibit at the Thyssen or free of charge at Fundación Caja Madrid. The exhibit looks at the Italian artist’s work after his arrival in Paris in the early 20th century, as well as the artists – among them Cézanne, Picasso, and Chagall – who influenced him.

5. Make your own music at the monthly Anti-Karaoke in Sala El Sol on 27 February. The show promises to be a crazily good way to bid February adiós.

See map below for all locations mentioned above: Read more »

La Sal: A Post-Park or Prado Treat

In: Eating out & Madrid Restaurants, Retiro

by Faye Davies

La SalWhat better to follow a vigorous walk in Madrid’s Retiro than a glass of good wine and a selection of delicious tapas? The barrio to the east of the park is replete with eating options but (if you don’t have the heart or wallet for the Ritz) you’d be forgiven for thinking that the area to the west is a culinary wasteland.

Enter La Sal, one of the most delicious (and reasonably priced) taperías the city has to offer. The menu is short, and having tried almost everything on it, I can say consistently excellent – although the veal steak and duck risotto deserve a special mention.

Deserts are small but exquisite. You won’t regret ordering the apple tart or the chocolate brownie, full of warm sauce. A word of warning, though: the (goat’s) cheesecake does taste a bit like it’s just walked off the farm. Not for the faint-hearted.

The only downside is that the clientèle is a little on the pijo (bumptiously posh) side. You might want to brush down your muddy boots before stepping into the minimalist white decor scheme.

Metro: Banco de España Address: C/ Montalbán, 3 Phone: 91 521 02 28 Hours: lunch 13.30-15.45, dinner 20.30-23.30, closed Sundays.

See map below: Read more »

Dear Mr Mayor of Madrid

In: Retiro, Weird : Quirky : Fun

by A Concerned Citizen of Madrid

Dear Mr Gallardon,

First of all I’m writing to say that I hope that grumpy old git Rajoy doesn’t kick you out of your job later this year (in fact I particularly hope that HE gets kicked out of a job instead – he really is the most odious, obnoxious politician I have ever come across in my life).

Secondly I would like to thank you for the great job you are doing of putting big stinking roads into big stinking underground tunnels. I think this will be your legacy: the mayor that put big roads in tunnels. More of the same please. Do us all a favour and bury the Castellana, ASAP.

Now to the main point of my letter. I’m lucky enough to be able to take a stroll quite often around the Retiro Park. What a delight! You really have done a fine job of keeping it spick-and-span, although there are times when I’d like to take those infernal noise-making leaf-blowing machines and chuck them in the lake.

Ah, yes, the lake. Now the bongo playing round the back of the lake in that big semi-circular plaza with the columns used to drive me slightly mad, until at last I was able to appreciate the talent at work in those endless repetitive beats. What I can’t get used to though, is that every time I walk around that side of the park I am offered drugs by young gentlemen who whistle, hiss and beckon at me persistently, from 100 yards away, and don’t seem to get it into their heads that if I completely ignore them right up until I pass under their noses, it means I don’t want what they are selling. I ignore them, and they keep hissing, beckoning, whistling and cajoling, and it is really starting to piss me off.

I appreciate that it is important to group certain aspects of the cities talent in niche locations (keeping so many prostitutes on hand on the Calle Montero, just off Sol in the heart of commercial and touristy Madrid, is a masterstroke), but I just can’t see the connection between selling drugs, and people relaxing in the sun and playing ethnic musical instruments by a beautiful lake in a big beautiful park.

Well, if you are happy to let these guys stay there, I’d just like to suggest that you set up boothes for them, like the guys who sells peanuts to feed the fish, so at least they’ll know that we know where to find them, and they won’t have to keep annoying innocent strollers like myself.

Keep up the good work, and don’t give in to the lunatic with the beard,

Yours obligingly,

A Concerned Citizen of Madrid

P.S. A taxi driver recently told me he thought all the city’s transport problems could be solved by putting a vast undergound bus station under the Retiro Park. Seems to me he could be onto something. What do you think?

Want to use this site to get in touch with the Mayor? Send in your letters via the contact page and we’ll publish them here!