The city of Madrid in Spain has everything: colorful buildings, tons of tapas, historic sights, and, of course, the constant melody of a beautiful language in the background.
In 2020, of all years, I embarked on a journey to Madrid by myself after getting accepted into a program in Spain.
Given the energy on the streets of Madrid, traveling solo felt inspirational. There are cute cafes and people everywhere. Whether it’s rainy, cloudy, or cold, the tables and parks outside are always full of people.
For others planning a solo trip to Madrid, here are some helpful tips I learned along the way.
Stay near or in the center of the city. Most of the top places to visit are in the city center, such as the Prado Museum (very famous), Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (a gem), and El Retiro Park (super charming). Thankfully, there are also many decently priced hotels, hostels, and Airbnb accommodations to choose from in the area. 🙂
Take day trips. Major transportation hubs like the Atocha railway station and the Moncloa metro stop are in the center of the city, which makes it very easy to visit nearby towns. The Cercanías commuter rail system runs frequently. It’s smooth, clean, fast, and easy to navigate. I took day trips to El Escorial to see a historic town in the mountains and to Alcalá de Henares, which has the famous birthplace museum of Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote). Food in these towns is typically very authentic, less touristy, and less expensive than in Madrid.
Download the app Moovit. This app is great for navigating public transportation. It gives you the most timely routes based on your current location and your desired destination. It tells you exactly which Metro or bus line to take as well as when and where to exit.
Walk as much as possible. Do as the locals do! The locals love to walk. Stroll through Madrid’s many scenic streets and artsy neighborhoods and take in the sights and sounds of the city.
Eat well and save money. If you have a sweet tooth like me, stop in a local cafe and sample one of the many pastries normally sold for just 1 euro. The smell alone of fresh pastries is irresistible! Personally, I love the Napolitana chocolate pastries, which often come with sprinkles! One bonus of going out and ordering a una caña (a beer) for 3 euros is the restaurant will then provide you with chips or olives free of charge. Tinto de verano is also a popular drink here, arguably even more popular than sangria! Try to eat at restaurants that don’t advertise pictures of the food items they serve. Those restaurants tend to be less authentic and for tourists, not locals. Experience.
Be careful with personal belongings. Just like in any city, pickpocketing exists here, so watch your backpack and purse. Also, keep your belongings close and in sight when in a restaurant.
Brush up on your Spanish. Even just knowing a few words of the local language always helps while traveling. There are some false friends in languages, like “embarazado,” which does not mean that you are embarrassed, it means that you are pregnant!
Dress to impress. If you want to blend in with locals, dress in style (no sneakers or sweats unless you’re going to the gym). They typically don’t carry water bottles on the streets with them either. Now you’re ready to eat some churros in the latest fashion!
For all you solo travelers ready to experience España after the pandemic, be safe, enjoy, and buen viaje!