How to Survive Madrid | Visit Madrid Like a Local

When visiting a big city like Madrid, everyone needs some tips on how to survive it. Yes, of course you want to avoid being pickpocketed, but there are more tips for how to survive Madrid than that! Be in the know about where to go, what time to avoid the touristy crowds, and how to escape the city and you’ll be surviving Madrid like the locals in no time!



Visit Mercado de San Miguel During the Day

This is a tourist hub of Madrid. Visiting this market at night is definitely worth the experience, however, to be able to actually walk through the market instead of shove through other people, you’ll want to visit early afternoon! Be sure to bring cash, as some places accept card, but not all do!


Choose a Tapas Place with Loads of People and No English Menu

Enjoying tapas (snacks with your drinks) like a local is a huge key to learning how to survive Madrid. But here’s the catch… You’ll find loads of tapas places that are really just built for the tourists. Do yourself a favor and avoid any place that has an English menu, and only grab tapas and a drink from places that are filled with people speaking Spanish! If you walk around a bit, you’ll also be able to see what tapas you get with the drinks – and choose where you eat based off that!

{Traveler’s Tip… Remember that each drink you order you’ll get served a different round of tapas. The more drinks you consume, the better the tapas get!}


Shop on the Outskirts of the Sunday Rastro Market 

If you’re planning a visit to the local market, be sure to either visit early in the morning before the crowd forms, or simply stay on the outskirts of the market. Trust us, you’ll find the same great deals and products around the outskirts as you do in the middle of the market, and you’ll avoid being herded around like cattle! This market gets busy fast, and you don’t want to fall victim to being pickpocketed or trampled over!


Visit a Real Chocolatier, not a Touristy One

When you get a map of Madrid, you’ll find an offer for two free churros with the purchase of a hot chocolate from some major tourist trap in the city center. DO NOT GO THERE! The price of the hot chocolate and other goods are out of this world, and not in a good way! If you want to visit a true chocolatier and have real Spanish churros, meander down to Los Artesanos 1902. This place has been around for 115 years and they definitely serve their churros right!

{Traveler’s Tip… Order before you sit down, as they only serve you after you have ordered from the guy at the front stand right when you walk in!}

Escape the Hustle and Bustle by Taking a Day Trip to Toledo

If you really want to survive Madrid like a local, you’ll quickly learn you have to get out of the city too. With awesome day trips just a train ride away, get out and explore more of Spain. We recommend visiting Toledo. It’s the best place to watch a sunset and is only 30-minutes out of Madrid. You can check how to get there, avoid the tourism, and more traveler’s tips for Toledo here.


Find the Hole in the Wall Ham Shops, Not Museo del Jamon

We can’t tell you how many times people have asked if we’ve been to Museo del Jamon. It’s high on everyone’s to-do list of places to see in Madrid, but we weren’t buying it. And as you’ve probably guessed, neither should you. Yes, there’s loads of ham offered there, but there’s loads of ham offered at many other places too. We even found the other ham places to be tastier, cheaper, and found the workers much more interested in your ham experience. A.K.A. toasting your ham sandwiches if wanted, chatting with you about your time in their country, and ensuring that you know just how to survive Madrid.

{Traveler’s Tip… With the hole in the wall ham shops, you’ll need cash. Always carry a bit on you. You should pay no more than €3 for a sandwich. Also… Don’t make the mistake we did – after having one you’re going to want one every day. Do yourself a favor and buy one the first day you’re there!}


Know the Hacks of Public Transportation

You’re going to have to take public transportation while visiting Madrid. Getting from the airport to the city center takes about 45-minutes on the metro. However, it’s an easy ride and the cheapest option. Just be sure you know the hacks before just buying a ticket at the kiosk. If you’re grabbing the metro from the airport, stop and talk to the information book just before the metro gates. They will explain to you the best/cheapest options for how long you’re planning on being in Madrid.

{Traveler’s Tip… We can’t really say what will be the best option for you because it will totally depend on how long you plan on being in Madrid. However, we will say in most cases, it’s best to just get a packet of tickets. You’ll most likely not need an unlimited amount of rides, and you’ll be surprised how much walking you’ll do in the city!}



We hope this post not only gives you a better idea of what to expect in Madrid, but also really helps you visit the Madrid like a local. After all, if you’re traveling somewhere and are only a tourist, do you really experience the true culture of that area?

If you have any tips to help other travelers survive Madrid, or have any questions or comments, leave them below! We’ll be happy to help you in any way we can. And if you’re looking for some more inspiration for your trip to Madrid, check out these 12 places you don’t want to miss or read our story of our long weekend in the beautiful city.

[The prices and information in this post are from our travels to Madrid in November 2016. If any information has changed when you visit these places, please let us know so we can update the post for other readers!]

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