Last Updated: Nov 22, 2019 @


Madrid Ana la Santa on how to visit Madrid and enjoy like locals guide

The front of the Ana La Santa – living like a local in Madrid means discovering your neighborhood on foot.

How to visit Madrid and enjoy like locals

Why visit Madrid?

Aaahh! Madrid. It’s very hard not to love this capital city of Spain. Famous for its grand boulevards, gorgeously manicured parks, not to mention the abundance of European art in the many museums and galleries spread out all over the city. This is a guide on how to visit Madrid and enjoy it like locals do.

In this city of over three million people in the core (slightly more than 6.5 million people in the metropolitan area), it’s amazing that they have managed to preserve the old while incorporating the new. The Spanish Monarch residence is here and Madrid is the seat of government. Only Paris and London surpass it in size, so you can imagine just how expansive the city is.

The first and foremost reason we don’t live there is because Madrid is expensive. For us to fully enjoy what the city has to offer, we would have needed to live in the main core which is quite costly. Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona have the highest cost of living in Spain.

Our second and important reason was that we wanted to live close to the water. Having lived in Seville where it gets quite hot and not able to withstand it anymore, we wanted some sea to escape to, which is what eventually brought us to Valencia.

Madrid like a local:

In order to fully appreciate the wonderful city of Madrid, you have to bring the right attitude as it definitely enhances your Madrid visit. Here is a guide to enjoying Madrid like locals do.

Visiting and loving Madrid like locals guide. Steps to doing it right:


Our Madrid airbnb room with red couch- perfect! How to visit madrid and enjoy like locals guide

Locals in Madrid live in flats. Our AirBnB rental was perfect! Private lodging helps you live like a local in Madrid.

Feel free to use our AirBnB referral code to get a discount off your first stay if you’re new to AirBnB. We love staying like locals wherever we travel as it is a good way to get a much better impression of the city. Shopping for groceries, having a drink, everyday interactions that give the local flavour, something that can be hard to get from hotel stays.

The street we stayed at Calle Gubaernadod sign Madrid.

Madrid visit like a local – The street we stayed at. You get more interaction with the everyday people of the city when you grab coffee or a drink.


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View from the balcony. Don’t be fooled, there’s a lot going on there in the evenings, but yet so quiet.

Madrilenos are fun! and it seems they do have fun all day. There seems to be something going on all the time, in the streets, parks and there seems to be a holiday in honour of one saint or the other on a weekly basis so chances are that you will happen upon a celebration. I have visions of Pedro Almodovar type of life happening. We stayed in central Madrid and some of the clubs were open till 5AM. There was a club that people were still going into at 8AM, complete with a big bouncer at the door when we were heading out for the day. Amazing!


Listo para comer (ready to eat)- man at restaurant on how to visit Madrid and enjoy like locals

Locals in Madrid do not head out for dinner until late :-). Think 9pm! something unthinkable for most of us. Federico estar listo para comer (ready to eat)


Seafood Paella in madrid

Madrid visit, live like a local – eat seafood paella. Paella originated in Valencia, but it has been embraced by other parts of Spain. This is the Catalan style with fiduea which is like chopped spaghetti.



Mouthwatering prawns in a plate in Madrid guide to living like loclas.

Mouthwatering prawns. Local things to do in Madrid involve lots of eating over several hours.


Local thing to do in Madrid includes enjoying a glass or two of Tinto de Verano which translates to summer red. This is their version of a sangria. It is a mixture of red wine, carbonated soda or soda (like Sprite). It’s not weighed down by fruit like in Sangria and is perfect for those hot days.

Awesome and refreshing Sangria

Awesome and refreshing Tinto de Verano. Living like a local in Madrid include loving this refreshing cocktail. Asking for “Tinto” instead of sangria makes you a local.


taberna in madrid

One of the restaurants we ate at in the old center of Madrid, Taberna La Carmela.

A local in Madrid will have a cana of beer (usually 225ml) and costs very little. This is enjoyed with complimentary nuts or olives. A very common sight in many parts of Spain as they sit outside and enjoy people watching and chatting with neighbours and friends.

cana of beer in madrid

Loved the cute beer glasses. Beer (cerveza) is a must in Madrid to live like a local. Ask for Cana..which is a small size and very cheap too..less than a dollar!

Hang out where the Madrid locals do: a very popular place is the central market, the mercado de San Miguel, one of Madrid’s oldest and quite beautiful market with its Goth architecture. A gastronomic delight, so make sure to get your tapas and chow down like a local. Read all about it on my San Miguel mercado post.

Madrid : Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid locals like to hang out here for tapas. Join them for some and people watching.


Madrid paella at mercado de san miguel

More Paella in Madrid! You think we liked it? Do like a Madrileno does, and only have paella for lunch, not dinner.

Things locals do in Madrid: Tapas and Tinto/Cana

Locals in Madrid enjoy their tapas crawl. This is a way of life for lots of people in Spain l’ve found after living in three different cities and visiting some more. This is having a tapas and or drink at different places. Usually, you meet friends, have a drink, go on to the next bar, have another tapas and so on till you get full. It’s a great way to find favourite hangouts and/or discover new places to eat. Trial and error. Something we have also started doing. When in Rome and all that.


Yummy tapas at mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Yummy tapas.. Madrilenos love their tapas and to be live like a local, you should too.


baguettes filled with jamon in madrid

Madrid visit like a local – eat what the locals eat. Jamon (ham) baguettes.

No dinners at seven in the evening here! This isn’t Florida. Madrilenos do not go out for dinner till 9pm or much later. If you want to stick out, go for dinner at 8pm (like we did the first day, l was hungry!) and you’ll see how empty the restaurants are. The other few patrons will be tourists just like you.


The city is huge, the buildings are huge, the parks are huge and lovely. Visit one of the parks like the El Retiro Gardens, bring your lunch, eat it on a park bench and people watch, like we did.

Open air gym class in Madrid at el Retiro park!

Open air Madrid gym class at El Retiro Madrid.

Related ReadingEl Retiro Park

One of the many beautiful fountains

One of the many beautiful fountains at el Retiro park, one of the most beautiful parks l have ever seen.


el retiro park greenery madrid guide

Madrid visit like a local – enjoy the many beautiful parks in the city.


Spring is in the air, trees blooming #madrid #madridguide #spain

Spring is in the air in Madrid living like a local means enjoying the fresh air and taking advantage of the great weather .


statue of king charles v el retiro park madrid

Lovely way to spend time during your Madrid holiday – visit Madrid El Retiro park and you will get a glimpse of how locals in Madrid live and enjoy. The manana attitude is fully on display.



madrid statue

There are many wonderful statues all over the city of Madrid, so to enjoy…live life outside like the locals do!


beagle at el retiro park madrid

Madrid living like a local – Madrid is dog friendly. Bring the dog out to the park! We accosted every beagle we saw! Love them :o)



How to visit Madrid and love it like a local. #madrid #visitmadrid #madridguide #europetravel



Since we absolutely love the Real Madrid football club, we had to visit their home. Football is a good way to meet locals as they are always willing to talk and argue about their teams.

madrid santiago bernabeu stadium

Madrid, The Bernabeu stadium seats 80,000 !!! Madrid locals love the futball. If you like football, touring the Santiago Bernabeu stadium is a must visit in Madrid.

Football, (futbol) as in soccer that is. No hand touching here, unless you want to get called for a foul! Pick your team and love them to death. Your big name teams in Madrid are Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid. Be prepared to talk endlessly about them too.

We struck up a lot of conversations on the buses just by asking what team people supported. It was a great way to meet people and others usually joined in, one even got off the bus with us at the stop on the day we visited the stadium to make sure we found it okay, even though it wasn’t his team. Real Madrid has it’s own stop on the train by the way called the Santiago Bernabeu.

Some of their booty! madrid santiago benabeu

Some of the booty (trophies) at Madrid Bernabeu museum. Hang with locals in Madrid and bond over football.


 balls and shoes at madrid santiago bernabeu!

Loving Madrid like a local – Football love! Imagine the old days and playing with these balls and shoes!


locker room of Ronaldo, Bale et al. at ssantiago bernabeu madrid

The very same locker room of Ronaldo, Bale et al. Was he in heaven? .. yeah!


On the bench at santiago bernabeu football stadium tour

On the bench. Just to make sure, l sat on every single seat, thanks to my love hate relationship with Jose Mourinho! Gone from RM, but not forgotten.. Definitely a highlight of Madrid visit.


 press conference room at santiago bernabeu stadium in Guide to madrid

Love it like a local! About to give a press conference! Santiago Bernabeu is a must do tour in Madrid.

Here’s his little video of the stadium if you’re interested. In our house, football is a religion (Italian Serie A) as it is for Madrid locals

HAVE A BIT OF CULTURE: Visit Madrid Museums

Madrid is full of museums with world class artwork. Amazing places like Museo Nacional del Prado, featuring works by  master artists like Rubens, Titian, and Velasquez. This museum, along with the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia form the “Golden Triangle of Art” because of their close proximity to one another. Very impressive inside and out they are. Be sure to check out what times you can enter for free at the museums, even though you have to wait in very long lines, but it might save you a euro or two if you have the time, otherwise a skip the line tour is highly recommended. Visit the Crystal Palace at El Retiro park if you get a chance, it’s free entry all the time..

museum entrance at el retiro madrid

Free entry at the museum inside the El Retiro park in Madrid…

spanish art at museum madrid

Madrid visit like a local – check out the free things to do in the city.



Visit Madrid and enjoy like a local by visiting art museums like this one at el Retiro

New wave art at a museum in Madrid. It’s always nice to discover new artists.


How to visit Madrid and love it like a local. The crystal palace at el Retiro park

Madrid Crystal Palace – alovely place to enjoy in Madrid. They have rotating presentations.


You have to share Madrid the rest of the world. Share the beauty, the love, the kindness, the good food, the great drinks, share everything! They’ll love you for it! One word of caution though, Madrid locals do not take kindly to public drunkenness so it is quite important that you respect the people and don’t be an ugly tourist.

A lot of neighbourhoods also have quiet times that you should respect. This means no excessive noise between 10pm till 8am. This city is their home and you should treat it with respect. Everything in moderation.

Enjoying Madrid visit like a local: Share a bike ride with beer on tap in Madrid guide!

Madrid travel guide: Share a bike ride with beer on tap on a Madrid street.


madrid fountain

How to visit Madrid and enjoy like a local – discover the wonderful historic parts of the city. This is Plaza de Cibeles, the iconic symbol of Madrid and where the football fans of Real Madrid celebrate their victories. The fountain used to supply water for the city.


madrid balconies with dummies

Center of Madrid close to the Mercado The buildings architecture are fun, made even more so by the mannequins that adorn the balconies.


rear of plaza mayor Madrid

Madrid live like a local – Plaza Mayor is a favorite destination of locals and tourists alike. This is the rear as we head towards it. Love the porticos.


Visiting Madrid and enjoying like a local - hang out at Plaza Mayor showing stature of King Charles

Plaza Mayor – a fantastic place to people watch. Lots of buskers and tourists alongside families enjoying pleasant afternoons and evenings. There are cafes where you can sit outside and observe local life.

Bad things can happen on your holiday. Protect your trip with the best travel insurance.


statue at plaza mayor madrid

King Phillip III statue at Plaza Mayor done by Italian sculptor Pietro Tacca during your Madrid visit like locals do! When in Rome :-)

You might be lucky enough to catch a quick flamenco show. Make sure to tip her or him!


Guide to visiting Madrid Spain like a local - gorgeous building in the city center.

There are no shortages of gorgeous buildings in Madrid. Plaza de Cibeles (City Hall).


How to visit Madrid and enjoy like locals do - tapas place at plaza mayor

Nor is there a shortage of tapas places in Madrid. Make sure to enjoy.

Related Reading: 24 hrs in Madrid

Madrid city center in visit Madrid and enjoy like locals guide.

Paseo del Prado in Madrid during your visit and loving Madrid like locals.


Madrid visit like locals - street with people madrid center #madrid #madridguide #visitmadrid

Visiting Madrid and enjoying like Madrilenos. Join the locals for tapas and beer! Maybe catch a game at a bar.

Things to do in Madrid:

  • El Retiro Park
  • Museums (Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofia etc…)
  • Madrid via hop-on hop-off bus
  • Royal Palace
  • San Bernabeu
  • Tapas Crawl
  • Plaza Mayor
  • Mercado San Miguel

These are just a few of the many things to see in Madrid. Doing just a few of these will make your Madrid visit memorable and enjoyable. If you have time, you could also consider one of the numerous Madrid day trips to places like nearby Toledo or Segovia.

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Entrance to the El Retiro Park, a favorite hangout of locals and tourists alike. Rent a canoe, people watch or check out the free entry art museum.

Madrid visit like locals #Madrid #spain #madridmustsee #madridguide #visitmadrid #madridlikelocals #whattoseemadrid #whattodomadrid #santiagobernabeu #madridguide


I hope you have enjoyed this guide on how to visit Madrid and enjoy like locals. Visit madrid and  you will understand why millions yearn and do a Madrid trip, us included. Now that we’re lucky enough to live close by, we will definitely go back as much as we can to explore some more and live like locals.

How about you? Do you have any other tips to share about Madrid? I wonder if it will be the same as mine? Would you think of a Madrid visit like locals?