Madrid in a Day- Part 2- Sunday

El oso y madroño shots, a strawberry liqueur poured into chocolate filled waffle cups

A Sunday in Madrid is anything but lazy.

Fill your day with el Rastro flea market, off-the-beaten-track sightseeing, and tapas in La Latina.

There’s nothing better than a lazy Sunday, am I right? Sleeping in until 10 and spending an additional 15 minutes or so slowly stretching beneath the covers before you tumble out of bed to make a cup of coffee that you’ll serenely sip on as you flip through The New York Times. You’ll either remain in your pajamas all day or, if the weather is nice, venture out to the park or the beach to sip and read something there. Maybe you’ll go out for breakfast. Maybe you’ll catch a movie. Either way, you can rest easy knowing that the day will stretch long and uneventful in front of you, for the Bible tells us so. “And on the seventh day He rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)

Lazy Sundays in Madrid are not an option because this is one of the liveliest days of the week. The two bookends to your Spanish Sunday are El Rastro marketplace and tapas in La Latina. The filler activities are simply activities that you shouldn’t leave Madrid without partaking in. If you read my first post about what to do with a day in Madrid, you’ll have gotten most of the mainstream events out of the way and can look forward to a day slightly more filled with locals. Shall we begin?


The never ending flea market in Madrid, el Rastro
White tents mark the vendors of el Rastro marketplace

El Rastro is Madrid’s famous open-air flea market and is held on Sundays and public holidays. Beginning in the Plaza de Cascorro near La Latina metro station and ending with Ronda de Toledo, the declining street of La Ribera de Curtidores and its smaller side streets are completely packed with vendors selling everything from cheap scarves and artisan jewelry to painted clay sangria pitchers and bootleg DVDs. You can literally find anything you’ll ever need here, except produce. Make sure to grab a café con leche and a quick breakfast at your hostel, Way Hostel, or a nearby pastelería before taking the short walk to the Plaza where the market begins. Also, don’t forget to stop at the ATM for cash. Some of the vendors have credit card machines, but most don’t. And remember my tips! Keep that money on lock down to avoid pickpocketers in the crowded space. I also recommend bringing a backpack or a larger bag to put your purchases in because we’re not going right back to the hostel after the market.

crowded side streets of el Rastro, Madrid
Every side street of el Rastro is just as packed as the main hill.

They say el Rastro runs from 8am to 3pm, but if you get there after 1, you’ve basically missed it all because the stands like to pack it in early. Try to get to the market by 9 or 10 so you have plenty of time to stroll and shop at your leisure. Don’t buy all the things you want at the first few stands because you’ll see about a hundred more stands along the way with better items, and you’ll wish you had bought that cool Heineken sweatshirt instead of your lame I ‘Heart’ Madrid sweatshirt. Do haggle, bat your eyelashes, and speak in Spanish. ¿Cuanto cuesta, señor?


Tostas in Madrid offer a great variety for tapas or a meal.
Tostas, or open-faced sandwiches

When you’ve finally made it to the bottom of the Rastro hill, it will most likely be around 1 o’clock. You must be hungry. Grab some fresh fruit from the frutería and chow down on inspired tostas, open-faced sandwiches, from one of the restaurants near the Plaza del Campillo del Mundo Nuevo. Rest your weary feet while you people-watch with the locals.


Entrance to La Tabacalera, art exhibit in Madrid
Entrance to La Tabacalera

A very short walk away from where you are luncheoning is la Tabacalera. The first time I bought weed in Madrid, my new dealer friend took my BU friends and me to this abandoned tobacco factory-turned-art exhibit, and it was so fucking cool. To get here, simply walk down the Ronda de Toledo towards the Embajadores metro stop and then make a left up Calle de Embajadores. The Tabacalera will be on the right side of the street. “FABRICA DE TABACOS” is carved into a worn cement plaque above a graffiti-covered metal gate that has turned a dark green with rust, but this isn’t the entrance, which is down a side street. You may have to do a bit of exploring to find it, but when you do, you will be blown away by what is inside.

Dancing until Death in la Tabacalera, Madrid
“Bailando hasta la Muerte”, Dancing until Death.
Trippy art on the walls of la Tabacalera, Madrid
Some trippy, sci-fi art on the walls.
Poetic art on the walls of La Tabacalera, Madrid
Sometimes you feel so small…
graffiti covered skate park, La Tabacalera, Madrid
A skate park in the back is also covered in graffiti and art.
skeleton art, La Tabacalera, Madrid
A skeleton janitor appears to be sweeping piles of bones into a fire.

The cultural space is part government-owned and part self-managed social centre. Art of all genres covers the white walls. A culture dedicated to freedom and exploration resides here, and La Tabacalera de Lavapiés is home to many different exhibits, performances and even parties. Take some time to walk around and enjoy the gritty art scene of Madrid.

dark art, La Tabacalera, Madrid
sick, artsy archway in la Tabacalera, Madrid
sick, artsy archway


The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the finest palaces in Europe.
The front of the Palacio Royale

The Royal Palace, while the official, not the actual, residence of His Majesty King Felipe IV of Spain, is an impressive piece of architecture. Either walk the half hour there or take the metro to the Opera stop.

Entry to the palace costs about 10 euro. The palace is home to interesting exhibits like the Royal Armory and the Royal Pharmacy. You can spend some time inside enjoying the rich mahogany windows and doors and fine Spanish marble. Truth be told, I never made it inside, but instead walked around the exterior and toured the Plaza de Oriente on the west side of the palace.


Watching the sun set at the Templo de Debod in Madrid, Spain
Sunset at the Temple of Debod

By the time you make it through the Palacio Royale, it should be nearing sunset, the perfect time to head over to the Temple of Debod. The temple is an Egyptian temple that was dismantled and reassembled in Madrid in the Parque del Oeste. The site is at a slightly higher elevation, and it overlooks Madrid’s large urban park, Casa de Campo. There is actually a cable car that runs out of the Parque del Oeste to Casa de Campo, but the teleférico isn’t always open, so best to check their website for hours.

gorgeous sunset at over the fountains at the Temple of Debod
Sunset over the fountains at the Templo de Debod
view over to Casa de Campo from Templo de Debod
view from Templo de Debod

After you’ve had your fill of site seeing, feel free to either take a half hour stroll through the city back to your hostel in Tirso de Molina, or walk over to the Ventura Rodríguez stop and ride the 3 metro to Puerta del Sol. Either way, you’ll have to walk through Sol, so might as well take a break along the way in one of the many bars for a caña of Mahou, a refreshing Spanish lager. Go drop your Rastro purchases off, take a shower and put on something fly, yet easy to walk in, for the rest of your night out.


I know, I know. Flamenco is an Andalucía thing. But the dancers at Las Carboneras in Madrid have just as much foot-stomping, chest-beating soul as the Romani gypsies who created flamenco to begin with. Traditionally, this folk music combines singing, dancing, guitar playing and rhythms of hand clapping and finger snapping. It is passionate and fiery, and the dancers and musicians put all they have into their performances.

Flamenco dancer at Las Carboneras, Madrid strikes a pose
The dancer strikes a pose before she breaks out into stomps and swirls.

Flamenco dancers take control of the scene. Whether they dance fast or slow, hard or soft, the guitar player and singer watch for what the dancer is going to do next and strum or sing in that sexy, raspy voice accordingly. The other dancers sit on stools near the musicians on the tablao, clapping their hands rhythmically, occasionally letting out an encouraging cry or yelp. The display is heartfelt and fluid and will leave you entranced and clapping along.

While there are, of course, many flamenco clubs in Madrid, Las Carboneras is my personal favorite and in a perfect location to continue on to your final activity of the night. Make sure to be there by 8:30 for the first performance.


My favorite part about living in Spain was how socially acceptable it is to munch while you drink. More often than not, bars will offer you anything from potato chips to tortilla española to croquetas to go along with your copa de vino tinto, or glass of red wine. (Check out my tips for visiting Madrid for a rundown on the history of tapas.) Sundays are the best days to go out for tapas, an activity that the Spanish have turned into a verb, tapear. I’m not sure why, but it seems like everyone who’s anyone is out and about tapeando in la Latina on a Sunday in Madrid, so dress accordingly.

Locals enjoy tapeando, going out for tapas, along La Cava Baja, Madrid
Locals enjoy tapeando, going out for tapas, along La Cava Baja.

The main streets to enjoy the tapas culture are Cava Baja and Cava Alta. They are both a short walk from Las Carboneras and run parallel to each other. Young people crowd these two thin, winding streets with terraced buildings, looking unfathomably chic and classy as they duck in and out of bars or stand around high tops taking dainty bites of patatas bravas. There are endless spots to stop for a bite and a beer over here, so don’t miss out on Casa Lucas, for higher end traditional Spanish cuisine, and Cervercería la Sureña for a 5 euro bucket of Mahou and some chicken fingers with other 20-somethings.

Cervecería la Sureña offers bucket of beer specials and tons of cheap tapas.
Cervecería la Sureña offers bucket of beer specials and tons of cheap tapas.
Open kitchen at Cervecería La Sureña, Madrid
Open kitchen at La Sureña
chicken fingers and beer, Cerveceria la Surena
chicken fingers and beer, Cerveceria la Surena

If you come to these streets to engage in tapas culture, and you will, make sure to make a stop at El Madroño in the Plaza de Puerta Cerrada before you reach Cava Baja. Have a shot of Madrid’s strawberry liqueur named for their Coat of Arms, “El oso y el madroño,” meaning, “The bear and the strawberry tree.” The shot is served in a chocolate filled waffle cup, a delicious chaser to your sweet chupito.

El oso y madroño shots, a strawberry liqueur poured into chocolate filled waffle cups
El oso y madroño shots
Bottle of El oso y madroño liqueur from El Madroño, Madrid
Bottle of El oso y madroño liqueur

Below are some of my favorite places to eat tapas outside of Cava Baja and Cava Alta. Keep in mind, you’ll have to pay for some things, but all in all tapeando is cheap and a great experience to share with a few friends.

  • Mercado de San Miguel
    Glass facade of Mercado de San Miguel, a great, yet touristy, place for tapas
    Outside of the Mercado de San Miguel

    This is a tourist trap, but I don’t care. The San Miguel Market is a big, crowded glass market place with over 30 vendors placed in strategic sections, selling everything from cold drafts and select wines to pickled onions and olives to every kind of meat you can think of cooked up Spanish gourmet style. It’s hard to find a table to stand by, not sit at, so somebody should hold one down while the other goes to pick out some delicacies to enjoy. I couldn’t get enough of the fresh croquettes and empanadas. Don’t buy too much here- it’s not cheap, but it is something to see.

classy croquettes from Mercado de San Miguel
Croquetas de espinacas
  • El Diamante
    El Diamante, great stop for tapas in Madrid.
    El Diamante from the outside.

    All walks of life come into this low key bar just off the La Latina metro stop for the fast service and the plates of warm tapas that the bartender places in front of you with every new beer. It’s a great place to relax and watch fútbol and enjoy some salty fried food and cold beer. Make sure you try the calamares!

  • Cervecería el Cruz
    Cerveceria la Cruz in La Latina dishes up delicious fried lamb intestines.
    Enjoying some fried lamb intestines and olives with our beers.

    This is a classic bar to stop by at any hour, even for a break while you’re at el Rastro because it is right in the middle and a stone’s throw away from el Diamante (in case you can’t find this place on Google. Because you can’t. It will take you to the wrong bar). You may not recognize the Plaza at night without all the stands, but Cervecería el Cruz is a la Latina staple. Enjoy super fresh razor clams and deep fried lamb intestines with a squirt of lemon. Tastes better than it sounds!

fried lamb intestines at Cerveceria la Cruz
It tastes better than it sounds! I promise!
Still living razor clams at Cerveceria la Cruz, La Latina, Madrid
Raw seafood and razor clams await an order to be cooked.
  • Museo del Jamón
    All types of ham are on display at the Museo del Jamón chain in Madrid
    One of the many Museo del Jamón

    This chain is dedicated to Spain’s most prized meat- ham.  Cured ham legs for sale, Jamón Serrano or Jamón Ibérico, hang from the ceiling, and the walls are covered with photos offering meals like bocadillos de jamón, ham sandwich, and a beer for 1 euro. Get a beer there and wait for your tapa. It’s disgusting and hilarious. It’s a bowl of different types of cubed ham.

Cured ham legs for sale hang from the ceiling of Museo del Jamón.
Cured ham legs for sale hang from the ceiling of Museo del Jamón.

I hope you enjoyed your Sunday in Madrid! Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section if anything is unclear or you’d like some more advice.


by Rebecca Bellan

12 Tips for Visiting Madrid

street performer Madrid, Spain

Some advice before going to Madrid, from how to avoid getting your pocket picked to what you can’t leave without eating.

Like many university students, I made the best decision of my life when I chose to spend a semester studying abroad. Madrid presented me with an adventure everyday. From practicing my Spanish to trying different food and exploring a new city, to fitting myself and my habits into the molds and customs of a fascinatingly foreign culture, I enjoyed allowing myself to be swept into the tide of Madrid, a city that is both Euro-chic and very old, with a sort of royal grandeur backed up by centuries of Spain’s role as a major world power.

At the end of my studies, I jotted down a few tips that I would pass on to friends who were looking to tour the city themselves. Here are my general impressions of what you should know before you go to Madrid.


1) Guys, keep your wallet and valuables in your front pockets. Ladies, wear a small messenger bag for your passport, money, lipstick, whatever. Keep that thing on lock down. I don’t want to see it creeping to the side of your hip, and then behind you, because you will have your pocket picked. Man, woman, young, old, the Madrid pick-pocketer is a pro. Stay away from the doors on the metro, anyone in a suit, and anyone reading a big spread out newspaper. And don’t even think about wearing a stupid fanny pack. You better look fresh if you don’t want all the Madrileñas snickering about how stupid you look in that throaty, mouth-full-of-spit-and-cigarette-smoke way of theirs.


2) Wear comfy shoes. Madrid is a walking city, so why hide underground in the metro when you can take in the sites as you take in the sites? Also, again, ladies, unless you want to roll your ankle, find some cute wedge heels to wear out to the clubs. This city is old and full of cobblestones. A stiletto heel will be your downfall, literally.

3) I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but try not to act too touristy and attract unwanted attention. Try to blend in, or you will be harassed often. When my Irish friend came to visit from Dublin, I had to protect her from a pickpocketer before we even made it to the hostel from the airport, and on our walk to the hostel from the metro, a group of men tried to put a scarf on her. Don’t ask me why, the point is she stuck out like a sore thumb and people took notice.

This is the Irish friend, Erin.
This is the Irish friend, Erin.

4) “Chinos” are like bodegas, or corner stores, run by Chinese immigrants. Yes, it’s a little racist to identify the stores by the race of people running them, but Madrid is a little racist. Chinos are mostly open all night and will sell you all the munchies and wine/liquor that your heart desires. While some stop serving liquor at a certain time at night, most are just trying to get money, so you shouldn’t have a problem buying a bottle whenever the spirit takes you.

5) While you’re in Madrid, there are a few things you can’t leave without tasting. Any bar/restaurant will have these staples: Spanish tortilla (like a potato omelette), Jamón Serrano (salty cured ham), vino tinto (red wine), croquetas (omg so good), paella (you should know what this is), patatas bravas (potatoes with a red sauce), etc…..

tapas at El Tigre, Madrid, Spain
tapas at El Tigre, Madrid, Spain

6) Bocadillo means sandwich. Eat this often. 100 Montaditos is a chain with many bocadillos. Most common is Bocadillo de Jamón Serrano, and it will be your whole loaf of bread and butter, or should I say, bread and ham because there aren’t many other fixings on a Spanish sandwich.


7) There will be promoters everywhere trying to entice you into their bar/club with free shots (chupitos) or free mojitos and sangria. Don’t, as I once did, go to each place, take your free drink, and leave. The drinks they give you for free are sugary and awful and will result in the worst hangover of your life. I’m talking opening the door of the cab at a red light and only managing to say, “Lo siento, señor,” before you vomit onto the street.

8) With the castellano accent, or Spanish accent, C’s and Z’s are pronounced with a lisp, not S’s. If you’re trying to sound like a local, make sure to put your tongue between your teeth when saying “Grathias,” not “Adioth.”

9) You will see many statues and sigils of a bear on its hind legs next to a tree. This is Madrid’s Coat of Arms, and its origins date back as far as or even farther than 1212, when the council of Madrid hailed a flag of a bear to identify themselves when they arrived in support of the Christian King Alfonso VIII of Castille during the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against the Almohads. The strawberry tree came into the picture later.

Madrid Coat of Arms
Madrid Coat of Arms

10) Tapas are not just small plates of food that you order to share, as American Spanish restaurants and other “tapas bars” would have you believe. Tapas are the free swag that comes with your alcoholic beverage at any bar/restaurant in Madrid. Some places offer some great free food, like croquettes and paella. Others only offer pickled onions or olives or potato chips. You can, of course, order off the menu if you want a little extra. The point is, eating with your drink is something I got used to very quickly and still take part in today. According to the tour guide of a tapas tour I went on, it’s some sort of a law in Spain that you must serve food with drink. Legend has it that this king was very sick and got better by drinking a little wine and then eating a little food, repeatedly. At the same time, the peasants would come into town and spend any extra money they had on wine, getting absolutely hammered, and bringing down production. So, the king decreed that every tavern must serve food with drinks so the farmers don’t get too drunk and stay healthy.

vino tinto with olive and potato chip tapas, Madrid, Spain
vino tinto with olive and potato chip tapas, Madrid, Spain
tapas of tostas in Madrid, Spain
tapas of tostas
croquettas, croquettes, Spanish tapas
croquettas, croquettes, Spanish tapas
Chorizo and Sangria, Madrid, Spain
Chorizo and Sangria, Madrid, Spain

As you can imagine, tavern keeps probably didn’t like giving out free food. In an attempt to cheat the system, they would pour all their old wine and liquor together with some fruit and other stuff and call it Sangria. That’s right. Your favorite white girl cocktail is actually just jungle juice. But I digress. The reason tapas are called “tapas” is that some other king was at the beach once drinking beer and someone put a piece of ham over his glass to keep the sand out. He absentmindedly ate the ham, enjoyed it, and asked if someone would bring him another one of those “tapas” or “tops.” Well there you go. There’s your history for the day.

11) El Prado, the national art museum, has free admission Tuesday through Saturday from 6 to 8 pm and on Sunday from 5 to 8 pm, but the lines are long, so get there early.

12) Don’t rush. Relax and enjoy yourself, because that’s how the locals do it. You won’t be eating lunch until around 4pm and dinner isn’t served until around 10 pm, so if you need a small snack in the in between hours, sit down and have a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy whatever free plate of food comes with it, whether it be potato chips and olives or small tortilla bites.


I hope you enjoy your trip to Madrid! Check out my other posts on what to do once you make it to the city.


by Rebecca Bellan