The reopening of international travel is so close we can almost taste it, but our own Fionn Davenport managed to get away a couple of weeks ago to see what the experience of going abroad was actually like. He spent a few days in Madrid, so today’s #TravelTipTuesday takes a look at making the most of a visit to the Spanish capital, which is one of his favourite cities in Europe.
- Have the Right Documentation: Passport, wallet and now the EU Digital Covid Certificate. It seems obvious, but if you don’t have your documentation right, you’ll have trouble getting in – at the very least you may have to take a bunch of unnecessary tests or even have to quarantine. Spain’s Covid infection rate has increased a lot in the last couple of weeks, so authorities are working hard to strike a balance between keeping everyone safe but also restoring the tourist economy that is so vital to the country’s economic well-being.
- Airport Taxi: There’s a €30 fixed fare from the airport to any destination in the city, so there’s no worries about taxi drivers taking advantage of inexperienced visitors and taking them the long way round.
- Use Public Transport: Madrid is a compact city and pretty easy to walk around in, but the metro is an absolute blessing. Buy a multi-trip ticket and zip your way around the city on a subway that is clean and incredibly efficient. Download the Madrid Metro app and you’ll always know where you’re going. You can also get to and from the airport.
- Take a Break: What’s the rush? There’s lots to see and do in Madrid, but you should spend a healthy part of every day just sitting in a cafe sipping wine.
- It’s Not too Late for Dinner: As soon as you arrive, adjust your body clock and get used to late lunches and even later dinners – restaurants don’t begin to fill up until 9pm and if you show up beforehand, you’ll most likely be dining alone.
- It Ain’t Like Tapas at Home: Tapas portions are huge and a lot less pricey than at home, which can prompt the inexperienced tapas-eater to order lots right off the bat. Don’t. Order one or two things per person and if you want more when you’re done, just order more. And if you want the best tapas in Madrid, go to the Calle de la Cava Baja in La Latina.
- The Retiro: The Parque del Buen Retiro is one of Europe’s most beautiful city parks, and an absolute must if you want to get away from the heat of the city centre. There’s a lake you can rent a row boat on, or just sit in one of the shaded cafes and sip some wine.
- Madrid Nightlife: I’m way too old to be out past midnight, but my (younger) friends in Madrid tell me that the best nightlife in the city is in the narrow, inner-city streets of Malasaña and Chueca.
- Guernica: Madrid has a bunch of world-class museums, including the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, but whenever I’m in Madrid I always make time to go stand in front of Picasso’s Guernica at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
- Spanish Help: Yes, Madrid is an international city, and yes, most people under 50 have a smattering of English. But you’ll curry far greater favour with even the most pidgin of Spanish than simply assuming that everyone will understand if you just speak English.
(Fionn had about 10 other tips he wanted to share – including one about booking a table at a sky bar, but we told him that Travel Tip Tuesday was just a short list of his top tips!)