There are many great reasons to visit Madrid. As the capital city of Spain, people flock from all over the world to get a glimpse into life and culture in the city. Typical top attractions include a visit to the Prado or Reina-Sofia museums, a guided tour of Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu football stadium and at least a snapshot or two of the Royal Palace. Of course, any trip to Madrid would not be complete without enjoying a caña (a small beer) and some tapas on one of the many terrace bars at the end of a long day sightseeing.
However, if you are visiting Madrid for a second time or if you just fancy an alternative look at the city, then you may want to consider adding some of the following sites and activities to your next visit to Madrid.
If you are up for getting off the main museum circuit, then head over to Moncloa to check out the Museo del Traje (The Costume Museum) which features an interesting collection of costumes, frocks and clothing dating back to the 1700s and also includes some more recent designer items. Another alternative museum to consider is the metro station at Chamberi. This former Madrid metro station was originally part of the first line opened in 1919. The station was closed in 1966 due to the fact that there was no way to lengthen the platform to accommodate the longer trains. The free Chamberi museum has been open since 2008 and gives you a lovely glimpse into the past.
Instead of hopping on and off the sightseeing tour buses, affectionately known as the “GuiriBus” to locals, why not jump on a bike? Madrid, although not the most bike-friendly city in the world, does have a fairly good network of bike lanes and some good value hire places dotted near the main attractions and parks. You can really get to know the city in a short time on a bike and it gives you the freedom to stop when you want if you spot something interesting. Companies such as Bravo Bike even offer guided bike tours of the city (although you do need to arrange the English tour in advance, regular tours are in Spanish only). If you feel like getting out and exploring on your own though, they can also recommend which routes to take depending on what you want to see.
There are many options to choose from if you are looking for a bed for the night in Madrid. With a very healthy and varied hostel culture, you are sure to find a decent dorm room in one of the many hostels around the city. However, if you are tired of sharing your sleeping space with other noisy travellers then consider trying out some of the alternative accommodation in the city. Online companies such as Wimdu.co.uk offer a selection of private rooms and even whole apartments for short-term rent at really affordable prices. If you are travelling as a couple or even in a group then booking your accommodation with Wimdu will probably save you a lot of money considering you pay for the apartment and not per bed/person.
If you have a whole day to kill, start with a stroll along the banks of the Manzanares River which in recent years has undergone a transformation from a bleak and empty river bed to a nicely landscaped area with leisure and recreational facilities. From here you can walk (or bike it) to the largest green area of the city, the Casa de Campo which has lots of pathways, picnic areas and the Lago (lake) where you can grab a well-deserved cool beer lakeside. Walking further north you cross the main intersection of Principe Pio and shortly afterwards arrive at the beautiful Parque del Oeste. This park is often skimmed over by tourists but it really has lots of interesting and peaceful areas to relax in. End the day with a gaze out at the panoramic views and watch the sun set over the Tempol de Debod. This temple was a gift from Egypt to Spain, and rebuilt here at the main entrance to the park. Inside the temple itself is worth a visit. It is free to get in and opening times vary depending on the time of year. In the summer it is open from 10:00-14:00 and 18:00-20:00 (just mornings at the weekends and on bank holidays).
If you’re after alternative nightlife in Madrid then Malasaña is the place to be. Hop out of the metro at Metro Tribunal and take a wander. For a sophisticated start to the evening and a taste of traditional Madrid, start out with a glass of famous Vermouth and some tasty tapas in the unique atmosphere of the characteristic La Bodega de la Ardosa on Calle de Colón, 13. If you feel like staying up all night then just round the corner there are many alternative bars playing a variety of music including the very popular Tupperware and La Vía Láctea with great decoration and a selection of eclectic music from 60s pop to the latest indie hits.
There are many more reasons to choose Madrid for your next city break and, if you already live in the city, make sure you take the time to visit some of these great alternative places.