Okay so if I’m being honest, Madrid underwhelmed me the first time I visited a couple years back. And it still didn’t really make an impression on me during my first return visits this past year. I thought it was pretty, but not beautiful. Busy, but not busy enough. Warm, but not the best weather I’d seen. Nice, but not charming. Everything was just kind of blah. There just wasn’t really enough to really make it stand out. I don’t think it helped that on my first visit I was coming from Barcelona so the bar had been set high. I also had some terrible Mexican food (important) close to Sol, so that sucked.
It’s taken a couple of visits for me to really begin to appreciate the Spanish capital. And that’s only because I finally started to explore things aside from Plaza Mayor, Sol, and the Royal Palace which are kinda meh TBH.
If you look a bit past the very center of the city there’s some really hip neighborhoods which are full of small cafes, cute eateries, and a young crowd. Moncloa, Lavapies, Universidad, Chueca and Malasana are among my favs (especially the last two).
I guess a trip to Madrid isn’t so much about architecture and the beauty of the city but about the culture and overall experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all saying it’s ugly- it just pales in comparison to the city center of say London (you saw that coming didn’t you?), Barcelona, Prague, or so many other beautiful cities. I’d say what Madrid lacks in beauty though, it makes up for in personality with its busy nightlife, cool neighborhoods, and size!
It was only the last couple of times when I forwent buying a metro card and walked the city that I realized how charming the city could be! Walking the city just reinforced that the absolute best way to see a city is to wander and get lost in the streets.
So if you’re like me, and weren’t impressed with Madrid’s top tourist attractions- check out these neighborhoods. There’s bound to be some colorful street art, vibrant street performers, or inviting coffee shop that will draw you in!
– Sinceramente, Gigi