How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in Madrid, Spain | The Invisible Tourist

“Spain is a fascinating mix of people, languages, culture and food. But if there is one thing all Spaniards share, it’s a love of food and drink.” – Jose Andres.

Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to not look like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.

Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!

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How to not look like a tourist in Madrid, Spain | The Invisible Tourist
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Here’s how to NOT look like a tourist in Madrid, Spain

Even if you’re planning to undertake some of these day trips from Madrid by train, the following tips will still apply to you.

Real Casa de Correos (Royal House of the Post Office)

Do make sure to drink beer

Everyone in Madrid drinks beer. Mainly because refreshing and cheap. If you really want to avoid looking like a tourist and fit in with the locals order a small draught local beer or “caña” in Spanish.

It’s not frowned upon to have a beer for lunch and all cafes and fast food places serve beer. It’s actually cheaper to buy a beer then water or a soft drink in Madrid!

Do eat a big lunch then tapas late at night

In Madrid there are 6 meals a day and each is just a light snack, except for lunch which is the biggest meal. Traditionally Spanish people have a 2-3 hour siesta lunch break. During siesta families will have a big get-together and often eat 3 courses.

If you really want to know how to not look like a tourist in Madrid, look out for restaurants offering “menu del dia” at lunchtime to make this your big meal of the day. Then as you get hungry again in the evening stop for some small plates or “tapas”. Don’t expect to get good fresh tapas in Madrid before 8pm and it’s usually served until past midnight.

Avoid looking like a tourist in Madrid by drinking beer and eating tapas

Don’t go to a night club before 1am

A big night out in Madrid will never begin before midnight and even then, it starts with some pre-drinks at home or a bit of a tapas bar crawl. The night clubs and late-night bars will be empty until 1-2am. If you enter before then, everyone will know for sure that you are a tourist!

Do have a go at jogging in Retiro Park

Retiro Park is the main park in central Madrid. It’s beautifully manicured gardens, boating lake, fountains and buildings attract many tourists. If you want to blend in with the locals rather than hopping in a rowing boat, go for a jog.

The long, wide pathways are perfect for jogging. It’s the most popular place in the city for locals to exercise and you will even see groups of people boxing or doing circuit training.

Retiro Park - Madrid, Spain

Don’t bother wearing flip flops

Flip flops are a huge no-no in Madrid. There is no beach so as far as locals are concerned there is no need to wear plastic flip-flops. Even if you visit one of the city outdoor swimming pools don’t wear them as no footwear is allowed near the pool area.

Women do wear sandals in the summer, but only on very hot days and nice open toe leather shoes.

Do always wear or carry sunglasses

The glare from the sun in Madrid can be fierce. So, locals all wear sunglasses, whatever the weather. Even if it’s a cloudy day or raining in the morning pop a pair of sunglasses in your bag in case the weather changes.

Even in the winter people walk around wearing sunglasses and its pretty normal to wear sunglasses indoors too.

How to not look like a tourist in Madrid

Do walk slowly and don’t expect anything to happen on time

One of my top Madrid travel tips is to remember there is just no need to rush, or Spain in general to be honest. Slow down your walking pace and take a leisurely stroll otherwise you will look like a tourist immediately.

Everything will take longer so just go with the flow. Getting off the metro, getting the attention of your waiter or paying for something in a shop. Trust me, no-one will rush or expect you to rush.

In the same way, don’t expect any buses or trains to run on time and if you arrange to meet a local they will think nothing of arriving 15-20 mins late.

Editor’s Note: Some readers have pointed out this may not always be the case. As always, I highly suggest to observe your surroundings and adopt the same pace as locals. Please remember to be mindful of not getting in their way as they go about their day.

Avoid looking like a tourist in Madrid, Spain

Do fit your belongings into a small cross-body bag

Like most busy big cities, pick-pockets are lurking around tourist areas. Rather than worry about them too much or avoid any particular areas, do as the locals do and use a small cross-body hand bag.

Make sure that the zip is always closed and the bag hangs in front of you. Every local woman in Madrid will wear a bag that way and men too, unless they have a backpack.

Do seek out the shade in the summer months

When Madrid reaches peak summer heat it will be around 38°C. Only tourists try to enjoy this kind of heat and bask in the sun. Locals will stay covered up, protecting their skin and will seek shade wherever they can.

Big sheets of canopy will be erected on the main streets and umbrellas will pop up at all outside terrace areas. So, don’t whip the shirt off or walk around in a bikini top if you get too hot, seek the shade.

Do pick a football team to follow

How to not look like a tourist in Madrid? There are two big football teams here, Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid. To not stand out as a tourist, pick a team and join in the football frenzy.

Every restaurant, café and bar in Madrid will show their matches. So, you can’t really avoid it. Literally every TV screen in Madrid will be showing their games and everyone will be talking about it.

 Perri is a Brit living in Madrid. She writes about her travels while exploring Spain and shares tips, guides and advice on her blog Seeking the Spanish Sun. You can follow her adventures around Spain on Facebook and Instagram!

With these Madrid travel tips, are you ready to be invisible? 

Now you’ve discovered the best secrets for how to avoid looking like a tourist in Madrid, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not compare hotel prices here? Or take a look at how to spend 3 days in Madrid! If you need more inspiration, take a look at all my Europe articles to get you started.

If you’d like to learn learn my strategies for how to not look like a tourist ANYWHERE, take a look at my  book – it was a #1 Amazon New Release!

Do you have any extra tips to add to this list of do’s and don’ts in Madrid? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope you enjoyed this instalment of my Be Invisible series! If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram and TikTok for more!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist

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How to NOT Look Like a Tourist in Madrid, Spain | The Invisible Tourist

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  1. I’m Spanish, and while I don’t live in Madrid myself, I have family there so I’ve been there very often and can confidently say that your article is full of stereotypes. The other people in the comments debunked this very well: the metro (tube, underground) here for example is way more punctual that in other parts of Europe.

    I lived in Berlin for a while, for instance, and was very surprised that trains were often late or out of service. Being German and all, I had (erroneously) assumed that they’d be super nit picky about being on time. Similarly, you if your guest author has assumed that we’re all a bunch of lazy a**es that sleep three hours every day. While there are some lazily people here (as there are everywhere) the general consensus is that we work hard. And for the record, no one sleeps siesta except for grandma’s and tourists who think they’re doing the “typical” stuff.

    As for food, waiting time can vary from restaurant to restaurant. If it’s super crowded, then of course it will take a while! But waiters here are super fast and with a laser-focus, plus they’re usually kind and outgoing. They have to be, since these are very valued traits here.

    And yeah, locals tent to hide out in the shade during summer in Madrid, but honestly, we do wear croptops, you know? I don’t know where all of these falsehoods come from. And honestly, the only big thing which really sets us Spanish people apart from other Europeans is how loud we are. Seriously, we speak loudly, and are usually more open and outgoing (I’m an introvert so don’t think that’s the always the norm).

    Basically, the only true stereotype wasn’t even in the article. And for the record, yes we do eat tapas but that’s more a thing you do when you go out with friends and not something we do all the time to have dinner.

    Honestly, what bothers me the most about this isn’t that the article is wrong, but rather that you’ve been told time and time again that it is and you don’t even care. You’re just keeping it published for the money and the views, heedless of whether it will make your readers look like idiots, when you could be taking all of the info native Spanish people have given you to write a certainly more interesting article debunking stereotypes and telling your readers what to expect. Honestly, such a disappointment.

    PS. No, we don’t all carry sunglasses and yes, you look like an idiot if you wear them in winter or when it’s cold.

    1. Hi Silvia,
      Thanks for taking time to comment your thoughts.

      I’m sorry to see you have taken offense to some of the views expressed by my guest writer in this article. But please note, it was written with light-hearted intent and with the direct aim to help tourists understand more about a different culture based on the author’s first-hand experiences.

      Kindly note every comment on my website is moderated and I have the choice on whether I decide to publish each or not. I could easily choose not to allow negative comments through, but the trust of my audience is paramount and I believe everyone has a right to respectfully debate any issues and share opposing thoughts, just like you have.

      Despite some comments that disagree with the views of my guest writer, I have left the article here not “for the money”, but out of respect for my guest writer who spent her time to create it and share her thoughts. It would not seem right nor fair to completely disregard her personal experiences and delete her opinions based on opposing comments.

      I don’t believe I could write a more comprehensive article myself as I have not spent an extensive amount of time in Madrid like my guest writer has. I am happy to include editor’s notes based on readers’ constructive feedback.

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective but I kindly urge you to understand there is always more than meets the eye.

  2. I could debunk every single thing said on this post, but I’ll summarize the whole thing: This post is full of lies, false topics, and misconceptions.

    1. Hi Julian, I’m sorry you feel that way. As explained at the beginning of the article, these opinions are based on my contributor’s first-hand experiences living in Madrid as an expat. It’s ok to disagree, but someone’s opinion differing to yours doesn’t make it a lie. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I was just checking your blog around and I am truly sorry to hear some of the tips here. I live in Madrid, I was born here and raised here.
    Some of the points made here are true, but some others are just topics that are really untrue.
    I don’t know anyone that actually have 2 or 3 hours lunch break. We usually work 9 to 18 with one hour break. There are of course some exceptions but they are just not representative at all.
    Waiters, waitress and cooks in Madrid are probably the fastest in Europe. The fact that so many people go to bars and restaurants makes them very efficient. Unless you fall in a tourist trap you can have lunch or dinner very fast if you want. I have traveled all around Europe and have also been to every continent and have not found a quicker service than I can find in Madrid.
    Aaaaand, only tourist walk slowly in Madrid. We are always in a hurry to everywhere and we do not move slow around.
    I am quite sure that the “slow and lazy Spaniard” topic is well spread around the world but this is not true anymore in the big cities

    1. Hi Marcos! Thanks so much for your input 🙂 I’ve only visited Madrid as a tourist and my lovely guest author of this post has shared her views on her time living in Madrid. The experience of living in a city is always going to differ from person to person, so it’s great to hear a new perspectives from other locals such as yourself. It’s great for visitors to keep these things in mind when they’re planning their trip. Really appreciate your comment, thank you!

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