“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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!|
Cultural experiences to book in advance in Madrid
Here are some cultural things to do in Madrid you can book in advance to be prepared for your trip:
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!
Until next time,
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