Madrid is a wonderful city to visit anytime of the year – but visiting in July or August does present a challenge. It’s a time when the locals move to the mountains or the coast. Although it is hot, you can still have a good time and get around and sight-see. You just need to be smart about what to do. Here are 12 tips to enjoying Madrid in Summer…
12 Handy Tips When Visiting Madrid in Summer
1 Wake early and have your breakfast out in one of the lovely street cafes such as such as Cafe El Espejo on Recoletos Street. Remember you can nap in the middle of the day and still have energy to go out late – as the locals do.
2 Take an early morning walk in Retiro park when the air is cool. It’s a wonderful space which is adored by cyclists, skaters, walkers, photographers, rowers – or sorts. And there’s even a gallery in the elegant Palacio de Cristal which is part of the Reina Sofia Museum. If you prefer the exotic, you might also try the Botanic Gardens closeby. Both locations frequently have concerts, shows, exhibitions and other activities – both official and informal – that you’ll enjoy being part of.
3 If you can’t nap in the early afternoon – go to the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums to stay cool. And when you’ve seen the Big 3 – go to the many art foundations and smaller galleries located in interesting buildings with gardens such as the Museo Lazaro Galdiano and the Museo Sorolla.
4 Enjoy the metro – unlike cities such as London where traveling by ‘tube’ is very unpleasant in the warmer months – the Madrid in Summer in the metro is a delight. Use it to get around. Buses are good too but you don’t have air-conditioning at the bus stops. Remember that taxi-drivers are obliged by law to use air-conditioning when requested.
5 When choosing accommodation – consider a hotel with a pool or an outdoor dining area. We can help you make the best choice and will make sure it’s somewhere central so you can easily return for a siesta or a refreshing shower in the middle of the day.
6 When leaving your hotel room in Madrid in Summer, it’s always a good idea to close the heavy curtains to keep out the midday sun. At night – open all blinds for a while before sleeping and let the cooler evening air in.
7 Drink liquids. Eat liquids. Delicious cold soups such as gazpachos and salmorejos are just the thing. And have salads and grilled fish. These are definitely not the best months to be trying out the hearty lentils, chick-pea and bean stews. If you find a place doing fresh grilled sardines try them – they are only on the menu a few months of the year. Note that in the more rustic of restaurants, they’ll be served head ‘n all – but you’ll get the hang of eating them after one or two.
8 Order your coffee ‘con hielo’ – it will be served alongside a cool glass of ice. Add sugar as you wish in the cup and tip it all over the ice. A very refreshing way of having your caffeine.
9 During the day – do as the locals and eat indoors where the air-conditioning is more desirable than any view might offer. But in the evening – Madrid has some wonderful ‘terrazas’ or outdoor eating spaces for eating and drinking. Try Plaza del Oriente for elegance. Plaza Santa Ana is a big tourist draw that is always popular. Plaza Paja is a great square with a number of interesting restaurants that’s a bit off the beaten track. Plaza Dos de Mayo is a completely different atmosphere again – brimming with cafés, bars and historical references.
10 Sight-see at night. Madrid is a safe city (with the exception of the odd-pickpocket) and is beautifully lit at night. Take a walking tour of streets, squares and monuments such as Cibeles. Totally Spain can provide an expert local guide if you prefer.
11 Watch where the locals go in the evening. You’ll spot them with a cold drink or a glass of beer and dish of olives or homemade crisps. They have a knack for finding a ‘terraza’ with a nice breeze in the evening.
12 Day trips are always great from Madrid in Summer. Taking a break and go to relatively cooler nearby cities such as Segovia and Avila. The difficulty with some day trips is being exposed to the heat in the middle of the day – as you can’t skip back to your hotel for a siesta/read. Although it may seem strange to spend much of your day out of the city in a restaurant we recommend when going on daytrips to hot locations such as Alcala de Henares, Chinchon, El Escorial or Aranjuez you plan on having a lazy lunch – where being indoors you can avoid the intense heat of the afternoon for a while. You might be better off choosing to visit the cooler greener Royal palace of La Granja – which internal patios, gardens and grounds offer more shade from the midday sun. Villages such as Rascafria which are high up in the hills of the Madrid region are popular with Spanish-run residential English language schools and we recommend a visit to the Sheraton hotel located in a 15th century monastery. But if its air-conditioning cool you are looking for in a daytrip – pack a picnic and go to the skiing area of Navacerrada where temperatures are usually at least 10 degrees lower than the city in the summer!