Madrid isn’t for the faint of heart, but the faint of heart, I am not (so I like to believe). It was only 3 weeks ago that I last hopped on a plane away from the city I called home for so long, but there are things I already long for. In short, the following 5 things are what I miss most about Madrid.
1. The Lifestyle
Let me put it bluntly: the lifestyle in Spain is more relaxed than what we’re used to in North America (yes, as a whole). There are certainly aspects to life in Madrid that aren’t easy; for example, people often work until 8-9pm at night, and it’s normal. However, the breaks during the day are long enough to balance things out, and while your profession matters all over the globe, the emphasis on your career isn’t as great as it is over on our obsessive continent. Here, it’s completely normal for people to ask you what you do for a living right off the bat, but in Madrid, that was never the first question I was asked.
More specifically, what I love and miss about Madrid is the emphasis people place on personal relationships. No, not even romantic ones – I’m talking about the relationships between friends, family, and even random people you may never speak to again. Madrid’s the big city in Spain where, in comparison to the rest of Spain, it could be argued that they actually lack in this area, but this just isn’t the case for us. Friends get together very frequently, and usually don’t let work get in the way. You could argue these lifestyle choices contribute to the country’s current economic situation, but in some ways, it’s kind of awesome.
2. El Sol (The Sun)
Before I really traveled a lot, I never noticed how much the weather and sun varied from place to place. In Canada, the sun does shine (much more than it does in London, for example), but there’s no comparison to Madrid. Even in sunnier climates, such as Los Angeles, the sun doesn’t feel as intensely bright. In Madrid, however, the sun shines… all year.
Though Spain is generally sunny, Madrid is one of its luckier spots that sees it a lot. There are regions that don’t see much of it (namely, the north), and even Barcelona doesn’t quite get as much exposure. In Madrid, the skies are usually blue, bright, and wonderfully sunny. Madrid’s central part of town is even called Sol, which must be because of its powerful sun, right?
As someone who gets affected by the weather far too much, Madrid’s sun is something I crave for!
3. The Metro (and all things transportation)
When one thinks of Spain, “efficiency” doesn’t usually come to mind. However, there’s absolutely no doubting how amazing Madrid’s transport system is.
Madrid’s metro is well-connected, quick, frequent, and (I think) well-priced. While I come from a city that has one of the world’s best bus systems, I live in an area that isn’t connected, and the bus simply doesn’t compare to having access to buses, a train, and a metro. In Madrid, you buy a “metro pass” that covers all three, and all three take you just about anywhere you need to go. There are times, even, when you use it to go to places outside of Madrid. That’s just how good it is.
It’s also famed for having frequent strikes, but even with the strikes, it’s still the best metro system I’ve used. If you’re wondering where I’ve used metro/local systems, here’s the list: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Porto…. so on, so fourth. And none of them are as good.
4. Sports… especially futbol
If there’s ever a time for “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”, it’s now.
Madrid is the perfect place for sports lovers. Whether you’re a fan of basketball, football (soccer), tennis, or even the nation-wide phenomenon of padel (a subtype of tennis), you’ll find something for you. While I was in Madrid, I attempted to go to the Madrid Open, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. However, the accessibility is there, and the prices are decent.
Although I’m a tennis fan, I’m an especially big fan of basketball and football. Real Madrid boasts great teams in both sports, and while I leave my basketball love for the North American teams, I still managed to get excited over it in Spain. Basketball is surprisingly popular in Madrid, or for those of you who know just how good Spain’s national basketball team is, it’s not all that shocking.
Despite that, football is still the most popular sport around. Kids start kicking the ball around as soon as they start to walk, and it remains to be the activity-of-choice for little boys. Spain’s national team has been the best in the world for at least 5 years now, and though that reign may be coming to an end, the country still thrives on it. Madrid gives you several options for watching it; whether you like Real Madrid or Atletico de Madrid, you have at least two major teams to follow.
The best part is that football tickets in Madrid are reasonably priced. There were times I watched Real Madrid, from a few rows up from the ground, for 10 euros. At other times, I paid a little more, but it never seemed difficult to find good tickets. To give you an idea of how incredible this is: it’s almost impossible to get tickets to see Manchester United in Manchester (England). Unless you’re a season ticket holder, and pay a large sum to see the team every time they play a league game at home, you’re going to have a hard time getting good tickets that are well-priced. In Madrid, however, this just isn’t the case! I was lucky enough to buy tickets to see Manchester United play against Real Madrid, one of the most anticipated Champions League (Europe’s football league for the best of the best) match-ups in years. In Manchester, the same tickets were being sold for hundreds of dollars, and my ticket in particular would have been at least 500 dollars!
5. Casa de Campo/Rio
While this slot could have easily been devoted to how many hang out spots there are in Madrid, my love for a specific area of the city trumps all. For those who are familiar with the place, I’m talking about the area right by Principe Pio. For those of you who aren’t, this area is to be found in the western part of the city.
Casa de Campo (left) is Madrid’s largest park, and serves as a prime spot for athletic junkies and outdoors enthusiasts. It’s where the city’s hidden lake is, and is extremely easy to access right by Madrid’s rio (right). It’s picturesque, rarely full, and peaceful. It also happens to be about a 2 minute walk from where I lived in Madrid, and unfortunately so local that it took me several months to find out about it. You could say that the park is the antithesis of Madrid’s Retiro Park, which is further east and far more of a tourist spot. Casa de Campo is usually overlooked despite it being the better park of the two. Fun fact for football lovers: while I lived on one side of Casa de Campo, Cristiano Ronaldo lives on the other!
Interestingly enough, even though I didn’t find my heart fully invested in Madrid, I now realize how much it became a part of me. Upon leaving the city, I started to compare every other place that I visited to Madrid. I’ve started to see that the city really is well-made, well-kept, and a perfectly good place to be. On the downside, it’s ruined a few other cities for me, beating them out in ways I never expected it to. A piece of me remains there, and will probably always pull me toward it. I guess that’s not such a bad thing.