With a blend of old-world charm and contemporary chic, expats can look forward to a host of entertainment options and a fantastic lifestyle in Madrid, despite the landlocked capital's lack of sun-soaked beaches.
New arrivals to the city will find that the Spanish siesta is slowly dying out, but the nightlife that traditionally accompanies it is still as active as ever, with Spaniards sleeping on average 53 minutes less than the rest of Europe.
The Spanish capital is filled with charming sidewalk cafés, restaurants, lively bars and nightclubs. There are several much-anticipated annual events in Madrid, excellent shopping options, and a number of cinemas and theatres which put on productions all year.
Expats with children in Madrid will also have no problem finding something to do, with everything from the Madrid Zoo to an urban beach to keep the children entertained.
Shopping in Madrid
Opportunities for shopping in Madrid abound. Expats can find a wide variety of quality goods from various stores, markets and malls.
The Salamanca district in the northeast of the city is where leading Spanish and international designers display their wares, while Chueca is a popular part of town for boutique stores and high-end bargains. For high-street fashions and regional foods, try El Corte Ingles, while the Rastro market is good for antiques and jewellery.
Eating out in Madrid
The long siesta dividing the Spanish workday traditionally meant later hours and a populace that is especially active at night. Although this tradition has changed, many who work in Madrid still take an extended lunch break and leave the office at around 7pm or 8pm and have dinner at around 10pm.
Many of the restaurants in Madrid cater for this, staying open while everybody else is on siesta and closing when everybody returns to work. Restaurants that do close for an evening break generally open after 8pm, with the busiest time for the city's favourite spots being about 10pm.
One of the ironies of life in Madrid is that expats can order some of the best seafood dishes in Spain, despite the city's landlocked location.
In addition to typical local delicacies, expats will find that dishes popular in other regions of Spain are easily available. Although cheap street vendors abound, the best food in Madrid is typically found at sit-down restaurants.
Nightlife in Madrid
The nightlife in Madrid is among the best in the world, with a variety of vibrant cafés, bars and nightclubs there for expats to explore. Some of the most popular nightlife venues borrow from local influences, such as traditional tavernas and flamenco dancing. From hidden bars to raucous clubs, plenty of more conventional nightlife venues exist for expats to let their hair down.
Sports and outdoor activities in Madrid
While it may be better known for its man-made structures, Madrid has a fair amount of green spaces that facilitate a host of outdoor activities in the city. The Casa de Campo is one of the biggest inner city parks in Europe, where expats will find the Madrid Zoo and the Madrid Amusement Park.
The best known among these green spaces is arguably Buen Retiro Park at the edge of the city centre. It used to be a royal garden in the 17th century and was first opened to the public in 1800. Now, residents can be seen jogging and having picnics around the large artificial lake.
It is also a sporting city, hosting world-famous football (soccer) teams Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in their respective stadiums, while tennis fans will enjoy watching the Madrid leg of the ATP Masters Series.
Active expats will be able to join one of the local sports clubs in Madrid, go running in one of its many parks or conquer the hiking trails just outside the city. Cycling is one of the great activities, as the city has many cycling trails expats can enjoy alone or with family. The park alongside the Rio Manzanares is also a popular outdoor place.
►For a list of the year's best events, see What's On in Madrid
►Check out A Shopaholic's Guide to Madrid for more on shopping in the Spanish capital
"Spain has a lot to offer in terms of nightlife! It has more bars than any other country in the world (around a half million) and the nightclubs don’t close until early morning. I would say Madrid is truly the City That Never Sleeps, since there’s always something to do. Cities like Barcelona, Cadiz, Valencia, Ibiza, Mallorca, Benidorm and Sevilla are also renowned for their nightlife." Read more about Mimi, a Canadian expat, and her experience living in Madrid.
Are you an expat living in Madrid?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Madrid. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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