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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 lacking 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 an hour less than the rest of Europe.
The Spanish capital is filled with charming sidewalk cafes, restaurants, lively bars and nightclubs. There are several much-anticipated annual events in Madrid as well as 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 has 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 will be able to 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 generally found at sit-down restaurants.
Nightlife in Madrid
The nightlife in Madrid is among the best in the world, and a variety of vibrant cafes, bars and nightclubs are there for expats to explore. Some of the most popular nightlife venues borrow from local influences such as traditional tavernas and flamenco dancing. There are also plenty of more conventional venues for expats to let their hair down in.
Sports and outdoor activities in Madrid
While it may be better known for its man-made structures, the city has a fair amount of green spaces that facilitate a host of outdoor activities in Madrid. 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 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 Atletico 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 new 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.
"Time seemed to move more slowly there which I found irritating at first, but I soon adjusted to the different hours, later meals and general last-minute and spontaneous nature of life in the city. The quality of life is incomparable with London – sunnier, cheaper, friendlier, everything seemed easier and less stressful." Read more about Kate, a British 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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