Smart Insiders welcomes you to Madrid for study abroad!
Smart Insiders is back with more helpful tips and advice for new study abroad students in Madrid. Now that you are familiar with some of the important things with arriving and getting settled you might be wondering what are the most important things to see and do during your time here. To help you out we’ve gathered information about cultural differences, must sees, and finally the ultimate Madrid Bucket List! With limited time Smart Insiders wants to make sure you note all the top things you should experience so you don’t waste a minute.
Cultural Differences in Spain
If you’re not familiar with a traditional Spanish greeting it’s two besitos (kisses) on both cheeks. You may be thinking that it will be awkward kissing someone you just met or aren’t that close with, but don’t worry! With time you will get used to saying hello in this way and it will eventually become natural to you.
Also, if you’re wondering if you actually kiss their cheek that’s not true! All you have to do is touch cheeks while making the kissing sound. It would be rude not to greet someone like this on the first occasion of meeting them but also any other time you meet after.
Who should I kiss and who shouldn’t I kiss?
It’s customary for women and men and women and women, but normally men do not give other men this greeting (only if they are extremely close with the other person). It’s more customary for men to shake hands with a pat on the back. If you’re greeting a child they may only give you one kiss so just feel it out over time and relax!
Spaniards tend to eat at different hours than the rest of us. Normally, they have breakfast between 8-10 am right after waking up and is very light including a coffee and a pastry. Then, they have lunch which is around 1-3:30 pm and is the biggest meal of the day. Next, is la merienda (the snack) which is somewhere between 5-7:00 pm and will maybe consist of a bocadillo (sandwich) or a piece of fruit. Finally, there is dinner which typically starts around 10-10:30 pm. Some restaurants will have their kitchen open during the whole day, but be aware that many might be closed during hours that are not typical eating times. Therefore, keep in mind that typical dinner time in restaurants is usually from 8:30 to 11pm.
Hours of Operation
Opening hours in Madrid are relatively long in comparison to the rest of Europe. Supermarkets and department stores are open all day from 10am to 9pm, some even on Sundays, but check beforehand. You don’t want to be empty handed on the weekends! If you want to visit museums you can do so from 10am to 8pm Tuesday to Sunday. Some of them are closed on Mondays, but there are a few exceptions like the Prado. Finally, you have to be careful with the opening hours of Spanish banks because their opening hours are bit shorter than in other European countries. If you want to go to the bank you might want to do it from 9am to 2pm during the week since most likely there will be no open hours during the weekend.
Madrid Must Sees
The city centre is where all the exciting things are happening. Puerta del Sol is the most famous square right in the middle of Madrid. The square represents the “zero mile” of the city and where some main streets come together. Sol is a very touristy area and it’s full of traditional shops where you can buy souvenirs, restaurants, where you can taste tapas and local dishes, and watch street performers. The landmark of Madrid “El Oso y el Madroño“ is located here as well. Near Puerta del Sol, you can also find Plaza Mayor, which has four facades with the statue of Philip III on horseback in the middle of the square.
The most famous form the “Triangulo de oro y arte”: The Prado Museum, Reina Sofia Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.
The Prado Museum is one of the most important and most visited museums in the world. It shows a mixture of many different styles and you can admire Velazquez’s “La maja desnuda” and “Las mesi-nas” and Tiziano’s “La Gloria”.
Thyssen-Bornemisza alternate a permanent collection with a temporary collection and antique styles with more modern ones. It contains some of Van Gogh’s, Caravaggio’s and Tiziano’s paintings.
The Reina Sofia Museum was founded in 1992 and used to be a hospital. It is one of the houses of modern and contemporary art. In addition to Miro’s and Dali’s important works, the most famous painting of the Spanish world is exposed: Picasso’s Guernica.
IMPORTANT! Smart Insiders has organized a free trip to the Reina Sofia on Wednesday January 16th, and a free trip to the Prado Museum the following week on Wednesday, January 23rd. Click below for more information on how you can sign up!
A place you absolutely have to visit is the Royal Palace. Its constructions started in 1738 and it has been Royal’s family residence until 1931. Inside you can find preserved Goya’s and Velazquez’s works. You can’t miss Cibeles Palace either: An impressive construction designed by Antonio Palacios and Joaquín Otamendi that used to be the headquarters of the Spanish Post Office and Telegraph Company. Since 2007, it became the headquarters of the City Council. Therefore, if you want to enjoy an amazing view, climb up the Faro de Moncloa and be able to see the whole city through its crystal windows.
When you are in the mood for a walk, go to Buen Retiro Park. It is one of the largest and the most noteworthy parks in Madrid. Here you will be able to find a lot of sculptures and monuments. Also, you need to visit the Crystal Palace, the lake at Retiro where you can row boats, and the rose garden. Caso de Campo is another popular park and the biggest in Madrid. Almost everyone goes here to have lunch, go biking, or to take a nice hike.