10 of the Best Unusual Things to See & Do in Madrid

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I’m not a big fan of cities, but Madrid was almost love at first sight. Maybe because it was just the start of spring, or maybe because the city is just that beautiful! I spent most of my time by the River Manzanares in Madrid, strolling along the parks and squares of Madrid, exploring Madrid’s markets and cafes, and discovering its quirky neighborhoods. In this photo essay, I share a roundup of some of the best unusual things to see and do in Madrid, including local hangouts and relatively secret places, that are sure to make you fall in love with this Spanish city too.

1. STROLL ALONG THE MADRID RIVER

called Manzanares, under the shade of cherry blossoms, watching the locals fish from the fishing decks and nodding at the evening walkers. The closest metro station to get here is Principe Pio.

Madrid photo gallery, places to go in Madrid, things to do in Madrid

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2. PEOPLE WATCH AT THE CHARMING SQUARES
that Madrid is known for. These little squares are meeting points, most with a tiny cafe or restaurant lurking around the corner. Unlike Barcelona, I found the locals of Madrid more easy going, and much easier to strike up a conversation with.

Madrid squares, living in Madrid, life in Madrid

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3. VISIT AN ANTIQUE BOOKS MARKET
down the road from Paseo del Prado, the only one of its kind in Madrid. Most of the books are in Spanish, but there’s something just so romantic about browsing through their old, worn out pages whose stains speak their own stories.

Madrid markets, Madrid antique books market, Madrid fun things to do

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4. EAT AT A COSY NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE
or bar, that might not necessarily be a Tapas bar. These tend to be less busy and more intimate, giving you a chance to get to interact with the owner and the others at the cafe. I loved sampling Mexican food at the colorful Tacos Chipotludos bar, and chatting up Juan, its friendly owner.

Madrid cafes, Madrid secrets

 

5. OBSERVE THE CULTURAL CURIOSITIES
of a city as diverse as Madrid. I spotted on the streets, under the cherry blossoms, this march in solidarity for Slovenia.

Madrid photo gallery, Madrid what to do, life in Madrid

 

6. WELCOME SPRING AT THE PARKS
of Madrid, which are wide open spaces, often with lakes and mini forests within them. Unlike most parks I’ve visited, they hardly feel landscaped or curated. From what I gathered, parks in lesser known neighborhoods, like Parque El Capricho, also seem to be favorite hangouts among the locals of Madrid.

Madrid parks, parks in Madrid Spain, Madrid what to do

 

7. FIND VIEWS THAT MUST’VE INSPIRED HEMINGWAY
though he would probably flip seeing a laptop replace the good old pen and paper! I stumbled upon this gorgeous view at Dalieda de San Francisco, while having lost my way in the city.

Madrid Spain pictures, living in Madrid, life in Madrid Spain

8. READ BY THE RIVER

because it’s just so gorgeous, you can’t get enough of it. Madrid might not have a beach, but what better place to read, or contemplate life than this “By the river Piedra I sat down and wept” sort of setting?

Madrid best things to do, Madrid attractions

9. EXPLORE MADRID’S QUIRKY NEIGHBORHOODS

like Malasaña, off the Tribunal Metro, which is an alternative neighborhood with funky graffiti and quirky stores, and seemingly the hangout of choice among the city’s hipsters.

Madrid neighborhoods, best neighborhood in Madrid, Madrid attractions

10. PHOTOGRAPH MOMENTS

that you wouldn’t expect to spot in big cities!

Madrid river, river through Madrid, beaches in Madrid

My trip to Madrid was in partnership with the Tourism Office of Spain. Opinions, as always, are my own.

Shivya Nath
Shivya Nath is an Indian girl who fell in love with traveling, writing and social media. The first is the most thrilling, because being from a protective Indian family means every travel plan comes with a small battle. She says, "I’m not complaining. At my age, few from my hometown have traveled as much and as independently as me."

She juggles work, travel and blogging, until she finds the perfect blend of the three. Join her on her journeys around the world, as she seeks the most untouched, undiscovered of places that few have been to, and even fewer have written out.
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