May 1, 2023
Karin Rockstad, Spanish translator, WSET Educator, SWS, FWS, IWS, Albariño Ambassador, Certified Advanced Cava Educator
I have been going to Spain regularly for decades. I did part of my Master's degree there, taught English for awhile, and of course, have traveled all over the place. I consider it my second home. When people ask me where to start if they've never been to Spain before, I always say Madrid. You'll gain real knowledge here about the history and culture of this fantastic country. Yes, there are fun coastal cities and islands, but the flavor gets lost because of mass tourism. Go to Madrid first.
Below are some of my favorite places. They may not have menus in English and you may be the only foreigner in there, so brush up on your high school Spanish and enjoy! Part of the fun of travel is learning some of the language. You'll get more out of the trip and your effort will be appreciated by the locals.
*Casa Paco: c/Altamirano, 38 (the "c" is an abbreviation for "street"). Metro: Argüelles.
One of their specialties is croquettes, which are meat, cheese, or veggies in bechamel that is then deep fried. Get a couple as a snack, or a boatload of them for a meal. I had a little chorizo on the side, which they also do really well.
*Vinoteca Vides: c/Libertad, 12. Metro: Chueca.
This is a full-blown wine bar with a TON of wines by the glass and the bottle. They also do tapas. It's a small, cozy place and the staff is super knowledgeable and friendly.
*Carlota Wine Shop: c/de la Libertad, 26. Metro Chueca.
Just a few steps down the street from Vinoteca Vides is this TINY wine shop. The owner, Mario, is wonderful. (Btw, he does speak English, as his wife is from New Jersey). He's a total wine geek like you and me and if you want to talk for hours, go for it! No bottom shelf wines here, just quality stuff and from places in Spain that you may have never heard of.
*Cafelito: c/Sombrete, 20. Metro: Lavapiés.
Need coffee and cake? You won't go wrong here. And if you need it to go, no problem. This is in the Lavapiés neighborhood, which is very diverse and eclectic. Lots of Indian, Asian, and African restaurants are in this part of town too. Again, it's a tiny spot with a very chill staff. The artwork on the walls is for sale and there are free books under some of the tables. If you want to leave one that you've finished reading, by all means...
*La Vida Tiene Sentidos: c/Ave María, 20. Metro: Lavapiés or Antón Martín.
This place has a little of everything. It's a wine bar, grocery, and art and workshop space. Two Chilean sisters run it and they host poetry readings, musical performances, beer-making workshops, you name it!
*La Descubierta: c/Barcelona, 12. Metro: Sol or Sevilla.
This throwback tavern is in the Huertas neighborhood. Tourists and locals alike roam these streets at night looking for food and drink. Some English spoken here, especially by the younger employees. I love the old bar and wooden décor. Lots of wines, beers, and cocktails alongside typical Spanish food.
I hope you'll check these places out the next time you're in Madrid. They are all worth the trip! Cheers and ¡buen provecho!