2013 was a historic year for Spain who, according to Le Monde, welcomed over 60 million visitors and shocked Europe by exporting more than it imported. Locals will tell you that salaries were lowered and more exports were sent to balance out a sagging economy. Many are packing up and heading out to find work and yet, Madrid continues to present a good face.
So let’s get to why we’re here and then we can go back to the warm fuzzy stuff.
Madrid by all accounts seems like a safe and secure place to take a vacation. Madrid is walkable, even so, the Metro is expansive, clean and safe. We went throughout old town without taking a single cab. Most people and guide books cite pickpockets as the main threat but we saw none, at any time of day. Granted this was February, so not the high season, but even in February there were tourists and study abroad students a-plenty. The guides suggest avoiding Calle de Montera where you can find call girls and their pimps, and Lavapies is suggested to avoid at night.
Metro line from the airport to the city center Metro Vodafon Sol was ~45 minutes. We had no incidents on a Friday night ~10pm, nor did we see any strange, lurker types or obnoxious drunkards. Raining as we exited, streets were already filling up and plenty of people were crowding around. Off of Calle de Principe the traffic was backed up but the only other nuisance was the hype men (think flava flav) trying to get us to go into their club – they became more insistent as the night went on but were harmless. We strolled back through around 1am with no real issues nor anything shady.
Chocolaterias, tapas, sangria, acorn fed Iberian pork, paella, late nights (later mornings) and mucho sympatico defined only part of our stay. I highly recommend taking a bus tour here if you have only a short time in Madrid, there’s a lot to see: The Prado museum; the Egyptian temple of Debod; Puerto del sol; cathedrals; street performers; HUGE flea markets; flamenco dancing; and plenty of historic buildings dot a magical and charming Spanish city. Madrid is exotic, well kept, safe, clean and inviting. So far this is my trip to beat for 2014, I highly recommend putting it on your calendar!