Madrid: My favourite places

My name is Clara Giaconia and I am a first year Master student. I am Italian, from the beautiful island of Sicily, and I studied in Milan for my Bachelor.

As soon as I got accepted to ESCP Business school, I decided to spend my first year at the Madrid campus.

Spain and its culture, traditions, weather and food have always fascinated me.  Now that I have been here for six months, I made a list of my favourite places that I think could be useful to anyone who wants to make the most out of their stay here.

#1. Parque del Retiro

Palacio de Cristal

El Retiro is the biggest park in Madrid and one of the favourite places for both locals and tourists. Located in the heart of Madrid, it belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, when it became a public park.

In the Retiro there are hundreds of places to visit and activities to enjoy: puppet shows, musicians, palm readers and fortune tellers are among the diverse attractions you can find there every day.

Once of the most iconic spots in the park is the Palacio de Cristal. It is a beautiful domed glass and steel framed former greenhouse with an astonishing play of light and shadow. It currently houses one of the galleries of the Reina Sofia Museum, hosting several temporary exhibitions.

In a nutshell, the Retiro Park is a place where you can go to have fun with your friends, to sit and reflect when you have to take an important decision or to take some time for yourself during the busy semester.

#2 Malasaña

Teatro Lara, built in 1789

Defined in recent years as a hipster neighborhood, Malasaña is much more than just the nightlife area of the city. Today modern restaurants and second-hand shops live alongside traditional bars and markets people have been going to for ages. The best way to get to know the district is to enter through the Corredera Baja de San Pablo and walk through its narrow streets. You can experience the life of the neighborhood in one of the many squares, such as the Plaza de San Ildefonso.

The Plaza Dos de Mayo is the nerve centre of the district. All kinds of people pass through here, from children playing football to the elderly, from young people who spend their afternoons listening to music to people of all ages who go out in the evening, spending time sitting at the outside bars.

Malasaña is the perfect neighborhood to chill, to have great nights but also to live in.

#3 Tempio de Debod

At sunset

The perfect time to visit the Tempio de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, is sunset.  It overlooks a reflecting pool, which gives you the feeling of being on the peaceful and calm banks of the great river Nile. This is quite a contrast from the aperitivo being enjoyed by visitors to the site.

When you arrive at the temple with a frozen cerveza, sit on the lawn to wait for the sunset amongst people sunbathing, doing yoga or simply enjoying the view is a truly unique experience. On top of this, it also has a great view of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral!

#4 Amazing rooftops

Rooftop view of Madrid

Madrid has some of the best rooftop bars that I have ever seen. The most beautiful rooftop that I have been to is the Circulo de Bellas Arte: it has a spectacular view of Madrid and an unparalleled perspective of the city’s urban fabric, with the buildings of Gran Vía very close by. To get there you take an elevator with glass doors directly from the lobby to the top floor. Tickets can be purchased at reception.

Another amazing rooftop is the Ginko Sky Bar. For around €10 you can enjoy a signature cocktail and the best view in the city of the Plaza de España. There is entertainment at all hours, but sunset is one of the busiest times. On Wednesday nights the place transforms into a jazz bar and from Thursday to Sunday they have live music. There’s always a good vibe there.

#5 La Latina neighborhood

Built on a medieval Islamic fort, Madrid’s La Latina neighborhood is the city’s oldest—and one of its liveliest. If you’re looking for authentic Spanish cuisine, this is the place. Calle Cava Baja is one of the neighborhood’s most famous places to get food and drinks.  Casa Lucas is a reputed wine bar, while Taberna Txakolina, a Basque-inspired bar, serves completely addictive pintxos, or bar snacks. 

I will stay in Madrid for another two months. I hope I will have the time to travel around (I’d love to see Granada and Malaga, in particular) while studying and applying to consulting firms for an internship. I highly suggest the Madrid campus – feel free to contact me to learn more.

Clara Giaconia

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