Although things might look different this year, you can still count on Madrid being a vibrant and exciting city to spend a year, rife with opportunities for learning, networking, sport, tourism, gastronomy, and more. It’s been ranked the #3 city in the world for expats, based on economic opportunity and quality of life, and it’s also the 10th most sustainable city in the world. Madrid is LGBTQ friendly, and of course, counts on great weather nearly all year.
But these are all platitudes that you can find in any travel website. As a MIM student, what should you really do to take advantage of my time in Madrid?
Our MIM alumni have shared the following insider tips:
- Throw yourself into the culture and language by making an effort to meet locals. If you look up “intercambio de idiomas” (language exchange) on sites and apps such as Facebook or Meetup, you’ll find a range of meetups where people from all over the world gather in bars for casual socializing and language-learning.
- IE´s student services office can help you find an apartment near IE. But if you speak a little Spanish and you want to search on your own, you may find some very affordable housing options in interesting neighborhoods of Madrid. Try using the website com or fotocasa.es, and send the owners Whatsapp messages.
- If you are under 26 years old, you can get the 20 euro monthly abono transporte joven, or youth transport pass. All you need to apply and receive it by mail is a photo of your passport. This allows for unlimited travel to the entire province of Madrd – an amazing deal!
- To use your smartphone in Spain, it´s usually a good idea to buy a prepaid SIM card and top it off every month. Plans very, but the most recommended companies are Orange, Vodafone, Movistar, or Yoigo, which have many shops across the city. Here is a detailed guide.
- Use your IE Student ID to obtain discounts at restaurants near IE, and even free entry into many museums, such as the Prado. Be sure to check out each museum’s website to find their other free entry days and times (such as Monday afternoons at the Thyssen-Bornemisza, or Wednesday evenings at the Palacio Real). Get there early to avoid lines!
- Take advantage of the natural spaces. IE’s campus is a short walk or bus ride from Retiro Park, Madrid’s stunning urban park. Rent a rowboat to paddle around the pond in the center, and don’t miss the magnificent Palacio de Cristal. If you want something a little more wild, on the western side of the city is Casa de Campo, a larger green space with walking trails, mountain biking, and a cable car that offers some spectacular city views.
- Since Madrid is in the center of Spain, it’s easy to travel. Nearby towns worth a touristic visit by train, car, or bus are Segovia, Toledo, Avila, Salamanca, Aranjuez, and Chinchón.
- Plan weekend trips to Spain’s other regions: some easy options are Barcelona; Valencia for sunny beaches; Andalucía (Granada, Sevilla, and Córdoba) for history, culture, and food; and the northern regions such as Galicia, Cantabria, Asturias, and País Vasco for cooler temperatures and beautiful mountainous coastlines.
- If you’re in to adventure, you can reach mountains and countryside in less than an hour on public transit. Check out the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, La Pedriza Natural Area, or the small town of Cercedilla for some excellent hiking, climbing, and camping opportunities.
- For the best restaurants, check out apps like ElTenedor and wander Madrid’s oldest neighborhoods of Malasaña, Chueca, La Latina, and Lavapiés. Many have expanded their outdoor terraza options!