Madrid Basic Information
Set your smartphone for Madrid time. Eating, drinking and shopping all happen late here with most shops open from 10am to 2pm, then 5pm to 5.30pm and 8pm to 8.30pm from Monday to Saturday. Most restaurants open from 2pm to 4pm and reopen from 9pm to 12am, and some close for up to a month in August during the height of summer and the annual Madrileños holidays. For more need-to-know info before your trip to Madrid, here’s the lowdown.
As Spain is one of the Schengen Convention countries, Australian passport holders going to Spain on holiday for less than a total of 90 days within a 180-day period do not need a visa to enter the country. Make sure your passport has at least six months’ validity from your planned date of return to Australia. Please be aware that this information is only a guideline. For up-to-the-minute visa information, contact your local Embassy or Consulate of Spain.
Spain is part of the European Union and uses the Euro as currency. The exchange rate between the Australian Dollar and the Euro changes constantly so keep an eye on the exchange rate and purchase Euros when the rate is at its best. For safe spending while overseas, consider using a credit or debit card.
Home to the world’s oldest restaurant (El Sobrino de Botín, FYI), which has been dishing up cochinillo (suckling pig) since 1725, Madrid has a similarly reverent approach to eating. Her you’ll find a veritable smorgasbord of cuisines from around the world. Traditional local dishes include gallinejas and entresijos of fried lamb, callos a la Madrileña (a spicy tripe hotpot), cocido Madrileños (a chickpea stew served with meat and veg) and sopa de ajo (garlic soup). Tapas with vermouth at a bodega is a popular choice or hit up El Rastro – a medieval marketplace and treasure trove of gourmet goodies. Don’t leave town without dipping a churro into thick-as chocolate from Chocalatería de San Ginés for breakfast or sampling tomato or sherry ice-cream at Bruin.
With a rep as Europe’s biggest party town, the night doesn’t get started here until at least 3am. After dinner, locals head to the bars around 11pm and clubs don’t open until midnight, but then kick on until 6am – even on a school night! Plaza Santa Ana has some of the city’s most popular bars, while the Chueca barrio is Madrid’s gay heartland boasting cool clubs and grungy Malasaña is all about live music and student hangouts. For a taste of Ibiza, head to the glitz and glam of Pachá or for something unique, Laydown is where you can dine on a made-up mattress then jump out of bed to bust a few moves to the in-house DJ. Gold is where the beautiful people go to party, while massive Ananda is worth a look with indoor and outdoor dancefloors and 10 bars onsite.